New Swatch HQ Designed by Shigeru Ban

News • 14 Oct 2019

New Swatch HQ Designed by Shigeru Ban

Swatch recently unveiled its new headquarters in Biel, Switzerland. Five years in the making and designed by star Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the new headquarters extends over 240 metres in length and 35 metres in width.

A timber-geometric shell made up of 4,600 beams, forms the exterior of the building. Reminiscent of a snake from above, the organic shape of the building – despite its modern appearance – does not look out of place. Instead, it appears to mimic the meandering bends of the river Schüss running parallel to the building.

Its 27-metre-high vaulted façade entrance extends out to the Cité du Temps (also designed by Shigeru Ban), housing the Omega Museum, Planet Swatch and the Nicolas G. Hayek Conference Hall.

Aerial view of the vaulted shell stretching over Nicolas G. Hayek street below
Nicolas G. Hayek street

Looking out onto Nicolas G. Hayek street, the underside of the vaulted ceiling features an exposed timber grid with alternating Swiss Crosses. All 1,997 cubic-metres of timber used is Swiss, primarily Spruce. Combined with ample use of glass, the building takes on a welcoming feeling of openness and transparency.

Swatch building entrance

Glass shutters at the entrance open and close automatically in response to the weather. Above the glazed glass “blinds”, zigzagging glazing extends to a height of 22 metres. They are also designed to withstand the elements while maintaining their structural integrity.

Glass pedestrian bridge on the 3rd floor connecting the Swatch building lobby to the Cité du Temps

Sustainability has been at the forefront throughout the planning and construction phases. Based around solar technology and groundwater storage, the ventilation, cooling, heating and basic lighting of the Swatch Headquarters and the Cité du Temps can operate autonomously.

Main entrance

Nine underground wells are distributed over the entire area, as well as two former oil tanks which have been converted into water reservoirs. 442 individually manufactured, curved solar elements were inserted into the honeycomb structure of the façade. With 1,770 m2 of installed photovoltaics, around 212.3 MWh of electricity are generated per year, which corresponds to the average annual consumption of 61 Swiss households.

Since the timber grid shell of the Swatch building serves as a large office façade, it also had to meet various technical requirements. A complex network of cables is discreetly integrated into its structure.

While the wooden structure was still being erected, the installation of around 2,800 honeycomb timber grid shell elements, which make up most of the façade, began. Each element was meticulously tailored from up to 50 individual parts and adapted to its individual function and position. Three basic types of honeycomb can be distinguished: the opaque, the translucent and the transparent element.

Inside the building, 25,000 m2 of floor space is spread over five floors for all departments of Swatch International and Swatch Switzerland. The surface area of the four upper floors decreases successively from floor to floor, while galleries with glass balustrades provide a view of the lower floors.

In addition to the regular workplaces, various common areas are distributed throughout the building: a cafeteria on the ground floor, which is open to all Swatch employees and their visitors; small rest areas at various locations in the building

For moments when privacy is necessary, separate “Alcove Cabins” accommodate up to six employees for telephone calls or work requiring particular concentration. An especially unusual installation is located at the very rear of the second floor: a staircase that leads to nowhere – the so-called “Reading Stairs” – whose steps and views encourage brainstorming among colleagues during creative breaks.

Outside there’s a retro-styled Swatch “Pop-Up”. Reminiscent of 50s streamline-modern architecture, it stands in stark contrast to the more austere colour palette of the Swatch building behind it. It’s fun, quirky and colourful…in other words, it’s Swatch.

Not just for watch enthusiasts, the new Swatch HQ is interesting from design, architectural and sustainability standpoints and will likely serve as another drawcard for those considering a visit to Biel, Switzerland.

The architect

Born in 1957 in Tokyo and winner of the 2014 Pritzker Prize, Shigeru Ban is known for his delicate structures and unconventional methods as well as his decisive contribution to innovation and humanity in architecture. Swatch Group collaborated with the architect for the first time on the Nicolas G. Hayek Center in Tokyo that opened in 2007. In 2011, his design won the Swatch Group’s architectural competition for the construction of the new Swatch Headquarters, the new Omega Manufacture, and the Cité du Temps, particularly convincing with its original yet pragmatic concept as well as the ability to respect the brand-specific spirit for each of these buildings. Moreover, Shigeru Ban had taken the existing landscape and buildings into account and integrated them into the overall project.

Tags: architecture swatch group

We’re here to help

Loading Consult A Specialist Form

Change Country

Select your country:


Share via:

To find out more about our available positions, please visit our Careers page.