From Watchland, the Genevan estate where Franck Muller is based, you are able to look out across the calm blue waters of Lake Geneva to the far bank, and in the distance gaze up at the white peak of Mont Blanc. In this postcard setting, Watchland is an open expanse of chalet-style buildings designed by the Swiss architect Edmond Fatio, punctuated with manicured gardens that remind of the calm grounds of Versailles.
This year, Franck Muller announced that Watchland had been renovated extensively, with two new buildings constructed in the same style as the rest of the estate, which dates back to 1905. These additional buildings are to accommodate around 420 Franck Muller watchmakers, artisans and operational employees to work in a single location, improving efficiency, and also allowing the brand to be more reactive to market demands. The new buildings give the brand an additional 16,000 square metres at their disposal, making it possible to manufacture components, assemble the watches and finish them all in one place. Franck Muller still have a number of other production sites around Switzerland which will stay in operation, so the project has been more of an expansion than a relocation.
In true Franck Muller style, they approached the construction of the building in an unconventional way. Rather than offering a construction tender to any building companies, they took the task on themselves. “We were the builder ourselves,” said Nicholas Rudaz, the global COO of Franck Muller. “We had the manpower to tackle this challenge, and hired the trades we required, so it was a little unusual, but we are very proud of the result.” It is certainly an impressive result given the brand’s expertise is in fine watchmaking, not construction.
“The new buildings are almost identical to the ones that we constructed in the past, which are examples of very classic Swiss architecture. We also took a focus on the environmental impact of the buildings when we were constructing them, using a method of drilling holes to assist in warming the building in winter.
“The original building was also lived in by the Japanese economist and author Nitobe Inazō in the 1920s, who wrote the famous Bushido: The Soul of Japan, a text that every child in Japan must read at school. He was working at the League of Nations at the time, which is, of course, the precursor to the United Nations we have today, and our building was his home during this period.”
The unique and interesting history of the location for the latest chapter of the Franck Muller production facility speaks to the unique character of a brand that has made its name in producing interesting watches. With the additional space, Franck Muller will see a greater capacity to create the complicated watches that have inspired awe and curiosity for decades.