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IWC Schaffhausen Launches The 'Manufakturzentrum' — A Massive Word For A Massive Production House

By Kames Narayanan

The Movement Parts Production department inside IWC's latest production house, the IWC Manufakturzentrum.
IWC Schaffhausen
The Movement Parts Production department inside IWC's latest production house, the IWC Manufakturzentrum.

This year marks a momentous time in Swiss luxury watchmaker’s IWC Schaffhausen’s long-standing history as it counts its 150th year in the industry. In light of this important milestone, IWC inaugurated the IWC Manufakturzentrum, located on the outskirts of its birthplace Schaffhausen and a ten-minute drive away from where its historic headquarters stand.

The formidable structure (constructed in just 21 months), distinguished by its contemporary floor-to-ceiling glass façade flanked by black frames and contrasting white roof, speaks of an impeccable design acumen way ahead of the times. Beyond its modern front, the IWC Manufakturzentrum moves the house forward in its fundamental manufacturing process.

IWC SchaffhausenA view of the IWC Manufakturzentrum’s facade.
A view of the IWC Manufakturzentrum’s facade.

Here, for the first time in IWC’s history, the production of in-house base watch movements, movement parts and watch cases come together under one roof — a shift that has been a long time coming. Prior to the launch of the IWC Manufakturzentrum, production was dispersed in six different locations across Schaffhausen, essentially, translating to a less efficient use of human resources and time.

“The new building has given us the opportunity to configure our production processes precisely as is best for ensuring that they run optimally and produce perfect quality. So, for example, the entire process of creating value, from the raw material to the individual movement component and on to the finished manufacture movement, progresses in a logical order on a single storey,” says Andrea Voll, chief operating officer of IWC. “I have been dreaming of this ever since I started at IWC back in 2007,” he continues.

Voll’s aspirations for IWC were far from being merely one man’s dream. It was in fact, reflective of a collective vision the luxury watchmaker held onto as a whole in moving the house forward.

“When you first set foot in the new Manufakturzentrum, you immediately get a sense of what IWC is all about, as well as a sense of the pride that our employees take in their work. If production is divided up over multiple storeys or buildings, you don’t get that sense,” says Christoph Grainger-Herr, chief executive officer of IWC.

IWC SchaffhausenA portrait of IWC CEO Christoph Grainger- Herr.
A portrait of IWC CEO Christoph Grainger- Herr.

Grainger-Herr’s role was pivotal in the conception of the new premise. Equipped with more than a decade of experience under his belt at IWC and formal training as an architect, Grainger-Herr played a key role in laying out the blueprint of the sprawling building.

“Once we had decided on what volume we needed in order to best accommodate the needs of production, I helped draw up the initial concepts for the design of the building exterior and set the architectural tone. In the next phase of the design process and during the construction process, I represented IWC in architectural matters and made decisions regarding the building’s aesthetics and the materials to be used,” says Grainger-Herr.

There is perhaps no better man for the job, than Grainger- Herr, in translating the spirit of the watchmaker into an optimally functional yet cutting edge manufacturing arm. The experience it had to offer its employees and visitors alike were also fundamental considerations that informed the design process.

IWC SchaffhausenA clean wardrobe for watchmakers in the IWC Manufakturzentrum’s movement assembly department.
A clean wardrobe for watchmakers in the IWC Manufakturzentrum’s movement assembly department.

“I had modernist exhibition pavilions in mind at the time. These pavilions have allowed countries to showcase their greatest achievements in terms of technology, trade and art. This blend of gallery, workshop and engineering trade fair seemed to me to be a fitting architectural foundation on which to base the design, and the classical modernist style is an excellent match for our brand,” says Grainger-Herr. “We are a manufacturer with a 150-year history, but we are also a manufacturer that looks to the future. Rather than backwards-looking at neoclassicism, it is a classical interpretation with a nod to the future.”

Granted the sheer scale of the project compressed within a timeline of less than two years, the challenges that lay along the way were multi-fold. The tedious project demanded the coordination between 80 construction companies who were involved in the building and the logistical feat of manoeuvering machinery and workstations around the space.

IWC SchaffhausenThe movement assembly line inside the IWC Manufakturzentrum.
The movement assembly line inside the IWC Manufakturzentrum.

The tireless hard work has already reaped its returns in the integration of a seamless production process and providing a state of the art “work home” to its employees.

“To foster effective teamwork, we have set up special shop floor areas, for example. In these areas, teams can discuss objectives, quality requirements and current issues in the department itself,” says Grainger-Herr. “We also made use of various architectural tricks to create a rather special atmosphere — for instance, the projecting flat roofs are covered with wooden planks. This makes the new building feel a little like a house with a generously proportioned veranda, and creates a cosy ambience.”

With its new Manufakturzentrum up and running, IWC is now presented with the opportunity to expand as the building is able to accommodate a maximum capacity of 400 employees, of which there are currently only 230 crafts people.

“I don’t know whether we planned every detail as meticulously when Kurt Klaus did when he designed his iconic perpetual calendar, but I am certain that it will be quite some time before we need to think about expanding the building,” says Grainger-Herr.

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