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Clock Exhibit in Quebec Inspires a Closer Look at Canadian Watch Industry

by Marco 22 January, 2010 View Comments

On the first of December, 2009 a new exhibition was inaugurated in Quebec City highlighting several antique timepieces of the Assemblée Nationale. The idea of the Horloges et Débats exhibit is to showcase the delicate, personal work done by watchmakers at the turn of the 20th century. A collection of fifteen patrimonial clocks are presented with the building's clock tower as the focus. This impressive clock was created by famous Quebec City native, watchmaker, inventor (of the telephone receiver), and politician Cyrille Duquet. This temporary exhibit is an interesting stop for watchmaking enthusiasts living in, or visiting the beautiful provincial capital. It also persuaded me to delve a little into the Canadian watchmaking industry.

While today there are essentially no Canadian manufacturers of watch components, the history of Canadian watchmaking does show that several important companies, watchmakers, and horological schools were based in Canada. An interesting article on the subject lives on the on the online Canadian Encyclopedia, and shows that between 1872 and 1941 two large scale clock manufacturers and a school of high horology were based in Ontario. While these companies imported blank embauché movements and encased them in Canadian-made casings, at least one other important company during that time manufactured the entire clock and movement in-house. Two of these all-Canadian, Arthur Péquegnat clocks are part of the exhibit at the Horloges et Débats exhibit.

All-Canadian manufacture clocks by Arthur Péquegnat

Today, the Canadian watch industry is not completely dead. I was able to find a couple of watch companies that are based in Canada, but neither actually manufacture any essential parts like case or movement. The extent of watchmaking in Canada is currently being kept alive by the Watchmaking and Jewellery School at the Bel-Avenir centre in Trois-Rivières.

I would be glad to see a watchmaker, collector, or investor one day revive this old tradition. While "made in Canada" may not be a very marketable phrase in the world of watches, it would offer certain clear advantages. The prices of luxury watches made in Canada would not incorporate any import fees and would be stable, as it would not be based on the US Dollar or Swiss Franc. The end consumer and the environment would also benefit from the decrease in transportation. The fact that we live just north of one of the biggest watch markets in the world doesn't hurt either.

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