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IWC - Interview with Christoph Grainger-Herr

IWC Interview with Christoph Grainger-Herr

As IWC celebrates its 150th year, its CEO unveils a new collection at the SIHH, talks about the brand’s growth, and discusses the main challenges for haute horlogerie in 2018.

This year marks IWC’s 150th anniversary. What are you doing to celebrate?
Many things, beginning with the release of the Jubilee Collection, a distillation of IWC’s iconic designs through the generations, past and present. It’s a new collection inspired by the industrial and entrepreneurial spirit of IWC’s founder, the watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones. Fans of IWC’s classic colourways, blue and white, will love this collection, which naturally includes a perpetual calendar, a constant force tourbillon and a Tribute to Pallweber among its 27 references. Secondly, we’re opening our new manufacture, which will mark a milestone in IWC’s history. It will showcase our engineering and design expertise, and will help to cement our brand aura by providing visitors with a fabulous and unique experience, while reinforcing our sense of optimism about the next 150 years of our history. Finally, we are organising a commemorative travelling exhibition in six two-week stages, featuring around 20 historic pieces and our current collection. It starts in the USA in May, and is due to wind up in the Middle-East at the end of the year.

Interview with Christoph Grainger-Herr

Case back view of the Da Vinci Automatic Phase de Lune 36 Edition « 150 Years » © IWC

How long have you been working on the Jubilee collection?
We began two and a half years ago, but we’ve been working on it intensively for the last year and a half. It includes two completely new movements and one calibre that has been modified significantly. It marks the first outing for our Calibre 94, in the Tribute to Pallweber with jumping hours, a homage to the watchmaker responsible for many of our pocket watches in the 1880s. The digital display results in a very pure dial, whose simplicity is inversely proportional to the complexity of its movement, given the jumping hours display at 12 o’clock and the jumping minutes in the centre, with a traditional small seconds at six o’clock. The other new movement is the automatic Calibre 82, which will equip the Da Vinci watches in the Jubilee Collection.

Interview with Christoph Grainger-Herr

IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” © IWC

How will your new manufacture benefit your clients?
It’s a radical change, because today we still work in the same buildings built by Jones in the 1870s! Given the limited space we had in Schaffhausen’s old town, subsequent extensions weren’t always added in an optimal way, and that sometimes made it difficult for visitors to really understand how the different stages of production worked. With the new manufacture, everything will be much more logical and rational, from movement creation to casing-up. From an educational point of view, the experience will be far more rewarding. We will also be able to accommodate 30% more visitors.

From a strategic point of view, what would you say are your three most important new watches?
First of all, I’d like to highlight IWC’s two major focus points for the SIHH. We are unveiling several new complications, including a perpetual calendar tourbillon, a constant force tourbillon and, of course, the Tribute to Pallweber, which showcase IWC’s manufacturing expertise. Then there are some strategic new departures, such as the Portugieser Chronograph 3716, with our chronograph Calibre 69, the Portugieser chronograph that displays its movement through the caseback, and also the new Da Vinci automatic. The Jubilee Collection represents the reality of IWC today. It’s a comprehensive range, with appealing products and superlative haute horlogerie.

Interview with Christoph Grainger-Herr

Portugieser Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “150 Years” © IWC

You’ve been at IWC since 2006. What have been the most significant changes in that time?
The brand has grown phenomenally. When I started, we were a very small team, we had no boutiques, and our events were very limited in scale. It has been amazing to witness this growth. Now, clients can visit IWC boutiques on all the world’s finest shopping streets. International Watch Company has truly become international, from Japan to South America. Our industrial expertise and watchmaking know-how have transformed over the last three years, and our design approach is no longer based solely on three iconic lines, but on a complete portfolio of families.

In the last two years, IWC has turned its focus to women’s models. How successful has this been?
Very. The women’s watch market in general is growing, particularly in the major markets such as China and the Middle-East. You should realise too that women have always bought IWC watches, even for men, and IWC has always made watches for women, since the beginning of its history. We only stopped making them for a short period, after the 2008 crisis. We don’t just sell ladies’ watches in Asia, we also sell increasing quantities in Europe and Switzerland. Moreover, platforms such as Mr Porter and Net-à-Porter, 40% of whose clients are women, have given us a gateway into a sector of customers that might not necessarily walk into a watch boutique. They discover us on these websites, where they might have been looking for a dress or a bag. This potential should not be underestimated. This year, we’ll be bringing out even more new watches for women.

Interview with Christoph Grainger-Herr

Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 Edition “150 Years” © IWC

In your opinion, what will be the main challenge for haute horlogerie in 2018?
Our industry must wake up to the fact that it is selling non-essential products with a very high emotional value. Our competitors are not just other watch brands: our sector is competing with other kinds of luxury experiences. Whether they stay in five-star hotels, buy an expensive car or consume other high-end goods, our clients are used to a certain standard of service and function, which they quite rightly compare with what they should be able to expect when buying a watch. The watch industry has never been the most innovative in terms of service, and it would be a mistake to believe that our position in the luxury sector spares us from having to consider our clients’ expectations, in terms of their experience and interaction with the brand.

The brand

With a clear emphasis on technology and development, IWC Schaffhausen has been manufacturing timepieces of lasting value since 1868. Its philosophy, based on a passion for watchmaking, aims to maintain a spirit of indefatigable initiative and impeccable craftsmanship.

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