5 Swiss crafts to try and buy

The Swiss are famed for the quality of their timepieces, but that same eye for precision has also spawned unique crafts in villages across the mountains...

3 mins
(Caroline Bishop)

(Caroline Bishop)

1. Watches

Switzerland’s watchmaking industry developed in Geneva during the mid-16th century. As the city’s attic workshops filled up with watchmakers, some left to seek more space in the Jura mountains. The UNESCO-listed towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds, home to the International Watchmaking Museum and Le Locle are still bases for a number of major watch brands.

Where to buy watches: In Geneva, find your inspiration at the Patek Philippe Museum, then make your own watch in a workshop at Initium, where you’ll learn to assemble the many mechanical parts of a timepiece by hand. 



2. Music boxes

As watchmaking became more inventive, it led to the creation of other mechanical devices and automata, such as music boxes featuring singing birds. By the end of the 19th century, the village of Sainte-Croix was home to hundreds of specialised craftspeople, whose skills are now recognised by UNESCO for their intangible cultural heritage.

Where to buy music boxes: Sainte-Croix artisan François Junod is a master builder of automata and takes commissions for one-off pieces, with or without music. Also in the village, Reuge makes music boxes and more contemporary musical automata.



3. Woodcarvings

The town of Brienz has been associated with woodcarving since the mid-19th century, when a local woodturner began to make carved items to sell to tourists. Others followed suit, and the country’s only woodcarving school was founded in Brienz in 1884. Discover more in the town’s Swiss Woodcarving Museum.

Where to buy woodcarvings: In the Brienz area you can buy classic wooden nativity figures at Huggler, or try your hand at carving and painting a Swiss cow at Trauffer.

4. Paper cuttings

Two men from the Pays-d’Enhaut – Jean-Jacob Hauswirth and Louis Saugy – were responsible for the development of the now recognisably Swiss style of paper cutting in the 19th century. Découpage involves using paper and scissors (or a scalpel) to cut out intricate scenes of rural life. The museum in Château-d’Oex showcases some early examples, while many local artists put their own contemporary spin on the craft.

Where to buy paper cuttings: Château-d’Oex artist Corinne Karnstädt sells original paper cuttings, prints and products based on her designs. In nearby Zweisimmen, master paper cutter Marc Schweizer offers workshops on request

(Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum)

(Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum)

5. Ceramics

For centuries, the Bernese villages of Langnau, Simmental and Heimberg have been home to pottery workshops. Originally, these small businesses made functional ceramics for their own use; then, as tourism increased, they began making richly decorated pieces to sell to visitors. Admire traditional Langnau ceramics in the village’s Chüechlihus museum.

Where to buy ceramics: Aebi Ceramics in Trubschachen, near Langnau, has been producing richly decorated handmade ceramics since 1901. Buy unique pieces and enquire about classes. Nearby, the Swiss Open-Air Museum at Ballenberg recreates a classic pottery workshop.

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