Rolex in Bienne a movement ahead


CHAPTer 1 Rolex completes its 21st centuRy facility in Bienne 6 CHAPTer 2 a stRategic move 12 CHAPTer 3 sleek and RigoRous aRchitectuRe 18 CHAPTer 4 a site dedicated to the movement, the heaRt of the watch 24 CHAPTer 5 automated stocking and RetRieval, a pRoduction aid 30 CHAPTer 6 Respect foR the enviRonment 34 CHAPTer 7 Rolex in Bienne, moRe than a centuRy of histoRy 40


in Bienne, as everywhere at Rolex, attention to aesthetics and a passion for detail motivate each workshop, forging a strong bond between high-value-added manual know-how and highly advanced technology.

With its three sites in Geneva and the site in Bienne, Rolex has achieved unparalleled scope in manufacturing, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining and assembly of the components of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. The brand designs and manufactures in-house all the essential components of its watches. It is fully autonomous. As a figurehead of the Swiss watchmaking industry, with a strong corporate culture, Rolex is renowned throughout the world for its quality and know-how. Its OYSTER watches are symbols of excellence and elegance, performance and prestige. The vertical integration process begun by Rolex in the mid-1990s and its unrivalled production facilities allow the brand to ensure its independence and the quality of its products, and to look forward to the coming decades with confidence.



chapter 1 Rolex completes its 21st century facility in Bienne With the official inauguration, on 16 October 2012, of its new production building in Bienne dedicated to the movement, Rolex has completed the vertical integration process it began over 10 years ago. This gives the brand complete control over the manufacturing of the essential components of its watches, from the case to the movement, from the dial to the bracelet. 6


The completion of the major strategic construction project in Bienne rationalizes and brings together under one roof the entire production of the mechanical movement,thetrueheartofthewatch.This ultra-modernsiteallowsRolextopursueits objectives of excellence and innovation, thus setting a new standard in watch manufacturing.

ProduCTion enTirely mAsTered in-House The construction of the new building in Bienne is part of the bold, visionary and strategic decision taken by Rolex to proceed with the vertical integration of the entire production of its watches at four sites in Geneva and Bienne. As a result, Rolex has acquired unequalled means of production, combining high-value-added manual know-how with highly advanced technology. Thanks to this autonomy, the brand can freely express its creativity and sense of innovation with a degree of excellence compatible with its status as a world leader in watchmaking. • Bienne: manufacture of the movement.

• Geneva, Acacias: Rolex world head- quarters is home to management, research and development, design, communication activities, sales and after-sales service. It is also where the final assembly of the watches from components delivered by the other sites and final quality control take place. • Geneva, Plan-les-Ouates: this site hosts the development and manufacture of the case and bracelet, the gold foundry and quality assurance for materials. • Geneva, Chêne-Bourg: this site houses the development and manufacture of the dials, as well as jewellery and gem-setting activities. the ultRa-modeRn site in Bienne sets a new standaRd in watch manufactuRing.

Bienne Geneva, Chêne-Bourg Geneva, Acacias, world headquarters Geneva, Plan-les-Ouates 8 Rolex completes its 21st centuRy facilit y in Bienne

Quality is deeply anchoRed in the Rolex tRadition.

THe key role of Bienne The Manufacture des Montres Rolex S.A. in Bienne plays a key role in this unique production system. The movements of Rolex watches have been manufactured on this site since the brand was founded. Making a quality product, with quality people in a quality environment: this ambition is deeply anchored in the Rolex tradition. Like the sites in Geneva, the new building in Bienne was conceived and designed around this concept. It allows for optimization in four fundamental areas: • The product: to perpetuate its excellence while respecting tradition and endowing it with the most innovative state-of-the-art technologies; • Production: to rationalize it by automating certain processes while honouring high-value-added manual watchmaking know-how; to facilitate the workflow within the production sites and between the Rolex sites in Bienne and Geneva; and to continually adapt to technical developments; • Working conditions: to offer employees a pleasant, ergonomic and safe workplace, which is homogeneous from one site to another, a consistent feature of a strong corporate culture; • Image: to give the new building a representative dimension that is consistent with the Rolex sites in Geneva, in order to magnify the brand’s qualities of excellence and its prestige throughout the world.

11 Rolex completes its 21st centuRy facilit y in Bienne

chapter 2 a strategic move Work on expanding the Rolex site in Bienne, one of the largest industrial construction projects in recent years in Switzerland, began in summer 2009 and was completed three years later, in summer 2012. The decision to launch it in the midst of an economic crisis was a strong sign of confidence in the development of the brand. 12

Until the inauguration of the new facility in 2012, the Manufacture des Montres Rolex S.A. occupied seven buildings in the Champs-de-Boujean area on the outskirts of Bienne, most of them separate from each other.

The acquisition of land from the city of Bienne in 2006 opened up new prospects, allowing Rolex to start grouping its operations with the aim of optimizing and further developing its production strength. enTire ProduCTion of THe movemenT in one ComPlex This purchase made it possible to launch a project that would concentrate the entire production of the mechanical movement in a single complex, grouping two existing units with a volume of 170,000m3 together with a new building of 230,000m3 .

This created a production facility of 400,000m3 in total, extending over a surface area of 92,000m2 – the equivalent of more than 13 football fields. It brings together all the machining, stamping, thermal and surface treatments, maintenance and laboratory activities, as well as the assembly operations required to manufacture the movement. The new building, an innovative four-storey industrial structure with another three floors below ground, also houses an impressive, entirely automated stocking and retrieval system at the heart of the production facility. This ensures the delivery of components and finished products to the production workshops.

The orientation of the building offers possibil- ities for future extensions towards the south on land already owned by Rolex. The new complex has a car park, a waste water treatment plant, supply areas, a large restaurant and several relaxation areas for the employees. Two other buildings were kept and upgraded. One is dedicated to technical activities, such asthedesignandmakingoftools,orresearch and development. The other, once upgraded, will house management and administrative activities. Serving as the main entrance to the site, it is linked to the production building by an underground passage.

14 a stRategic move

cOnSTRucTIOn SITE start of construction: summer 2009 Completion and delivery of the building: summer 2012 Professions involved: approximately 40 depth of excavation: 11 metres. the groundwater was diverted by pumping and the use of sheet pile walls materials excavated: 100,000m3 , for the most part stored on site and then reused in the landscaping structural work: • total concrete: 21,000m3 • total steel reinforcements: 2,700 tonnes Contracts: 213 main contracts and 587 other contracts and supplementary agreements, the majority concluded with local businesses

THE BuILDInGS Production facility: the 400,000m3 facility groups the machining, stamping, thermal and surface treatments, maintenance and laboratory activities as well as the assembly of the movements. it also includes a waste water treatment plant, supply areas, a large restaurant and several cafeterias. Advantages of the new complex: optimization of the workflow and the circulation of people, rationalization of various operations, security, efficiency and employee comfort. Two other buildings: • One, an 80,000m3 building, houses management and administrative activities. it forms the main entrance to the site and is linked to the production building by an underground passage; • The other, a 36,000m3 building, renovated in 2008, is dedicated to technical activities, such as engineering and research and development.


oPTimized quAliTy The decision to group all of the movement production was inspired by clear goals: ensuring optimal quality in processes and in finished products, increasing efficiency and productivity, rationalizing the various manufacturing operations, improving the flow of people and products. It also offers better working conditions in the workshops and increased comfort in the relaxation areas. This new facility represents an exceptionally high-performance environment for the production of Rolex movements. loyAlTy To Bienne Through its commitment to Bienne, the brand is demonstrating its loyalty to a canton and a city, which, for more than a century, has been one of the major watchmaking centres in Switzerland, and where the manufacture of Rolex movements has been taking place from the brand’s earliest days.

An extremely qualified workforce, an ideal location in the foothills of the Jura mountains in the heart of Switzerland, a tradition of high-precision industry, the presence of the Swiss Official chronometer Testing Institute (cOSc) and dynamic local authorities: these are some of the assets that explain the prominent role that the region plays in the success of Swiss watchmaking.

17 a stRategic move

chapter 3 Sleek and rigorous architecture The architectural concept of the new Rolex production building in Bienne is inspired by a resolutely industrial style: a simple, rigorous and efficient rectangular design consisting of vast, sleek geometric spaces. In terms of image, the buildings are also in harmony with the sites in Geneva with regard to the shapes, materials and colours used. 18

the Quality of the common aReas echoes that of the pRoduction aReas.

The building's layout is complemented by asystemofinteriorandexteriorcourtyards that provide pleasant natural daylight, which contributes to the working comfort of the staff.

The workshops are designed according to sustainable development criteria that take into account the experience acquired at the Rolex sites in Geneva. They are complemented by office areas and an automated stocking system, guaranteeing a rational work organization. ligHT wells, in TriBuTe To THe movemenT The quality of the common areas echoes that of the production areas. Their dimen- sions and design ensure the well-being of the employees.

A 450-seat restaurant on the fourth floor opens onto a large roof terrace. It is spatially linked to a coffee bar several floors down by large light wells, each measuring seven metres in diameter. Like lamps, these overlapping wells bring natural daylight to the centre of the common areas. Their layout is reminiscent of the gear trains of a watch, a spectacular visual reference to the movement. The materials used – glass, stainless steel, light and dark wood – give a very contemporary feel to the whole. The roof terrace enjoys a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside: the forests of the Jura hills to the north, the vast farmlands of the Swiss plateau, and the majestic Alps to the south.

AnTHrACiTe fACAdes As the visitor approaches Bienne from the east, the dual-height building marks the entrance to the city. The first section is lower and set slightly back from the road, allowing the creation of a large green space featuring a tree-lined path. The facades are uniform and respect the common denominator of the brand’s other production facilities: double glass skins in anthracite tones with a metallic structure. Their horizontal or vertical composition distinguishes the workshop areas from the administrative areas.

These facades unite, in one building, all the production areas for the movement.

A landscaped outdoor car park on a lot adjacent to the new building supplements the underground car park. The move into the new premises is taking place step by step, sector by sector, in order to avoid any interruption of the production flow. It began in March 2012 and will be completed in 2013. 21 sleek and RigoRous aRchitectuRe

cHOIcE Of ARcHITEcTS in 2007, Rolex appointed the swiss architectural firms of gebert architekten and strässler+storck in Bienne, as well as caretta+weidmann in Zurich to design and complete this construction project with the support of the Bg consulting engineers group to assist with contracting and project management. some key elements of the project were developed in collaboration with the department of urban planning of the city of Bienne, for example, the improvements to the surrounding areas and access roads. the preparatory work was completed in early 2009. the construction project itself began in the summer of the same year.

three years later, in summer 2012, the entire project was completed and ready for the official inauguration on 16 october 2012.

chapter 4 a site dedicated to the movement, the heart of the watch The Bienne site is one of the mainstays of Rolex quality. It is the production facility for the movements of Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches, which are all certified as chronometers by the Swiss Official chronometer Testing Institute (cOSc). The manufacture of these movements, all designed on the basis of a single architecture and common characteristics that ensure high performance and ease of maintenance, is entirely mastered here by the brand.


From the blank to strategic components like the balance wheel-hairspring and the escapement, which are emblematic of the art of watchmaking, the Rolex PERPETUAL movements are the fruit of an independent and integrated manufacturer with complete watchmaking know-how and state-of-the-art equipment, often exclusive or developed by Rolex itself.

These components reflect the values of the brand, a pioneer of the wristwatch, and are made in the strictest respect of its uncompromising requirements: • excellent chronometric precision; • great reliability; • high shock resistance; • high-performance self-winding; • ease of maintenance. From the blank to Final assembly A PERPETUAL movement comprises up to 380 components. Staff at the Bienne site are engaged in the manufacture of all these components, as well as research and development, laboratory, assembly, quality control, maintenance and packaging activities. More than 2,000 of the over 6,000 employees of the brand in Switzerland work in Bienne.

Rolex has a total of over 9,000 employees worldwide.

Everything begins with the manufacture of the blanks, plates and bridges, which hold the mechanism of the movement together. Although invisible, hidden from view inside the hermetically sealed OYSTER cases of Rolex watches, these parts are meticulously finished and decorated in keeping with the traditions of the art of watchmaking. The many components of the movement, whichareoftentinyandofcomplexgeometry, aremanufacturedwithaprecisionoftheorder of a few microns using several techniques: profile turning, gear cutting, polishing, stamping and cutting, and milling. Each component must conform to Rolex quality standards.

Such rigorous execution, at each and every stage of production from the very beginning,allows100percentofPERPETUAL movements to meet the precision criteria of the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).

The assembly and regulating of the movements are done by hand. In these procedures, the quality and skill of the operators and watchmakers – their precision, know-how and attention to detail – are of enormous importance and constitute an essential added value. the oscillator, guardian oF time In a mechanical watch, the oscillator is the centrepiece,theguardianoftime.Comprising a hairspring and a balance wheel, this regulating organ determines the precision of the watch by the regularity of its oscilla- tions. It illustrates Rolex’s perfect mastery in combining cutting-edge technologies and watchmaking tradition.

27 A site dedicAted to the movement, the heArt of the wAtch

In 2000, the brand developed and patented an innovative hairspring in an exclusive alloy of niobium, zirconium and oxygen: the PARACHROM hairspring. Entirely manufac- tured at the Bienne site using Rolex’s exclusive and advanced technology, this strategic component, finer than a human hair, presents major advantages for chronometric precision: it is insensitive to magnetic fields, offers great stability when exposed to temperature variations, and remains up to 10 times more accurate than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks.

All of the hairsprings are tested. To ensure their perfectly concentric development once they are assembled at the heart of the movement, a Breguet overcoil is formed. Rolex is the only manufacturer to fashion Breguet overcoils on a large scale.

The hairspring could not maintain its hypnotic rhythm without the effect of inertia provided by the balance wheel to which it is attached. The balance wheel guarantees the regularity of the oscillator. The precision of the oscil- lator is finely regulated thanks to gold MICROSTELLA nuts, also a Rolex invention. With in-house manufacturing of the PARACHROMhairspring,allthecomponents of the balance wheel, the pivot stones and the PARAFLEX shock absorbers, and even the lubricants that play a crucial role in the proper functioning of the movement, Rolex masters all the elements that are critical to the precision and reliability of the movement.

the escapement and the perpetual rotor The escapement plays a key role in measuring time and distributing energy to the oscillator. This mechanism consists of components that must interact within toler- ances of a few microns – the escape wheel, the pallets and the roller of the balance wheel. Their manufacture is a real challenge of microtechnology. The quality levels achieved in the Bienne workshops in manufacturing each one of these parts are such that the need for delicate fine-tuning, or “finalizing”, which is usually necessary to ensure optimal operation, is reduced to a minimum. The PERPETUAL rotor self-winding system, invented by Rolex in 1931, consists of a half-moon-shaped oscillating weight rotating freely in both directions on its axle under the impetus of the wearer’s wrist movements.

It transmits continuous natural energy to the watch. This mechanism is easily recognized by the two red reversing wheels, which ensure the winding of the movement regardless of the direction in which the oscillating weight rotates.

the Bienne site is one of the mAinstAys of rolex quAlity. 28 A site dedicAted to the movement, the heArt of the wAtch

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES number of employees in bienne: over 2,000, including about 60 apprentices apprentices: watchmakers, poly-mechanics, mechanics, commercial employees, computer scientists, watchmaking operators rolex employees worldwide: • over 4,000 in Geneva at three sites • over 2,000 in Bienne • over 3,000 at the affiliates throughout the world

chapter 5 Automated stocking and retrieval, a production aid The automated stocking and retrieval system in Bienne is one of the key features of the site.

It allows rational organization of production of the movement, improves quality, accelerates the process of transporting the components and contributes to the working comfort of the employees. Rolex is a pioneer in the use of automated stocking systems of this magnitude on its different production sites. 30

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