BIG’s spiraling Audemars Piguet extension rises from the Swiss landscape

Round and Round and Round...

BIG’s spiraling Audemars Piguet extension rises from the Swiss landscape

The Bjarkes Ingles Group (BIG)-designed museum for historic, high-end watchmaker Audemars Piguet’s campus in Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, is now complete, and the spiraling form gradually tapers from the ground while managing to integrate the surrounding landscape on top.

Part museum and part watch workshop, the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet was intended both as a place to highlight the company’s 200-year culture, as well as let guests watch artisans restore historic timepieces.

The approximately 27,000-square-foot pavilion subtly rises from grade along a clockwise (an obvious pun) rotation, with the load-bearing glass walls supporting the structure and eliminating the need for interior columns. BIG rimmed the top of the curve with a perforated brass mesh, that turns into shaded clerestory windows at the top of the spiral to modulate the amount of light and heath the museum receives during the day.

The exhibition space, designed by German firm Atelier Brückner, follows the building’s curved form to guide visitors to the collection’s centerpiece, the Universelle, an astronomical watch built by Audemars Piguet in 1899 that remains their most mechanically complex piece. Around it are 299 others from throughout their collection, with the company’s other astronomical watches given special spherical display stands reminiscent of astronomy instruments, and arranged like planets. Other didactics include mechanical models of how watches work, and DIY stations where guests can try their best to build their own watches.

Inside a curved pavilion, with benches
Watchmaking stations for the technically-inclined allow guests to try their hand at the craft. (Iwan Baan)

Also set inside the spiral are two watchmaking workshops; inside the Grandes Complications workshop, it takes eight months for workers to assemble a single 648-piece watch, while in the Métiers d’Art, visitors can watch gems being set.

Apart from the new addition to Audemars Piguet’s campus, the museum connects to the watchmaker’s recently renovated original workshop, which was first opened in 1875. The “historical house” was restored by local Swiss firm CCHE, who also collaborated with BIG on the museum. The workshop is now home to the company’s archives, their foundation, and a new restoration workshop for revitalizing historic timepieces. CCHA also clad the walls in authentic, period-appropriate wood taken from nearby houses dating back to that period.

A spiral-shaped museum connecting to an older stone building
The museum connects to the newly restored workshop, originally opened in 1875. (Iwan Baan)

The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is set to open to the public on June 25, 2020.