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Factory Tour of Alpina and Frédérique Constant in Geneva

by Marco 21 May, 2010 View Comments

Being invited to visit Frédérique Constant and Alpina' headquarters in Geneva, I packed my G11 and HD camcorder and made my way to Plan-les-Ouates. This neighbourhood, as I found out, is home to some of the most prestigious watch companies in the world. Since I had never visited this area before, I opted for the roughly thirty minute walk from the train station to discover it. On the way I encountered manufacturing facilities for Rolex, Patek Philippe, and several other watchmaking giants.

While I was always a fan of Alpina watches, I was still a bit new to FC. During the visit I was not only introduced to many of the two companies' newest models but witnessed how the in-house, manufacture movements are created from the ground up, giving me a new appreciation for how remarkable they are.

I chose my five favourite pictures for this post, but below them you will find a link to the full set of 38 images that I posted on Flikr. The images depict the tour and offer descriptions of each step, so click on "show info" if this interests you. I hope you visit them and that you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed visiting the factory.

The Witech 615 Machining Center
This heavy-duty machine carves every part of all the manufacture movements out of solid blocks of metal. A typical piece takes about one hour and a half to be machined with the precision to meet Alpina and Frédérique Constant standards.

Inside the Assembly Atelier
All the parts built in the machining room are sent up to this atelier, which is dedicated to the assembly of the remarkable in-house movements built by Alpina and Frédérique Constant. The head watchmaker, with the blue shirt, monitors all work closely and three specialized watchmakers are dedicated to assembling, and servicing the rare and complicated tourbillon mechanisms.

FC Tourbillon Cage
A Frédérique Constant tourbillon cage has been trapped inside a glass block to allow visitors to observe its 80 parts, which include a Silicium escapement wheel, which depicts the company's crest.

Half of a Silicium Wafer
Half of a spent silicium wafer. The escapement wheels and levers are cut out of this high-tech material. Each wafer is priced at roughly CHF 60K!

Clean Entrance Way
This was my favourite part of the watchmaking atelier. In order to get in, one must go through this cleaning chamber where he or she is shot with jets of air that is consequently aspirated by vacuums in order to be rid of all loose dust particles. It is like an air jacuzzi.

View all 38 items on Flikr as a slideshow

Thank you to everyone at Alpina watches and Frédérique Constant who took time to welcome me warmly into their fantastic work place.

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