After spending several grueling days in Geneva at the Watches and Wonders fair we took a trip out to the Jura mountains. Admittedly, this wasn’t just for fun. Rather we went to visit STP / STC (Swiss Technology Production and Swiss Technology Components), who among other things are responsible for the manufacturing of Zodiac’s movements as well the assembly of their watches.
We woke up quite early and hopped on a train to Biel where we were met by Chris Moreau, Group Manager Product Development for Zodiac. We then drove an hour up into the Jura mountains to Glovelier, where STP / STC are headquartered. Surrounded by mountains, it was a beautiful area studded with various factories, working away at creating watch components. After a presentation on the sister companies and their capabilities, STP being the movement manufacturing company and STC being the watch manufacturing and assembly side, we began our tour of the facilities.
Immediately, I was struck by the scale of the facility. Massive manufacturing halls are only partially filled with machines. This facility is built for expansion, and there’s plenty of room for it. The first machines we encountered were making movement components starting with brass blanks. Several rows of milling machines, each automated, hummed away in unison. An attendant kept a close eye on the robotic movement makers, all of which did their jobs without issue.
Various other rooms and halls were visited as well where different types of components were made. Lathes instead of mills. Small pieces instead of large. A room for polishing and finishing. We eventually made our way upstairs, where we entered the QC and assembly halls, but not before putting on static-free jackets and booties. Inside the massive clean space were several areas.
There was additional QC and timing, where watches were set on winders that simulate motion, and two large bays of watchmakers. One bay was dedicated to watch assembly, the other to movements. Watch assembly was straightforward but impressive. We watched as a Super Sea Wolf came together right before our eyes from a few trays of components. Highly trained and used to the task, the watchmaker made it look quite easy.
The movement assembly bay was a more complex affair. A system of stations, an underlying conveyor belt moved components along as they were examined, oiled, and assembled. Some of the stations were attended by watchmakers, while others were fully automated. A particularly fascinating machined oiled the teeth of escape wheels, showing the action via a microscopic camera on a display. As the movements became whole, step by step, it was easy to appreciate the combination of technology and industrialization with the more intimate skills of people. Watches are machines, but they are still made, in many ways, by hand.
With the tour complete, and a few espressos consumed, we got back into the car and set back towards Biel to catch the train to Geneva. After days of seeing highly finished watches, polished and packaged for visual consumption at Watches and Wonders, going to a remote area and seeing how watches actually are made was refreshing and eye-opening. The STP/STC facilities were quite impressive. Spacious, clean, organized, machines hummed along as watchmakers and attendants studiously put together movements and full watches. From blocks of brass to finished timepieces, they managed it all.
STP movements can be found in use by many brands but is the core mechanical movement used by Zodiac Watches. From the Super Sea Wolfs to the Olympos Military models, the STP 1-11 are the trusted timekeepers within. Shop Zodiac at the Windup Watch Shop