Coffee talk with Pierre Maudet: a Geneva watchmaking museum?

Temps de lecture : 4 minutes

Pierre Maudet returns to the ballots. Not a political party, just a movement. Just like a watch movement that puts together and on stage components from different horizons, “Libertés et Justice Sociale” (List 4) is launching a campaign for the Cantonal Parliament of Geneva .

Joël A. Grandjean, JSH® Magazine & Swiss Watch Passport’s Editor in chief
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Because he has often attended the inauguration of the EPHJ exhibition at Palexpo, the most important annual Swiss trade show, especially the most important watchmaking exhibition with its more than 800 co-contracting exhibitors, and because he has always shown a keen interest, Pierre Maudet now deserves to be hijacked in the watchmaking media, and subjected to this ‘no-holds-barred’ interview format sprinkled with hard-hitting questions. Especially since among the projects of his group, in addition to the “anonymous CV” and the “Public Cantonal Insurance Fund,” there is also a Watchmaking Museum next to the Rath Museum.

About the EPHJ exhibition

The candidate for the State Council of the 2023 cantonal elections stresses: “I have always been attentive to the entire watchmaking ecosystem, and in particular to its most vulnerable players, i.e. the very small companies and independents that provide the fertile ground on which the brands are based. In this sense, the EPHJ trade fair is a unique annual opportunity to showcase and promote them as essential players.”

Inauguration of the EPHJ exhibition in 2019: Marie Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch State Secretary, Director of SECO and Pierre Maudet, loyal to the exhibition, State Councillor of the Canton of Geneva

So, Pierre Maudet, you’re back. Is time your ally?

In politics, time can be an ally if it is well used, because it is precious. In my situation, I took the opportunity to step back in the last few years, and to refine my skills in a private position, while remaining in contact with the business world and the independents. This time of listening, learning and observing is very useful to me today.

In your program, a project for a watchmaking museum… Since when has politics been interested in watchmaking?

The watchmaking sector contributes to the image of Geneva, its heritage and its economy, if only because it represents nearly 10,000 jobs in the canton. It is therefore logical to take a political interest in watchmaking; this has been true for me for many years, and I am testifying to this with this new project for a Geneva museum emblem..

Since the only “Musée d’Horlogerie et d’Emaillerie” in the world has been swallowed up by the MAH, one of the thousands of Museums of Art and History in the world, is the rebirth of a proper museum of watchmaking still possible?

I believe it, even if the circumstances of the last few years demonstrate the contrary, with the treasures of the collections bequeathed by our forefathers lying dormant in the MAH’s warehouses. To revive a museum worthy of the name, it will first require a real political will as well as the ability to bring together and federate actors who are usually in competition with each other.

Treasures of collections bequeathed to us by our forebears lie dormant in the warehouses of the MAH”

Route de Malagnou, the Geneva Museum of Watchmaking and Emaillerie, the only one in the world to have this title, has been purely and simply wiped off the map

How can such a museum “compete” with the Patek Philippe Museum, which already occupies a lot of space?

The Patek Philippe Museum is a jewel, in a magnificent setting that stands on its own. The challenge is not to copy – or “compete with” as you say – this recognized space because it is fundamentally linked to the brand, but to offer a historical and aesthetic tour of Geneva watchmaking, by associating all the brands and all the technologies that have made its reputation..

From the Geneva authorities’ point of view, isn’t watchmaking just a source of taxes and jobs?

I hope not! Compared to other sectors such as finance or trading, watchmaking represents a medium-sized asset in terms of jobs or tax benefits. But beyond purely economic and financial comparisons, watchmaking represents, above all, a formidable industrial vector of innovation.

In 2014, Pierre Maudet in the pulpit: speech at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix

Do you ever visit factories?

I used to visit them frequently when I was heading the Ministry of the Economy, just as I made a point of discovering the important fabric of watch sub-suppliers (editor’s note: it is the practice of the editor to talk about co-suppliers), without which fine watchmaking could not be as successful as it is today. We don’t talk enough about the hundreds of employment opportunities in the local SMEs and the passionate independents who contribute to the influence of the industr.

Some politicians in Geneva stigmatize the million-dollar watches (auctions, high-end shows…) without asking the workers who make them what they think? What would you have to say to them…? Is watchmaking left or right?

Watchmaking is neither left nor right wing. If there is a stigma, it is purely ideological. Let’s be serious! Fine watchmaking is first and foremost the search for excellence in manufactured products, the culture of fine workmanship through the transmission of craftsmanship and respect for the work of the men and women who make these watchmaking products.

The EPHJ 2023 exhibition will take place from June 6 to 9 at Palexpo. This is the most important watchmaking exhibition in Switzerland with its approximately 800 exhibitors, all players in the pre- and post-production of the finished product

If watch brands pressure you and beg you to accept their watches as gifts so that you can carry the image of Geneva and Switzerland on your private and official trips, will you give in?

On several occasions, as Minister of the Economy, I have been given a watch and I have always handed it over to the Protocol Service, as is customary and, more recently, required by law. The role of a State Councillor is not to promote specific brands, but to actively promote the entire economic sector.

In 2013, as on his greeting card at the time, the mechanics of watchmaking...
In 2014: Pierre Maudet (center) with Swiss Federal Councilor Johann Schneider-Ammann, President in 2016 of the Swiss Confederation and Carinne Maillard, Director of the GPHG

List 4, 2023 cantonal elections in Geneva

They are coming from all walks of life, with their pragmatic, practical backgrounds, sometimes a little more experienced in public affairs. Their dean, Etienne Dufour, is 92 years old! His name sounds like a watchmaker, but he is above all, as a training consultant, a missionary in the passing on of knowledge. With 29 members on list 4, they are running for the Grand Council..

Among them is Rebecca Stevens-Alder, former editor-in-chief of a watch magazine. She started out working for Daniel Roth (Montre Etoile) and then, after a few periods at the WEF (World Economic Forum) and IMD, became involved in the world of public health. After 15 years at Novartis in Basel, this anti-racism activist and author, who is recognized up to the USA, is still travelling the world for Sanofi.

Candidate on list 4, Rebecca Stevens-Alder, citizen of Veyrier (Genève) and originally from Anières, also in Geneva's Canton

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