Our mission: to display international brands in the best rooftop locations in Switzerland

Illuminated signs in Geneva: what are the regulations?

Prestigious and elegant: the illuminated signs that light up the Rade de Genève on Lake Geneva are a true signature. First appearing in the mid-1930s and popular with luxury brands and the financial world, they have become part of the collective imagination of Geneva and have been part of the city's landscape for many generations, so much so that without them, the city would not look quite the same at night. Brands have understood this and want to associate themselves with the image of international Geneva. However, the installation of an illuminated sign is governed by Geneva regulations and the locations of these skysigns are subject to Swiss legislation on commercial leases.


Whether it is the size of the letters, which have a maximum height of 1 m in the harbour as opposed to 1.50 m in the rest of the canton, or the range of colours available or not authorised depending on the sector, such as the harbour, where polychromy is normally prohibited, installing an illuminated sign on the roof of a building requires authorisation and compliance with certain rules which are increasingly numerous and complex, but which are necessary in order to respect harmony. Therefore, the legal phase for obtaining the necessary authorisations is an important step in the installation of an illuminated sign. 

Brands can choose the size of the sign according to their brand image, but the dimensions are subject to approval by the authorities and the owners. Indeed, a sign cannot be placed on a flat roof, as it must not protrude from the silhouette formed by the roof or the upper floor of the building. Furthermore, only openwork letters are permitted. Depending on the sector, drawings or figurative objects may be permitted if they do not exceed the maximum height of the letters and the width of 2 letters. The municipality may, however, allow larger dimensions for logos. Illuminated signs must not be set back less than 0.5 m from the plumb line of the facade walls, particularly for reasons of safety and alignment. The Commission des monuments, de la nature et des sites (CMNS) may reduce these requirements when the building is submitted for its approval.

Any installation of illuminated signs that can be seen from the public domain must be subject to a prior authorisation request. Thus, for each new project, a request is submitted to the City of Geneva. The main aim is to comply with the legal framework, which is designed to preserve the city's heritage and to combat "light pollution", an issue that has come to the fore in recent years. 

Indeed, light pollution is increasingly discussed in Switzerland and worldwide. In order to raise awareness of this issue, Greater Geneva turns off the lights one night a year. The aim is to make the population aware of the harmful effects of light pollution. In addition, the Grand Council recently accepted a law limiting the use of outdoor illuminated signs and night lighting visible from outside non-residential buildings between 1am and 6am. Signs and night lighting in emergency medical facilities, fire departments and prominent tourist locations such as the harbour are not affected by this measure. The law aims to save electricity while reducing CO2 emissions and night-time pollution. 

In an ecological and sustainable concern, M.P. Berthoud Agency uses the latest LED technologies for its illuminated signs, which are very much appreciated by clients and owners, as they allow for an unequalled lifespan, an instantaneous quality of lighting, as well as a very low power consumption compared to the previous use of neon tubes which gave off heat and an unstable light intensity. In fact, modern manufacturing techniques and technologies have made it possible to imitate the design, appearance and style of traditional neon lights with LED lighting. LED signs are known to be environmentally friendly as all materials used are recyclable and they use only a few watts of power. Since they need low power, they are cheaper to operate and consume less electricity. As an example, the average annual consumption of an illuminated sign is three times lower than the consumption of a single space heater, turned on six hours a day for six months. In addition, the gases released from traditional neon lights contain mercury and argon, which can be toxic and bad for the environment. Thus, LED signs offer a number of advantages over traditional neon, including better purchase and operating costs, less negative impact on the environment, and more design options.

For a brand, access to the best locations allows it to enter the exclusive circle of renowned companies and to benefit from exceptional visibility. The Rade de Genève is THE place to be for illuminated signs. It is a showcase that enhances the brand 365 days a year, day and night, and allows it to stand out from its competitors, especially knowing that locations are limited. Among the brands that elegantly display their name on the top of the roof by the lake, we find a beautiful harmony between the well-established leaders, such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet, the flagship brands of the Richemont, Swatch Group or LVMH groups, and challenger companies seeking to acquire visibility.

For more than 60 years, the M.P. Berthoud Agency, in close collaboration with the competent local authorities, has been assisting its partners in the watchmaking, jewellery and private banking industries, as well as building owners, to position their brands in the best possible way on its available sites in Switzerland and abroad, while respecting the regulations in force to guarantee them maximum visibility. Our mission is also to contribute to the enhancement of Geneva's heritage and its waterfront in collaboration with all our institutional and private partners.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: 

M.P. Berthoud Agency 

Rue Jacques-Dalphin 48, 2-1227 Carouge/Geneva

+41 22 735 93 07 



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