“The dimensions of this building are simply enormous.” With a sweeping gesture, Christoph Grainger-Herr points from one end of the 130-metre-long hallway to the other. “Someone suggested integrating a sprint track for our employees in this hallway, but that option is still being evaluated,” Grainger-Herr adds with a wink. The 39-year-old new CEO of IWC Schaffhausen stands with a group of guests in what will soon be IWC’s new manufacturing centre in Schaffhausen’s Merishausertal. By February 2018, many of the most relevant production departments will have relocated to the new manufacturing centre. The official opening ceremony is scheduled to take place in June.
Following the completion of the major structural work, IWC had invited more than 250 construction workers, local politicians, public officials, journalists and watch collectors as well as IWC employees involved in this centennial project to celebrate the traditional topping out ceremony. Spring flowers in white and green beverage bottles decorate elegant long tables in what will later be the department for movement assembly. A dozen waiters, helpers and hostesses buzz around the guests, serving finger food and local wine from Schaffhausen. The atmosphere is relaxed, excited and collegial, as many of the guests already seem to know each other.
Guiding a second group of visitors through the impressive structure, Andreas Voll explains: “25 engineering firms, 70 construction companies and 100 craftsmen were involved in this project. Altogether 8,400 metric tons of concrete and 3,300 square metres of glass were used to build 13,500 square metres of production area.” For IWC’s Chief Operating Officer, however, the new facility is much more than just a building – it is a dream come true. “Right from my very first day at IWC, I have wondered what the features of a perfect watch manufacturing centre would be. Here, under one roof we will fully centralize our key processes and manufacturing steps, which have been scattered across several locations in the past.” After two expansions on the site of its headquarters in the old town of Schaffhausen, IWC had found itself pushed against its limits. Moreover, the strategic decision to further develop IWC’s in-house movement expertise called for more space and hence a new manufacturing facility.
In the meantime, the two visitor groups have taken their seats at a table. It has become dark outside and the LED lights illuminate the supporting pillars. Christoph Grainger-Herr takes to the stage and speaks to his guests. “There are not too many CEOs who get to celebrate the topping out of a building they helped to plan,” he says – referring to his background as an architect and his active involvement in the project from the beginning. Indeed, the new building is the first free-standing structure IWC has built since F. A. Jones established the company’s headquarters in Schaffhausen’s Baumgartenstrasse in 1875. “The costs of that building were projected at 100,000 Swiss francs at the time, but climbed to 250,000 Swiss francs – an astronomical sum at the time. It’s good to see we have things under control this time round.”
It is a chilly night in north-eastern Switzerland, and temperatures drop to five degrees Celsius. Guests start huddling around the patio heaters. The ceremony has now reached its highlight. One of the construction workers gets on stage to honour the old custom of delivering the traditional “Richtspruch” to the audience – a rhyme to which people raise their glasses and say a toast several times. The first toast goes to the builders, the second to the craftsmen and the third to the architects and engineers. Finally, the craftsman raises his glass for a last time before throwing it in a high arc onto the floor. The glass breaks whilst the guests cheer – nothing should now stand in the way of a successful completion. And from among the talk and laughter, the voice of one guest was overheard saying “This topping out ceremony is better than my own wedding.”