Omega’s factory at its HQ in Bienne is a cutting-edge, eco-friendly facility for watch assembly, training and quality control, made wholly of Swiss spruce wood and concrete. The five floors of space have been used in the most effective way possible, bringing technical innovation and human expertise together for a fully streamlined manufacturing process. The building combines all of the brand’s assembly and testing processes under one roof, and all steps, including T2 (watch assembly), T3 (bracelets), and T4 (packaging), as well as stock and logistics, are completed inside. In addition to this, the building is designed for training purposes.
By blending the themes of Japanese architecture with Western modernism, Ban has established his own unique design approach and is synonymous with the use of unexpected building materials. His work with paper and cardboard tubing has led the way for low-cost and recyclable structures, and his use of timber and glass can also be seen the world over, including at Bienne. Ban is a master of his trade, and was the clear choice for an exemplary building project.
At the core of the building, Omega has installed a fully automated storage system that rises up through three floors of the building. The fireproofed central stock contains over 30,000 boxes filled with all the necessary parts required for the brand’s watchmaking. Only two specially trained people are authorized to enter the central stock system. This is because the oxygen inside has been reduced to 15.2 per cent to ensure that fires cannot start or spread.
For humans, the physical transportation and organisation of watches is a monotonous, time-consuming job. That’s why Omega’s robotic arms are completely customised to fulfil the task. By measuring, photographing, winding, shifting and spinning the watches, the robotic arms provide a consistent and constant level of operation. Meanwhile, Omega’s staff can concentrate fully on the testing results, making sure that every watch is finely-tuned and ready for the customer.
Robotic arms are also used for the identification and final packaging of each watch. Reader systems ensure that each watch is picked from the assembly line and delivered with the correct warranty and certification, and all other necessary inclusions. Another example of technology includes the arms for laser engraving, which give each watch its unique identity. The factory has been created to house Omega’s quality and technical control processes, including the METAS testing for Master Chronometer certification. All technology for the eight METAS tests can be found on the third floor, including the powerful magnets that subject each watch to a field of 15,000 gauss.
Following three clear steps, Omega has been able to achieve maximum efficiency through a truly sustainable development. Firstly, the insulation level chosen for the building exceeds the requirements of the Swiss building code. On the glass exterior, highly efficient solar shading has been included on each window. These external shading blinds are controlled by the sun, depending on which direction the window is facing.
Inside, all artificial lighting is based on LED use. This guarantees low installed power, low electricity consumption and low internal heat loads. The lighting is also controlled by daylight and occupancy-sensors that only switch on when required. Radiant systems have been used for all of the room conditioning. This method offers improved comfort and low energy consumption, because the system works based on high cooling temperatures and low heating temperatures. The factory also uses its own excess heat from production processes for other required areas, such as the preheating of domestic hot water.
Even the fans used in the air-handling unit are energy efficient, to limit electricity consumption. The ventilation rates also vary, depending upon need and are lowered as far as possible at night. Similarly, in the workshops, the air-change rates are controlled differently according to the specific needs of the production process. The entire energy supply of the building is based on a geothermal system, which uses the regenerative energy potential of groundwater. Finally, to produce some of the electricity needed for heating, cooling, ventilation and renewable lighting, the south-east roof of the building is covered with photovoltaic modules (solar panels)
As a world first, BLUE AC micro-inverters from Belenos were first used in the creation of the Omega factory. These devices are installed directly behind the solar panels. They are directly connected to the electricity network, for which they convert the direct current of the sun into alternating current for the building and thus produce renewable energy.