Raynald Aeschlimann is hoarse but happy. A few hours ago, the omega replica watches president, along with his boss, Swatch Group boss Nick Hayek, and star architect Shigeru Ban, cut a red ribbon: the new Omega factory in Biel, home to the company’s headquarters and, more or less, the epicenter the Swiss watch industry is located, is thus officially opened. The last tours with the guests of honor and journalists from all over the world have been completed, the interview questions answered, now he can finally start.
For since Aeschlimann took over the post of his predecessor Stephen Urquhart at the age of 46, he longed for this moment. Now he has the space and the possibilities to bring the brand fake omega watches, the hottest horse in the stable of the Swatch Group, to new heights. Three years was built at the ultramodern building. 150 million francs (about 129 million euros) were invested. The timber frame construction, which is designed for energy efficiency and made entirely from Swiss spruce wood and concrete, bears the signature of Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban. The light box is 70 meters long, 30 meters wide and 30 meters high. A “model factory” will be, says Raynald Aeschlimann.
Inside, human expertise and high tech come together. A fully automated storage system, three stories high, contains more than 30,000 boxes of all the parts needed for watch production. Visitors can watch the storage system and robotic arms live through specially installed windows. (Note on the side: Visitors to gain access is a novelty in the otherwise secretive Swiss watch industry – and certainly a useful marketing tool.) Robotic arms take on monotonous and time-consuming tasks for people: They measure, photograph, relocate, rotate and pull the Automatically clocks up. They enable consistent and consistent production: an assembly line that never goes out of tune.
The approximately 300 employees at this location (800 employees at omega copy watchs automatic in total) can therefore focus entirely on the test results and the setting of the clock. Paper was banned from the factory’s dust-free rooms and replaced with tablets. Omega has been producing in Biel for 135 years. Now the brand is about to run out of rank to its big competitor Rolex, also based in Biel. The gap still seems huge: with an estimated annual turnover of CHF 4.7 billion (around EUR 4 billion, 2016), Rolex still far ahead of Omega, the second strongest watch brand in Switzerland, with an estimated annual turnover of CHF 1.9 billion (1.6 billion euros, 2016). Nevertheless: “We want to replace Rolex as the number one,” Aeschlimann swears the company on the primary target.