In November 2017, Omega opened its newest production facility situated in Bienne, Switzerland. Four years after breaking ground, the manufacture stood in place of the company’s original building, which was established by its founder Louis Brandt in 1882.
As the location of its global headquarters, this is the industry’s most cutting-edge facility for watch assembly, training and quality control. Its five sprawling floors are deployed to maximum efficiency, bridging technical innovation and human expertise in fully streamlined manufacturing processes.
Indeed, efficiency is the core objective of this new manufacture. Because it combines all assembly and testing processes under one roof, it consolidates everything related to final-stage manufacturing so that output will be more productive and dynamic than before.
Five sprawling floors are deployed to maximum efficiency, bridging technical innovation and human expertise in fully streamlined manufacturing processes.
Specifically, watch assembly, bracelet assembly and shipping, stock and logistics—essentially stages T2, T3 and T4—are all completed within its four walls. If you consider how many watches Omega makes in a year (an estimated 700,000) this manufacture has definitely got its work cut out.
If you’ve been following the work Omega has done recently you will realise how much effort the brand has put into future-proofing its watches. It is one of the very few watch companies that provides a five-year guarantee on all its products.
Omega made the announcement last year that all timepieces purchased on and after 1 July would enjoy this benefit. Not only is this a bonus to buyers on their existing watches, it is also an assurance that Omega will commit even more deeply to making even better-quality timepieces.
METAS testing and the Omega Master Chronometer certification are just two of its most recent accomplishments.
Chamber of Secrets
To support the brand’s ambitions, this facility was designed to be at the forefront of manufacturing technology. At its core, a fully automated storage system rises up through three floors.
Filled with over 30,000 boxes containing all manner of watchmaking components, this massive fireproofed central stocking system is a sight to behold. Capable of fulfilling 14,000 operations per hour, two vertical lifts move at a constant speed of four metres per second.
It’s like something straight out of a sci-fi movie where the lifts are perpetually in action, dispatching and receiving 1,000 boxes every which way—it is incredible.
Omega will commit even more deeply to making even better-quality timepieces.
Of the hundreds employed within the manufacture, only two are authorised to enter this behemoth because the oxygen level inside is reduced to just 15.2 percent in order to ensure that fires cannot start or spread.
Do As Robots Do
Robotic arms and systems continue with processes related to Master Chronometer testing—typically a monotonous and time-consuming series of tasks. By measuring, photographing, winding, shifting and spinning the watches, robotic arms provide a consistent, constant and uncomplaining assembly line that’s the stuff of engineering dreams.
Other tasks left to robots include laser engraving, product identification and final packaging of the watches.
Befitting a brand as progressive as Omega, this manufacture is completely energy-efficient. Its architecture supports an ingenious indoor climate and energy concept that works on multiple levels.
Robotic arms provide a consistent, constant and uncomplaining assembly line that’s the stuff of engineering dreams.
First up, energy savings and load reduction. The factory requires minimal central heating and its insulation level exceeds the Swiss building code’s requirements. Its glass exterior features efficient solar shading blinds controlled by the sun. Depending on which direction the window is facing, they reflect the heat accordingly.
Inside, it uses LED lighting to keep electricity consumption and internal heat load low. Also, daylight and occupancy sensors control the lights so they only switch on when required. The fans in the air-handling unit, too, are energy-efficient to limit electricity consumption.
This manufacture is completely energy-efficient. Its architecture supports an ingenious indoor climate and energy concept that works on multiple levels.
Next, optimisation and improvement of existing systems. Radiant systems used in all rooms offer improved comfort and low energy consumption as they operate on high cooling and low heating temperatures. This means heating in the winter and cooling in the summer can be done effectively. Moreover, the factory uses excess heat from production processes like compressed air and vacuums for other required areas such as preheating domestic hot water.
Finally, the use of renewable energy. The entire energy supply of the building is based on a geothermal system, which uses the regenerative energy potential of groundwater sourced via several wells on the site. The pumped groundwater then runs via a heat exchange to directly cool the rooms.
To produce electricity for heating, cooling, ventilation and renewable lighting, a part of the building’s roof is covered with solar panels. In addition, Omega is the first in the world to use the newly developed Blue AC micro-inverters from Belenos Clean Power, a company founded by Nicolas G Hayek Sr in 2010. These devices directly convert solar energy into alternating current for the building.
Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who is known for his innovative work with paper and cardboard tubing, the Omega manufacture is an appropriate metaphor of 21st-century watchmaking. He may have used timber and glass for this manufacture, but Ban hasn’t relinquished the sustainable approach at all.
“Being in Switzerland, the world leader in wood engineering, it was a very appropriate choice to design the Omega building with a timber structure,” he says. “The entire volume of timber used in the Omega production building corresponds to just 2.6 hours of tree growth in Switzerland.”
So the next time you look at your Omega, take pride in the fact that you are truly wearing a watch that is good and virtuous in every sense of the word.