Daniel Swarovski and his cofounders Franz Weis and Armand Kosmann chose Wattens in the late nineteenth century for several reasons: its location – secluded and yet convenient for travel to business hubs such as Paris – and the possibility of generating hydroelectric power on site. But it quickly became clear that Wattens had another important factor in its favor: the ‘Swarovski Spirit’. The company made building a community culture a priority from the beginning by helping to shape civic life in its mountain home.
One key element was Swarovski’s commitment to education. Daniel Swarovski knew that ensuring the wellbeing of his employees was vital to his company’s success. Swarovski established a holiday camp for the children of its staff in Wattens, and also bought land to build a primary school in the area, bringing together the families of employees with the families who had lived in Wattens before Swarovski. From the 1960s, the company set up a trust to provide outstanding students and apprentices with the education and training they need. To date, around 5,000 students have benefited from this trust.
Music is at the heart of any community, and from Swarovski’s first days in Wattens, musical employees would play together in the town. In 1900, the official company brass band was founded and the Swarovski band, originally named the Rettenberger Musikkapelle, released their first phonograph record in 1929. The ensemble – now known as Swarovski Musik Wattens – has since toured across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America.
When a town’s size expands the way Wattens did during the twentieth century, its amenities must grow with it. To cope with the needs of the growing population, Daniel Swarovski set about improving the town water supply, linking up a mountain spring line to the water supply for Wattens in 1902. Swarovski introduced a company ambulance in 1947 for the medical care of its staff and made supplementary health insurance available for employees three years later. At the same time, the company’s welfare office provided a housing policy offering low interest rate loans, practical and material aid for the construction of houses, free consultation and help in financial emergencies.
Sport and leisure are vital components of a happy and healthy lifestyle, and to this end the Swarovski cycling club, Radfahrer-Club-Wattens, was founded in 1900. The club’s emphasis was on social get-togethers, rather than strenuous physical activity, and it provided a fun outlet for outdoorsy employees. For those who favor soccer, the SV Wattens football club came about in 1930, featuring many employees and with equipment supplied by Swarovski. Now known as WSG Swarovski Tirol, the team went on to win the Austrian National Championship several times in the 1970s, helping put Wattens on the map for yet another reason.
It is initiatives like these which have fostered something in Wattens that makes it more than a company town – this is a spirit that truly makes a community shine.