LE BRASSUS, SWITZERLAND — Swiss Haute Horlogerie manufacturer Audemars Piguet recently opened Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet to the public. The new museum designed by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) unifies the original workshop, established by Audemars Piguet’s founders in 1875, with a new all-glass structure, made up of two spirals that seamlessly integrate into the existing landscape. The museum’s collection, which showcases some 300 timepieces, is displayed alongside two in-situ production workshops, creating a living museum. With a design that marries tradition and innovation, the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet offers visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the history of watchmaking in the Vallée de Joux and explore how the brand’s timepieces, crafted in Le Brassus, have been raised around the world.
In 2014, BIG’s design for the new museum was selected by Audemars Piguet following an architectural competition to expand the brand’s historical premises and “illustrate the soul of the Manufacture,” according to Jasmine Audemars, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors. The result was a spiral-shaped pavilion, reminiscent of the spring in a timepiece movement, entirely supported by curved glass walls. The contemporary spiral flanks the original workshop where the Audemars Piguet story began in 1875 and where an earlier version of the museum was housed from 1992 to 2019. The vernacular architecture of the historical building has been fully recovered based on a thorough study of archival materials. The concept of the Musée Atelier thus fuses the tradition and forward-thinking ethos which exists at the heart of Audemars Piguet.
As Bjarke Ingels, BIG’s founder and creative director explains, “Unlike most machines and most buildings today that have a disconnect between the body and the mind, the hardware and the software, for the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet we have attempted to completely integrate the geometry and the performance, the form and the function, the space and the structure, the interior and the exterior in a symbiotic whole.”
The elaborate architectural project was executed by teams of experts and artisans including CCHE, the local architecture firm who built the structure — the first of its kind at such altitude. The scenography imagined by internationally renowned ATELIER BRÜCKNER was constructed as a musical score, creating a dynamic experience for visitors. Interludes, including automata, kinetic installations and mock-ups of intricate mechanical movements, give life and rhythm to various aspects of horological technique and design. As viewers circle the building, the rich collection of watches illuminates the history of Audemars Piguet and of watchmaking in the valley. The visit culminates at the centre of the spiral with the display of some of the Manufacture’s most complicated watches. The spiral also includes two workshops, where Haute Joaillerie creations and Grandes Complications are crafted. Visitors can observe watchmakers working within the curved glass walls of the museum and experience their expertise first-hand.
Sébastian Vivas, Audemars Piguet’s heritage and museum director explains, “The Musée Atelier honours the Audemars and Piguet families who were part of a very long tradition of watchmaking. The new space, together with the traditional workshop, make for the perfect meeting place where visitors can engage with us and our watchmakers, whilst learning about the brand and the history of watchmaking in the region.”
The spiral pavilion also speaks to BIG’s, CCHE’s and Audemars Piguet’s shared engagement in environmental sustainability. The contemporary structure fulfils the latest Swiss Minergie® requirements in terms of energy efficiency and high quality construction. The Musée Atelier also houses the Audemars Piguet Foundation, which has contributed to forest conservation through environmental protection and youth awareness-raising programmes since 1992.
Furthering the company’s cultural and artistic engagement, the Musée Atelier is also a fitting exhibition venue for a selection of artworks created by contemporary artists, commissioned by Audemars Piguet. For the opening of the museum, Audemars Piguet is exhibiting commissioned artworks lent by longstanding friends of the brand Dan Holdsworth, Quayola and Alexandre Joly, which reflect the creative exchange the Manufacture has fostered between Haute Horlogerie and contemporary art since 2012.