Prix Gaïa 2019 – Laurent Tissot. History-Research Category
The Jury for the Gaïa Prize is paying tribute to Laurent Tissot for his contribution to the renewal of our understanding of the economic, social and cultural history of Swiss watchmaking at an academic level, influenced by his many research studies, wealth of publications and his strong communication skills.
Born in Fribourg on 5 February 1953, Laurent Tissot attended Collège Saint-Michel in Fribourg until 1974. He then continued his studies at the University of Lausanne, where he obtained a degree in political science in 1978 and a doctorate in 1987, whilst working in the Paillard archives in Yverdon. In the interim period, he was a research assistant to Professor Grüner at the University of Bern, and then he was an assistant to Professor André Lasserre at the University of Lausanne. As well as his training in political science and economics, he also specialises in history. Laurent Tissot became the first assistant at the University of Lausanne (1986-1988, 1991-1992) and also stood in for Professor André Lasserre between 1986-1987. A grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation followed and experience at the London School of Economics and Political Science - Business History Unit.
Through all these experiences, step by step, Laurent Tissot has developed his academic career. He was a lecturer at the University of Fribourg from 1994, then assistant lecturer (1995-1998), associate professor (1999-2002), research supervisor (2002-2006) and then professor (2006-2018) at the University of Neuchâtel.
Involved in a wide range of local and international bodies, he was notably the President of the Scientific Council of the "Institut l'homme et le temps" (Man and Time Institute) in La Chaux-de-Fonds (1999-2006), organising conferences and publishing a number of works. From 2007 to 2009, he held the position of the vice dean of the Arts Faculty at the University of Neuchâtel, and then was dean of the same from 2009 to 2011.
Since the 1990s, Laurent Tissot has used his drive, as well as his expertise in the fields of history and economics, to further our understanding of the history of the watch industry. For more than 20 years, through his own research and by supervising the work of other researchers and research groups, by organising conferences and publishing numerous works, he has undertaken to completely renew the economical, social and cultural historiography of Swiss watchmaking, which has been often mythologised by the past. Following on from the pioneering work of François Jequier and his publication on the Fleurier Watch Co, Laurent Tissot's work provides an additional element to the history of watchmaking. He has notably worked to develop the history of watchmaking as an academic discipline. In light of this, he has become a key figure in reforming the history of Swiss watchmaking in line with current research approaches. Throughout his career, he has campaigned to consolidate the technical history of watchmaking and to examine the history of watchmaking amidst international and national social and economical issues (notably in the French-Swiss Jura Arc), providing a more complex and finer understanding of aspects specific to this industry. He has overseen the vast majority of recent research in this area: The general history of the watch industry amidst the economic history of Switzerland, the history of research and development, the history of migrations in the watch industry, the history of the watchmaker cartel, the history of industrial districts, etc. Through his powers of persuasion and personal networks, he has also helped many students and PhD students gain access to horological companies to reveal a previously unseen history. Far from being confined to the ivory towers of university life, his special contacts with the industry have made numerous brands more receptive to preserving their heritage. In addition to his own research interests, he has ensured watchmaking features in the closely related re- search fields of his colleagues, notably in disciplines such as sociology, regional economy, ethnology and migration studies.