After a construction period of almost five years, Swatch has inaugurated its new headquarters in Biel, which features one of the world’s largest timber structures, designed by the Japanese starchitect – Shigeru Ban. Heralding a new chapter in the history of the brand, this building defies current conventions, just like the watches that are created there.
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.
The buildings share a design language, material palette, and environmental ethos, reflecting the unified brands of Swatch and Omega while expressing each building’s individuality through contrasting structural forms. The Swatch Headquarters is playful, innovative, and provocative. In contrast, the Omega Factory is a strict, precise, and rigid rectilinear building. Its clean-room construction is unprecedented for a timber building. Cité du Temps acts as an interface between Swatch and Omega both figuratively and physically: the building intersects with the Swatch Headquarters’ canopy.