Swiss Haute Horlogerie manufacturer Audemars Piguet invests in the future with two contemporary and modular production sites able to adapt to the company’s evolving needs. While the Manufacture des Saignoles recently welcomed its employees in Le Locle after three years of construction work, Audemars Piguet just laid the first stone of its new building, named the “Arc”, adjacent to the Manufacture des Forges in Le Brassus.
These two large-scale architectural projects embody Audemars Piguet’s sustainable approach and work culture requiring ever more flexibility and modularity. The two buildings also highlight the brand’s dedication to innovative architectures both integrated into and respectful of their environment.
Situated in Le Locle, the Manufacture des Saignoles hosts the workshops of Audemars Piguet Le Locle – previously known as Renaud &Papi – which specialises in complicated watch mechanisms.
The new manufacturing site, whose construction work started in 2018 and ended in the spring 2021, consists of a 10,400 square-metre one-storey building spread on several split levels that have been adapted to the topography and to suit industrial flows. The new building seamlessly integrates the relief of the valley and draws inspiration from the surrounding meadows, boglands and forests.
Conceived by the Swiss architect office Kuník de Morsier, it combines employees’ well-being and comfort, while giving prominence to natural light and new technologies. The building features large bay windows made of SageGlass®, a cost and energy-efficient electrochromic glass that tints automatically depending on natural light. In addition to filling each workshop with light, this type of glass ensures thermal regulation all year long and offers full view of the surrounding landscape.
This “light architecture” has been developed in collaboration with Marilyne Andersen, Professor of Sustainable Construction Techniques at EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. Her expertise in natural-light well-being was utilised to develop workspaces responding to the specific needs of each occupation.
In Le Brassus, the construction of the Arc, conceived by Swiss office De Giuli& Portier Architectes, has been entrusted to Steiner SA.
This new U-shaped building will spread on a surface of 17,000 square metres divided between 3 floors and a basement where the technical rooms are located. In addition, the Arc will be connected to the current Manufacture des Forges. Together, the two buildings will reunite under one roof all of Audemars Piguet’s industrial sites currently spread across the Vallée de Joux.
Construction work started in the spring of 2021 and is planned to finish in 2025. Envisioned as an evolving project, the building allows long-term flexibility thanks to its modular layout and anticipates the company’s future needs. At the leading edge of technology, the Arc also privileges daylight thanks to electrochromic SageGlass® windows. This new construction aligns with Audemars Piguet’s commitment to promoting an architecture that is both avant-garde and respectful of its environment.
The new Manufacture des Saignoles has been conceived to favour interconnected workflows, while encouraging creativity, communication and flexibility. The internal modular layout enables to anticipate and adapt to employees’ ever-evolving needs, while facilitating multidisciplinary teamwork.
The geometric building’s spatial organisation and glass dividing walls give full visibility between the workshops, while fostering communication between employees. Visitors can also appreciate the artisans’ meticulous craftsmanship from afar. The new building centres on the human and prioritises social relationships. The “piazza” located in the centre offers a large and convivial meeting space enabling the 190 employees to meet, talk and relax.
The Arc project adjacent to the Manufacture des Forges was conceived with the same principles of flexibility and conviviality in mind. The initial project debuted in 2019 was revised following the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, which confirmed the importance of new modular workspaces.
Similarly to the Saignoles, the Arc revolves around human relationships and artisans’ well-being. It includes a variety of small convivial spaces favouring relaxation and informal communication. The electrochromic glass windows allow daylight to penetrate through the workshops, while providing unencumbered view of the neighbouring landscape. Last but not least, the courtyard situated between the Arc and the Manufacture des Forges will be converted into a garden.
Rooted in Audemars Piguet’s sustainability approach, these two forward-thinking buildings fulfil the requirements of the Minergie® certification (Minergie-ECO® for the Arc) in terms of low environmental impact and modular internal architecture.
Free from fossil fuels for its heating system, the Manufacture des Saignoles combines two wood pellet heating furnaces, a heat pump and additional heat waste recovery elements. In addition, the building includes a system that prevents air draughts and ensures even temperature diffusion all year long. The roof is further equipped with 300 photovoltaic panels, covering a total surface of 480 square metres, for a power capacity of 80kW.
In Le Brassus, everything has been conceived to reduce the Arc’s carbon footprint. The project has been developed from an ecological standpoint and incorporates a carefully-designed partial land use plan. A green roof will recreate an ideal biotope for insects and birds, while offering a panoramic view from the Marchairuz pass in harmony with the Vallée de Joux’s meadows.
The project will benefit from a cutting-edge energy management plan: in addition to using industrial waste heat, the Arc will be connected to the remote fossil-free wood-based heating system, Le Brassus Bois, situated next to the train station.
Photovoltaic panels will provide the Manufacture with an additional source of renewable energy. In addition, the use of renewable construction materials has been prioritised to respond to the Minergie-ECO® requirements. The “ECO” mention addresses additional health and ecological construction aspects.
To give more life to the curved 350-metre long façade, the architects suggested a stylised system of metallic frames to reduce birds’ collision risk and limit reflection discomfort for its occupants. To remedy against possible flooding, the building will be raised by 80 centimetres, thus allowing to divert water flows through natural evacuation channels, without altering the surrounding landscape.
Built a few steps away from the Le Brassus train station, the Arc will benefit from a parking garage which will be accessible to the community during weekend events. In addition, the company has established an internal carpooling programme and generalised remote working for certain occupation.
In the Saignoles, Audemars Piguet has supported the development of a new bus TransN line in collaboration with Transports Publics Neuchâtelois SA, connecting Le Locle’s city centre to the Saignoles industrial zone, which now has its dedicated stop.
Images: © Courtesy of Audemars Piguet and Iwan Baan