“As an historian, it would be a dream to have instant access to so many primary sources, to establish facts, to understand context, to challenge myths, to solve controversies, to discover unknown facets of our history,” Mr. Vivas wrote in an email.
For now, the foundation has set its sights on including the analog archives of museums, horological societies and other institutions “with a large view of watchmaking, open to everyone,” Ms. Depresle said.
The digitization could take place wherever the archive is, “or people can send the archive to Geneva or Paris. There is no one solution for everyone,” she said. “We can develop solutions depending on the archives in terms of volume, or fragility.”
As examples of collections she would like to include, she cited the archives of the International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, as well as the personal archive of Louis Cottier, an independent watchmaker in Geneva who, in the early 1930s invented the mechanism at the heart of Patek Philippe’s World Time watch.
To manage the technical aspects of the digitization, the Watch Library is to work with Arkhênum, the company that Europa Star used to digitize its own archives. Based in Bordeaux, France, the firm specializes in the preservation and digitization of documentary heritage — as in its current project to digitize all 15 million pages of the archives of the League of Nations in Geneva.
“It’s really a high-tech endeavor,” Mr. Maillard said. “We are implementing artificial intelligence to recognize shapes and colors, so we can make the search engine more refined.”