IWC Schaffhausen has established a new watchmaking center, integrating traditional watchmaking skills with cutting-edge craftsmanship and technology. The production of movement components and cases is ensured by means of an ultra-advanced turning and milling machining center, which guarantees excellent levels of quality and precision. The assembly of the main movement depends on careful and careful manual work. Only the hands of an experienced watchmaker can make a watch’s mechanical heart beat.
IWC’s new watchmaking centre is located on the outskirts of Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and construction has been completed in just 21 months. Approaching this building, people will immediately understand the brand’s ‘good and bad’ intentions: this is an out-of-the-box ‘monument’ created by the watchmaker for itself-by design, it has the majestic monument In essence, its birth coincides with the 150th anniversary of the brand’s birthday. The black pane glass façade and the white flat roof above the building façade together constitute a contrasting visual impact picture. ‘Our founder, Florentine Ariosto Jones, began to combine traditional watchmaking skills with advanced production techniques as early as 1868. Since then, we have continued to carry out this engineering concept he pioneered Systematic evolution; to this day, in our new watchmaking center, we are still committed to practicing this ingenious fusion of exquisite craftsmanship and precision technology. Of course, the role of this new building is not limited to providing excellent production conditions And working environment-it also carries the soul of the IWC brand, it opens the door to guests all over the world, giving people the opportunity to experience up close how our self-made movements and watch cases are produced. ‘, IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr said.
In the new watchmaking center, IWC has realized the centralized production of movement components, main movements and watch cases under the same roof-a milestone in the company’s history. For Andreas Voll, the chief operating officer of IWC, the seed that represents a long-term hope has finally come to fruition: ‘This new building gives us the opportunity to accurately deploy the production process to reach Optimal state to ensure its smooth operation and excellent quality. For example, from raw materials to individual movement components to finished movements-this entire value creation process is deployed on the same floor in a logical order. This is from 2007 Since joining IWC in 2015, it has never changed. ‘
Advanced technology with extraordinary accuracy
IWC’s new watchmaking center-movement parts production workshop
Through the magnificent 9-meter-high entrance hall, you can directly enter the movement component manufacturing workshop. About 1,500 parts are produced here for the following movement series: Type 52 and 82 automatic winding movements, Type 59 manual winding movements, and Type 69 chronograph movements. Including complex parts such as the movement base plate, bridge and oscillating weight, as well as small parts such as switching levers, clockwork or positioning elements. Some small parts are almost invisible to the naked eye. The department’s mission also includes producing components for complex devices such as perpetual calendars, almanacs and tourbillons.
Mechanical watches are complex and sophisticated mechanical devices, with hundreds of parts running and performing functions. Therefore, its requirements on accuracy are extremely high. ‘Take the bottom plate of Type 52 as an example. After the milling process, the bottom plate of the movement must have about 400 geometric features, and the minimum production tolerance is only a few thousandths of a millimeter,’ explained Voll. This is why most of the production steps involved in the movement components are automated. Only advanced, computer-controlled turning and milling centers are capable of producing standards-compliant components.
Taking the 52-type movement as an example, the bottom plate is milled by a highly modern machining center, which can clamp multiple brass blanks at a time. The tools and machining positions can be changed automatically with exceptional precision. Feeding of raw materials and picking up of finished parts are done by articulated robots.
Dedicated electroplating workshop for professional surface modification
The movement components are subjected to surface processing in the electroplating shop to achieve the desired surface modification effect. ‘The core task here is to prevent corrosion and create a glamorous look. For example, a nickel-rhodium alloy protective layer prevents the brass components from oxidizing to produce patina and tarnish, while giving the components a silvery white color,’ said Volll. The production process for engraved movement parts is particularly complicated. Taking the spring splint as an example, the first step is to plate it as a whole, and then apply a coating process on the engraved picture / text. After the Geneva corrugation is added, the parts are placed in a plating bath with rhodium plating, any remaining coating is cleaned up, and the engraved pictures / text will shine golden luster.
Meticulous manual assembly
IWC’s new watchmaking center-movement assembly
The transition from movement component production to movement assembly is seamless. The production of movement components is highly automated, while movement assembly is a delicate operation that must be done manually. No machine is capable of assembling such a complicated mechanical device, and only a human hand can bring the cold machinery to life. The first is the pre-assembly stage. First, the splint and the bridge (the two together constitute the blank) and many other parts are assembled together to form a device. Then, these pre-assembled devices are sent to the assembly line together with various prepared components. It is on these assembly lines that the movements are finally formed, such as the 52 and 69 self-assembly cores. Into.
We have developed a ‘dedicated assembly line’ concept for the assembly of movements, which is based on the visionary ideas of Mr. F.A. Jones and has been further deepened. The specific method is to split the original unified assembly program, thereby forming different subprograms, and then to equip each subprogram with a professional expert with professional skills. ‘We split the assembly process that was originally shared by different series of movements, and then reorganized them into different dedicated assembly lines, which allows us to maximize the optimization of different quality standards,’ Voll said of the key advantages. Our employees have also developed an innovative refueling machine that can precisely lubricate up to dozens of refueling points in the movement.
IWC’s new watchmaking center-clean room for assembly of movements
Even traces of dust or dirt can impair the performance of the movement. Therefore, component assembly operations are performed in a clean room environment, where conditions are comparable to computer chip production environments. The air circulation volume reaches 50,000 cubic meters per hour. The pressure in this environment is higher than atmospheric pressure, making it more difficult for dust particles to penetrate.
‘Masters’ in case production
IWC’s new watchmaking center-case production workshop
The case production department is located in the basement of the watchmaking center. Stainless steel, titanium, platinum, red gold, platinum and bronze cases are produced here. Since its establishment in the 1980s, IWC has accumulated a wealth of professional skills and is quite good at processing difficult case materials. The latest material innovation from Schaffhausen IWC is Ceratanium®: ‘This breakthrough innovative case material combines the strength and lightness of titanium with the rigidity and scratch resistance of ceramics,’ explained Volll Say.
The case alone contains a large number of parts. If you add functions such as a rotating bezel or chronograph button, the number of parts can be increased to dozens or more at once. The machining process of the blank is customized by computer-controlled turning and milling centers. A one-meter-long bar can process 30 to 50 cases, depending on the material and case type. The milling process alone takes hours. Taking the platinum case of the Portuguese series of super complicated watches as an example, the production process is extremely time-consuming because of the difficult processing of materials and the complex geometric shapes.
The processed case then enters the surface processing stage and undergoes polishing. After that, the final cleaning and final inspection steps are performed in a clean room environment again, which are all delicate manual operations. ‘Only the human eye has the ability to assess surface quality,’ Voll said.
Complex process methods make experts more sophisticated
When decorating the case back, in addition to engraving and etching with a machine, laser engraving is also used. This advanced process not only has excellent implementation reliability and stability, but also opens up more new possibilities for engraving design.
Our case experts are proficient in a range of ultra-complex, demanding machining methods, such as diamond turning. This processing method is mainly applied to red gold or bronze materials. Specially cut diamonds compress the material while cutting it. For example, the red-gold case of the Portuguese series chronographs will therefore acquire a distinctive luster.
Architectural information of the new watchmaking center
Investment 42 million Swiss francs
139 meters long
62 meters wide
13,500 square meters
Volume 69,200 cubic meters
Concrete 14,600 m3
Internal glass wall 2650 square meters
Glass facade 2200 square meters
Load-bearing steel frame 840 tons
1063 tons of steel
Department Receiving, logistics, production of movement components, movement assembly, case production, case assembly, quality inspection, equipment engineering, IT, security, infrastructure
Clean room area 2223 square meters
Building 170,000 m3 / h
Solar panel 2200 square meters / 275,000 kWh / year Central lubricant regeneration system Total capacity 12,000 liters
Maximum output of 960 l / min
238 seats / maximum capacity of 400 people 21 months of construction time
Number of participating companies 80
Design by ATP Architekten Zürich
RMA Reichardt-Maas-Assoziierte Architekten Essen