Spectacular pane assembly on the Swatch Group’s new construction in Biel

Based on the design of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the new company headquarters of the Swatch Group is being built in Biel (Switzerland). Due to difficult site access, Heavydrive GmbH was called in to develop the perfect solution for this tricky assembly situation.

The architectural concept is a pure timber construction. The spectacular, snake-shaped building will be the watch brand’s headquarters, and will be connected to the new museum building. The museum building rests on a timber frame and will be home to exhibition pieces by the company as well as a shop and conference centre with 500 seats. The spherical conference room on the roof of the museum will have an exclusive skylight.

Swatch, Biel: snake-shaped build with assembly platform under the ‘head’; Image: Heavydrive
Swatch, Biel: Crane on platform with load-bearing tracks
Image: Heavydrive


Customised solutions for difficult assembly situations

The dome-shaped glass roof presented the builders with a huge challenge. First, the panes – weighing up to 1.1 tonnes and measuring up to 2m x 5m – had to be installed at a height of up to 13.6m and be flush to the snake head ceiling of the timber construction. Secondly, the construction site is extremely hard to access, as cranes need to reach under the roof of the snake structure and be parallel to the façades, but a road closure in the city of Biel was not approved. So assembly specialist Heavydrive was consulted for its know-how and special equipment.

To develop an optimal and efficient assembly solution for the customer, managing director Guenter Uebelacker travelled to Biel. “We offer our clients an on-site visit or a field test of the assembly devices as well as expert advice. That way we can deliver a customised solution that saves the client time and money”, says Guenter Uebelacker.

For the new Swatch building, the MRK 144.0 S1 assembly crane, the VSG 1200 KS suction system and the HDL 1000 suction system were used repeatedly to fit the panes. The assembly crane, additional equipment and glass panes had to rest on a static, precisely calculated, temporary timber platform. The on-site building crane raised the 4-tonne MRK 144.0 S1 crane onto the temporary platform – 17m above an access street, so the centre of the crane was just 3.4m from the façade.

Swatch, Biel: Pane assembly just under the timber construction
Image: Heavydrive


Quick and safe overhead assembly of extra-large panes

With meticulous preparation, the assembly was then easy for the Heavydrive pros. With the VSG 1200 KS vacuum suction system for panes weighing up to 1.1 tonnes, the glass elements were safely lifted. Experienced operators controlled the heavy panes remotely to fit them to the millimetre into the roof construction of the conference hall. After two days, all 15 panes were accurately inserted on schedule. The new Swatch headquarters in Biel will open in 2018.

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