The Watch Library presents its digital platform

The Watch Library, a charitable foundation registered in February 2022, is committed to preserving and promoting the world’s watchmaking heritage. A new phase in its development took shape on 1 September with the presentation of its digital platform, launched as part of Geneva Watch Days.

The Watch Library project began when publishing house Europa Star, established in Geneva in 1927, digitised its own archives. The gradual release of magazine issues spanning nearly a century triggered a broader reflection on the importance of heritage for the world of watchmaking.

Inspired by the interest sparked by the release of their own archives, the Maillard family, whose passion for watchmaking spans four generations as proprietors of Europa Star, decided to help safeguard watchmaking heritage for future generations. In March 2020 the Maillard family joined forces with Martine Depresle (The Talented) to conceptualise, create and develop the project.

The project was conceived as a non-profit foundation to facilitate access to the documents and enable the implementation of open data policies wherever possible. The Watch Library Foundation was established in September 2021 and granted charitable status by the Swiss Confederation in February 2022.

The Foundation is built around the core belief that making watchmaking heritage accessible to the widest possible audience stimulate imagination, creativity and innovation across the sector. Prominent horological institutions including the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Horological Society of New York were quick to join the project.

Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille were among the first patrons and were instrumental in getting the project off the ground. They were soon joined by other watchmakers, including TAG Heuer in the summer of 2023, as well as other major industry partners who prefer to remain anonymous, in accordance with their philanthropic values.

An industry-wide movement was mobilised around the goal of preserving and promoting their forgotten horological archives. It was given further impetus by the recognition of watchmaking savoir-faire by UNESCO in December 2020, which rallied many partners around this project. Arc Horloger, the Franco-Swiss entity that championed the candidacy, sits on the Board of Trustees of The Watch Library, whose funding is secured by public and private patronage.

The Watch Library is non-partisan, working exclusively towards preserving and increasing the visibility of watchmaking heritage. A scientific committee made up of experts is tasked with identifying and validating the relevance of the archives to be preserved and incorporated into a dedicated online platform.

The technological side of the project turned out to be just as time-consuming as the preservation of the archives themselves. The convergence of analog heritage and digital technology found its full resonance with the launch of The Watch Library online platform, which has been thoughtfully designed and built around its users. A panel of watch enthusiasts, both industry professionals and aficionados, were involved in testing the platform and providing insights that shaped its features.

The platform’s first version already hosts over 320,000 documents and archive pages from a dozen different sources. Enabling real-time search among tens of thousands of documents of varying formats, sizes and sources presented a genuine challenge.

Initially featuring archives in French and English, the platform will very soon be adding documents in German and Spanish, and also, as the Foundation has announced, watch related archives from cultural institutions in Asia.

September 14, 2023