Fleurier Ebauches SA
State-of-the-art manufacturing resource
The Chopard Group’s manufacturing company, Fleurier Ebauches SA, has set a production target of 15,000 mechanical movements a year by 2015. The building housing these activities, acquired by the Group in 2007, has been renovated and its manufacturing capacity steadily increased. Series production of six different calibres reached a total of 5,000 units in 2012. Fleurier Ebauches SA should soon be operating at full capacity as a major element in the vertical integration of production.
The Chopard Group has been active in the Neuchâtel Jura since 1996, when Chopard Manufacture was founded. Since then it has established a watchmaking centre in the town of Fleurier, concentrating much of its production in two facilities: Chopard Manufacture for High-Watchmaking and Fleurier Ebauches where mechanical movements are manufactured industrially.
Investing for the future
From 1920 to 1932, rue des Moulins 20 — Chopard Manufacture’s current address —was home to the Fabrique d’Ebauches de Fleurier. It was therefore a suitable link to the past that the name Fleurier Ebauches SA was selected. The nearby building at Rue des Moulins 24 was also not chosen at random. When Chopard bought the property in 2007, it not only strengthened its local roots, but also took a big step towards the vertical integration of manufacturing processes. The purpose was straightforward: to expand manufacturing capacity for the mechanical movements of all the brand’s collections, except for the L.U.C models that are fitted with movements produced by Chopard Manufacture. In 2014, Fleurier Ebauches SA made 11,000 movements with a workforce of 40 people. By 2015, the company should have grown to 60 employees aiming to produce 15,000 movements a year.
The restoration of this imposing 104-metre-wide building, acquired by the Chopard Group in 2007, started in June 2008. As with all its other ventures, Chopard regards this development as a long-term investment. The main purpose is healthy growth in line with the Group’s organic growth, while gaining greater manufacturing autonomy.
The latest manufacturing facilities
Fleurier Ebauches SA’s new factory comprises 5,100m2 of manufacturing surface where four production stages are integrated: machining, decoration, jewel fitting and assembly. On the ground floor, Precitram machine-tools shape the brass baseplates and bridges, while the steel parts are formed by Mori Seki milling centres. The capacity of these machine tools enables a single production flow that reduces the logistical burden and the transfer time between one workshop to the next.
Next comes the decoration stage where automatic machines carry out surface finishes on the bridges and baseplates in series. These include circular graining, Côtes de Genève, brushed finishes and rhodium plating.
In the jewel-mounting stage, the process is completely automated. A high-tech machine identifies each part with its integrated camera, positions it, picks up the jewels and drives them in. Its ability to work within tolerances of three microns greatly minimises subsequent height adjustments. The number of operations has also been cut to a minimum to reduce the risk of deformed components. Parts requiring less precision, such as screw feet and pins are driven in with multi-purpose driving tools.
The movements are assembled according to a computer-aided process developed by Lecureux for Fleurier Ebauches SA in the controlled atmosphere of the top floor. The movements, held in ring frames, are identified and tracked throughout the assembly process. The system designates the frames to their manufacturing order and batch, which enables each movement to be directed automatically to the right production line.
Each process — clearance measurements, lubrication, the suspension of the baseplate, the amplitude and rate — is under strict control, and the movements are sent for correction if they are not within the prescribed values.
Ecological premises and processes
With its manufacturing surface of 5,100m2, the building meets the strictest ecological standards, earning the “Minergie” label. Internal automated control with data from a weather station ensures a stable temperature throughout the year without heating fuel. Two heat pumps, one to heat the building and the other to cool the machines, draw natural warmth from the basement. Two pipes, one for hot water and the other for cold, snake through the radiating ceiling avoiding the drafts that hinder work in a clean environment. The stocks of components are stored under hygrometric control to prevent humidity oxidising them.
Infrastructures available to the Chopard Group
The Chopard Group occupies a part of the Fleurier Ebauches building. This wing contains a learning centre for the eight apprentice watchmaker-repairers (two for each one-year course) from the neighbouring Chopard Manufacturer, as well as for the brand’s employees from all over the world who come for basic or continuous horological training. As a proper watchmaking workshop, the training centre also accommodates an after-sales service for Chopard’s proprietary movements. The lower floor houses the company’s canteen, open to all employees of the two sites in Fleurier.
Two basic calibres with two types of finish
Within three years after the renovation, Fleurier Ebauches SA had designed, developed and produced six different movements based on two self-winding calibres — an integrated instant-restart chronograph and a plain automatic movement — with two types of finish: sunburst satin-brushed and openwork bridges. New references are in the pipeline for the coming years.
For now, three Chopard collections comprise of timepieces fitted with movements by Fleurier Ebauches: the Superfast line, with the Automatic, Power Control and Chrono models; the Classic collection with the Manufacture model; along with the jewellery and prestige models of the Imperiale collection.
Facts and figures
2007 building acquired
2008 Fleurier Ebauches S.A. founded
5,100m2 production area
40 employees in 2013
6 movements based on two calibres
5,000 movements produced in 2012
7,000 movements produced in 2013
11,000 movements produced in 2014
15,000 movements planned for 2015