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Editorial - What Does it Mean to be Swiss

Editorial What Does it Mean to be Swiss

Commemorating Switzerland’s National Day with questions of identity and… watches!

Not being Swiss myself but living here since 2017, I’ve always been fascinated by the Swiss national identity and what it means to the country’s citizens — both native-born and naturalised. In a little National Day exercise, I decided to go around asking my Swiss colleagues what being Swiss meant to them. And, of course, this being WorldTempus, the exercise wouldn’t be complete without drawing a philosophical connection to watches and watchmaking. Join me in the comments in wishing Switzerland and the Swiss people a happy First of August!

Sophie Furley, editorial director: “Being Swiss means you have the responsibility to be on time.”
Sophie couldn’t have put it better, being a watch journalist who is also a citizen of the spiritual home of watchmaking. All over the world, people associate Switzerland with the things that constitute its most famous exports — cheese, chocolate and timepieces. The watch industry here takes greatest pride in its mechanical rather than quartz creations, despite the latter category being more precise in timekeeping than the former. Quartz timepieces typically beat at 32,768Hz, while the majority of mechanical watches usually beat at the frequencies of 3Hz or 4Hz, and you might wonder what’s the point in trying to close this vast gulf — but contemporary watchmakers still persist in the attempt to build mechanical timepieces of higher frequency (and thus better chronometry). One of the latest assays in this area is the Frédérique Constant Slimline Monolithic Manufacture, a 40Hz watch that hits the elusive sweet spot between high performance and solid pragmatism. 

What Does it Mean to be Swiss

Slimline Monolithic Manufacture © Frederique Constant


Jordy Bellido, managing editor: "Being Swiss is missing gruyère when I'm away."
I laughed when Jordy finally came up with this after furrowing his brow for quite some time, pondering the essence of Swissness. He laughed too, quickly grasping the light bathos of condensing his depth of national spirit into cheese-related sentiment. There's definitely something to what he says, though. When you love your country, you don't express it by draping yourself in the flag, kissing the ground and singing the national anthem wherever you go. Rather, it's small, subtle things about the way of life; the details that seem so trivial, but mean so much. Swiss watchmaking is precisely the same — a myriad of tiny yet important things that combine to form something authentically precious. For this reason, I'm pairing the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante with this perspective on what it means to be Swiss. Its careful balance of colours and textures is the perfect example of how details can add up to something more than the mere sum of its parts. Finally, the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante is made in Fleurier, Neuchâtel — a canton that also happens to make an excellent gruyère.

What Does it Mean to be Swiss

Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante © Parmigiani

Alexandra Montandon, financial director: “Being Swiss is being privileged to be in a position to help others.”
You would think that every citizen of the developed world would feel this responsibility equally, but it’s certainly true that a big part of Swiss culture is a shared sense of civic duty. Since I moved here, I’ve often heard that Singapore (where I’m from) is the “Switzerland of Asia” — a reference to how clean and well-organised things are in both countries. If we had to choose one watch to associate with these concepts of heightened environmental awareness and giving back, it would be the Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver. Launched just a few months ago in conjunction with the Ocean Race, the watch was developed by Ulysse Nardin to be the world’s first sustainable luxury watch, made from salvaged fishing nets and recycled steel. 

What Does it Mean to be Swiss

Ocean Race © Ulysse Nardin

Quentin Mayerat, Skippers editor-in-chief: “Being Swiss is about direct democracy and finding consensus in multiplicity.”
Maena Le Gat, GMT marketing executive: “Being Swiss is to be united in diversity.”
Switzerland is famous for its implementation of direct democracy. Where other countries might enact laws based on decisions made entirely within legislative chambers, Switzerland gives its citizens a voice on issues that affect their country, holding frequent referendums that take the people’s choice into account. Although fundamentally multilingual and multicultural, Switzerland’s ability to elevate the common consensus and fold it into national identity is an inspiring example of balanced governance. A relatively new brand that has similar conceptual roots is Czapek & Cie, a company that received its first significant capital through crowdfunding. Not long after its establishment, Czapek was rewarded at the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, winning the Public Prize based on voting that was open to the public — a triumph of popular opinion, and individuals united in one voice. One of their latest releases, the Czapek Antarctique Frozen Star, is another representation of this idea. Seemingly composed of a multitude of tiny osmium crystals, the dial is actual one single mass of crystallised osmium, meticulously grown in a carefully controlled process of heat and pressure. 

Être suisse, ça signifie quoi ?

Antarctique Frozen Star © Czapek & Cie.


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