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Swatch Group at home in Biel

Swatch Group at home in Biel

Friday, 02 March 2012
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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A sizeable chunk of Swatch Group’s planned investment – some CHF 150 million (USD 167 million / EUR 124 million) – will be earmarked for a major property development on its historic site in Biel, in the canton of Bern, that will give Omega and Swatch extended and renovated headquarters.

The project also includes a third multifunctional building. “Plans are for three new buildings that will be constructed to the latest environmental and energy-efficiency criteria. The jury for an architectural competition in 2010 chose the project by the world-renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has already designed the Nicolas Hayek Center and the Climbing Garden in Tokyo for the group. A new central building will combine functional areas for the two brands under one roof, and will also accommodate other Swatch Group units.” The project, which will be led by Hayek Engineering, will begin in November and is scheduled for completion in summer 2015.

“The Swatch Group’s project will set new milestones for architecture and urban planning,” said the canton’s public economy department. “It will fit into the existing industrial landscape, in particular the current Omega factory which is classed as a historic monument, and will create sufficient space to ensure public access. This unique timber construction will make its mark in Switzerland. The project will include several elements that will also lead the way in marketing watches. One sector will be set aside for museums for Swatch, Omega, and Swatchmobil, with areas open to the public, a Swatch shop and a learning trail.” The department also commented on the importance of watchmaking within the region’s industry, with 7,000 people directly employed in the branch.

Rolex has also launched an ambitious construction project in Biel for its new Manufacture. It has been estimated at some CHF 200 million (USD 223 million / EUR 166 million) and is expected to employ between 300 and 500 new staff. Described as “the biggest private construction site in Switzerland” when it was announced in 2009, the new building should be operational next summer.

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