Swatch Inaugurates New Headquarters in Biel

Designed by Shigeru Ban.

A long snaking building that stretches some 240m, the new Swatch headquarters in Biel, or Bienne in French, is the culmination of five years of work. Selling about 9.5m watches a year for about 450m Swiss francs of revenue, according to Swiss bank Vontobel, Swatch was the foundational company of its parent, the aptly named Swatch Group, which also owns Omega and Longines.

Like many of its parent company’s recent projects, the Swatch building was designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the 2014 Pritzker Prize winner who is best known for his works of wood or paper, as well as his temporary structures for humanitarian aid.

Its new home is covered in a honeycomb timber grid that incorporates windows, nine balconies and solar panels. Visible from the inside is the Swatch logo, derived from the Swiss cross, incorporated into some of the grid’s cells. And hidden within the structure is a network of wires and cables for telecommunications, electricity and the like.

The Swatch headquarters, with the Omega building at the far left

The Swatch building ends in La Cite du Temps, which sits in front of the Omega factory and headquarters

Shigeru Ban, Nayla Hayek, and Nick Hayek Jr at the opening ceremony on October 3, 2019

The glass-walled Swatch store in front of the new headquarters

With the new headquarters in the background

Light, flexible and sustainable, the timber beams used for the outer structure number some 4,600, all precisely cut to fit with join with each other perfectly and arranged according to a 3D model.

All of the wood, mainly spruce, came from Swiss forests. According to Swatch, the 1,998 cubic metres of timber used for the building was replenished by new growth within two hours.

Looking out from the aerial bridge connecting the Swatch building to La Cite du Temps

The building is five stories high, with a basement running the length of the building. It’s home to Swatch International and Swatch Switzerland; the company’s production facilities lie elsewhere. Their offices are spread over some 250,000 square feet, with the floor plan progressively narrowing further up the building.

The 22m high lobby

The reception in the lobby

Like all new buildings in Switzerland, the Swatch headquarters is sustainable in operation. Amongst other features, it uses a groundwater pump system for heating and cooling, while relying on solar panels integrated into the honeycomb grid to generate cover its electricity needs. Much of its mechanical and electrical systems are shared with the new Omega building as well as La Cite du Temps.

La Cite du Temps

The new headquarters is connected to La Cite du Temps via an aerial bridge. Though part of the same structure and also designed by Shigeru Ban Architects, La Cite du Temps is executed in a different style. It’s an oblong, glass-fronted building that is home to the Omega Museum, Planet Swatch museum, and the Nicolas G. Hayek Conference Hall.

La Cite du Temps at right

La Cite du Temps connects to the Swatch headquarters at its far end

Swatch
Nicolas G. Hayek Strasse 1
2500 Biel
Switzerland


 

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Christopher Ward Introduces the Military Collection

Vintage military inspired.

Founded in 2004 and selling its watches solely online, Christopher Ward has done some interesting watches at affordable prices, most notably the hand-wound, mono-pusher chronograph of 2017. But its latest is more straightforward: a range of watches inspired by vintage British military-issue timepieces. Unusally, the new models are licensed by the British Ministry of Defence to bear “the insignia of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force” for public sale.

While not actual military-issue watches, the line draws on well-known watches once supplied to the arms of the British armed forces, with the army and air force models managing to best capture the look of the originals. Christopher Ward, admirably, cites the exact vintage inspiration for each of the new watches, so the new dive watch, for instance, is loosely based on the Omega Seamaster 300 supplied to the Royal Navy.

All three new watches have a “glass box” sapphire crystal, and are powered by a COSC-certified Sellita SW200, a robust and cost-efficient automatic movement.

christopher ward C65 Sandhurst 4

Each model is named after the respective training academy for the service arm, starting with the C65 Dartmouth. It’s named after Britannia Royal Naval College, which sits beside the port of Dartmouth in southern England. The case is steel, 41mm, and rated to 150m.

According to the brand, it is modelled on the Omega Seamaster 300 “Big Triangle”, a specific type of the dive watch that Omega supplied to the Royal Navy in the late 1960s (the other type had a “12” instead of a triangle”). While the “big triangle” is obvious, the rest of the watch is only an approximation of the original.

christopher ward C65 Dartmouth 1

christopher ward C65 Dartmouth 2

christopher ward C65 Dartmouth 3

Named after Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, one of the most famous officer training schools in the world, the C65 Sandhurst is inspired by the Smiths W10, a no-nonsense field watch made for the British Army by the now defunct English watchmaker Smiths. The steel case is 38mm in diameter, making it the smallest of the trio.

christopher ward C65 Sandhurst 2

christopher ward C65 Sandhurst 3

And the last of the trio is the C65 Cranwell, which takes its name from the Royal Air Force College, the academy for air force officers located beside the RAF Cranwell airbase.

The case is steel and 41mm while the dial design is derived from the “Mark XI” watches produced by IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre to specification “6B/346”. The dial retains the same layout as the originals, but instead of hour numerals, it has minute markings instead.

christopher ward C65 Cranwell 1

christopher ward C65 Cranwell 2

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Key facts and price

Military Collection

Material: Steel
Water resistance: 150m

Movement: Sellita SW200, COSC-certified
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800bph (4Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 38 hours

Availability: Direct from Christopher Ward starting early November
Price: £795 on a strap, and £895 on a steel bracelet
(Prices include 20% British VAT)

For more, visit Christopherward.co.uk.


 

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