It’s what you might call one heck of a birthday gift! IWC Schaffhausen, which turned 150 this year, has treated itself to a brand-new manufacturing site at a cost of CHF 42,000,000 – the brand’s biggest investment in ten years. Officially inaugurated on August 27th, the new building stands surrounded by countryside, meaning ample space for its 13,500 square metres. The ultra-modern structure, which is designed to accommodate up to 400 workstations, brings the brand’s current workforce of 238 and all component machining, pre-assembly, movement assembly and watch assembly operations under its cantilevered roof. The building also caters to visitors, with carefully planned paths and information points so that guests can follow each stage in the construction of a watch. The original headquarters by the Rhine in Schaffhausen remain home to the Haute Horlogerie workshops and the brand’s offices.
We didn't want a purely functional factory. We wanted this to be a building with a high aesthetic value, too.
A temple of watchmaking
Business had expanded so much in recent years that the brand had outgrown its existing premises. Two extensions later, it had run out of room entirely. This, combined with the decision to strategically develop in-house movement manufacturing competencies pointed to just one solution: a completely new building. “Obviously, the building had to provide optimal production conditions and working conditions for our staff,” says Christoph Grainger-Herr, who took up the CEO position a little over a year ago. “A unique visitor experience was an equally important factor. What we didn’t want was a purely functional factory. We wanted this to be a building with a high aesthetic value, an extension of IWC’s spirit.”
A German national, Grainger-Herr knows what he’s talking about. An interior design graduate from the University of Bournemouth, England, he personally oversaw the aesthetic concept of the site. The “Manufakturzentrum”, as it’s officially known, took just 21 months to complete. The black-framed glass facades contrast with the white rooves extending beyond them in what can only be described as a temple of watchmaking. “Back in 1868, our founder Florentine Ariosto Jones was already combining traditional watchmaking with advanced production methods, and we’ve built on this ever since,” says Grainger-Herr. The production and assembly of some 1,500 separate components, together with case manufacturing are all derived from the production-line system used in the automotive industry.
The entire value-creation process progresses in a logical order on a single floor. Something I'd dreamed of since starting at IWC in 2007!
A visitor tour
For Chief Operations Officer Andreas Voll, it’s a long-harboured ambition finally made real: “This new building gave us the opportunity to precisely configure our production processes to run optimally and deliver flawless quality,” he says. “For example, the entire value-creation process, from the raw material to the finished manufacture movement, progresses in a logical order on a single floor. It’s something I’d dreamed of since starting at IWC in 2007!” Parts of the floor in question have a “science lab” feel; for example, to prevent contamination by dust, assembly is done in a cleanroom, similar to the ones used in microchip production. Every hour, 50,000 m³ of air are circulated through the space.
Guests are offered innovative ways to engage with the production process throughout their visit, with information panels at different points along the circuit, as well as workbenches where they can see the different components close-up and hold them. When conditions don’t allow this up-close approach, information is transposed to screens, for example through a strategically positioned camera inside a testing machine. “It’s the first time we’ve taken the concept this far,” comments Andreas Voll. “Visitors can even try their hand at circular-graining a component or setting stones. “We hope this will give them an idea of the concentration, patience and dexterity we require from our specialists every day.”