“Three years ago, doomsayers were predicting a slow and painful death for Swiss watchmaking. When in fact exactly the opposite has happened. We are experiencing new highs in the industry, which fully justify the investments the group is making in its production capacity”. These were the words with which Nick Hayek, President of the Executive Group Management Board of Swatch Group, officially opened Omega’s new production facility on the brand’s historical site in Biel, where it first arrived in 1882. Mr Johann Schneider-Ammann, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education & Research, was full of praise for the energy driving the biggest Swiss watch manufacturer: “The Hayek family, its enterprising spirit and its dedication to the industry benefit all of Switzerland. In these circumstances, it is a genuine pleasure to be minister of the economy”.
High-tech and eco-friendly
Omega’s new factory employs 350 staff and regroups quality control, including Master Chronometer testing, and watch assembly (excluding movement production). The building took three years to complete and represents an investment of CHF 150 million. World-renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed the building, which is made from Swiss spruce and concrete. The 16,000 square metres of floor space are organised so as to optimise workflow, with a vast, fully automated storage system at the core. The building is also remarkable for its low environmental impact, including the latest energy-saving technologies, and for its impressive state-of-the-art production equipment.
Growth in sales
These new facilities confirm Swatch Group’s long-term strategy. Whichever way the markets are headed, the multinational is always a net investor. In 2016, for example, when net sales fell by 11% to CHF 7.5 billion and operating income was practically halved at CHF 805 million (-44.5%), the group invested CHF 563 million in its operating assets. This came on top of the CHF 755 million invested in 2015. Now that markets are on the rise again, the legitimacy of the group’s financial strategy speaks for itself; all the more so given Omega’s excellent performance. Raynald Aeschlimann, CEO of the brand, declared that Omega is progressing both in Europe and the United States, and is making strong headway in China. Over the past twelve months, the brand has posted double-digit growth in its proprietary boutiques. Vontobel Bank forecasts that Omega should have no trouble breaking the CHF 2 billion mark in sales this year. Something to celebrate at the new production facility.