shigeru ban designs one of the world's largest timber structures for new swatch HQ

shigeru ban designs one of the world's largest timber structures for new swatch HQ

after almost five years of construction, swatch has inaugurated its shigeru ban-designed headquarters in northwestern switzerland. located in the town of biel, also known as bienne, the new HQ for the watch brand is contained within one of the world’s largest timber structures. the scheme connects to the ‘cité du temps’ — a building also conceived by ban, which contains a museum and a conference hall. the japanese architect was also responsible for the design of the omega production building, an independent structure also located on site.

shigeru ban swatch
all images courtesy of swatch



the curved silhouette of the new swatch building extends over a total length of 240 meters (787 ft) and a width of 35 meters (115 ft). a timber grid shell construction forms the basic structure of the large-area façade, which, at its highest point, measures 27 meters (89 ft). the vaulted façade rises gently towards the entrance before transitioning to the ‘cité du temps’. during the planning phase, shigeru ban and his team used 3D technology to help to define the exact shape and positioning of the approximately 4,600 beams of the timber grid shell.

shigeru ban swatch



since the shell serves as a large office façade, it also had to meet various technical requirements. consequently, a complex network of cables has been discreetly integrated. while the wooden structure was still being erected, the installation of around 2,800 honeycomb timber grid shell elements, which make up most of the façade, began. three basic types of honeycomb can be distinguished: opaque, translucent, and transparent elements.

shigeru ban swatch



internally, 25,000 square meters (269,000 sqf) of floor space is spread over five floors for all departments of swatch international and swatch switzerland. the entirely glazed entrance lobby features generous dimensions as well as a sense of transparency, openness, and lightness. two glass elevators take employees and visitors to the upper floors and to the glass pedestrian bridge on the 3rd floor, which connects the swatch building to the ‘cité du temps’.

shigeru ban swatch



the surface area of the four upper floors decreases successively from floor to floor, while galleries with glass balustrades provide views of the lower levels. in addition to the regular workplaces, various common areas are distributed throughout the building: a cafeteria on the ground floor and small rest areas at various intervals. for moments when privacy is necessary, separate ‘alcove cabins’ accommodate up to six employees for telephone calls or work requiring particular concentration.

shigeru ban swatch



from a sustainability standpoint, groundwater is used to heat and cool the building, while solar power is harvested from photovoltaic panels. swatch shares the resources with neighboring ‘cité du temps’ and the omega production building, which went into operation in 2017. see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.



project info:


name: swatch headquarters
location: biel/bienne, switzerland
client: swatch
architect: shigeru ban architects
status: complete

  • I’m extremely disappointed by that horrid, overused, cliche and kindergarten interior. What a joke! You’ve done all that exterior work and then you do that?! Insanity.

    hussein says:
  • Hello,
    We are the company LEICHT France SAS which carried out all the design and calculations of the facade of the new Swatch’s HQ, as well as the plans of execution.
    We wanted to know if it was possible to make a modification in order to add LEICHT France SAS in the articles.
    Thank you in advance!
    Khaoula Cherif

    Structural engineering
    Specialized expertise

    T +33 (0)2 535 575-18

    Khaoula Cherif says:
  • I have to agree with Hussein, the first thing I noticed about the interior is that it looks like a kindergarten library. Also office seating looks extremely uncomfortable. Really interesting structure however. 5 years is a looonng construction schedule though.

    Kevin Brodie says:

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