How has watchmaking developed in the last five to ten years?
IWC is a global brand – we have clients travelling all around the world looking for exclusive pieces and treatment. Customers today are extremely informed about watchmaking and are particularly interested in knowing the stories behind the brand and the stories behind a particular timepiece – for example, why we have a Pilot Edition watch called “Mojave Desert”; or how we maintain zero carbon emissions in all of our newly opened workshops. This ability to share our passion and stories is a great opportunity for us to offer consistent excellence in client experience, wherever we are in the world. The recent economic trends push us to adapt and to be agile. However, the products and the stories behind our brand are timeless. One of our most iconic timepieces is the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar with double moon phase, invented by our legendary watchmaker Kurt Klaus in 1985. This watch, which is easily adjustable by the crown, has become an icon in the industry and is very sought after by collectors.
What features of luxury watches tend to excite today’s high-end clients?
Buying a luxury watch is an emotional journey. Understanding the emotional reasons why our clients have trusted us for the last 151 years is crucial. But to drive loyalty we have to go a step further and engage in a much deeper client experience. It is the people within the brand that foster client loyalty. Every time we stop being purely transactional and focus on being experiential, we boost the excitement and the loyalty of our clients. Providing an individualised and memorable experience is ultimately what will make the difference.
Are there any recent releases in the IWC catalogue that you are particularly enthused about?
We have recently introduced a few timepieces that have been particularly popular with collectors around the world, and especially in the Middle East region. One of them is the Pilot Chronograph Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport Edition – limited to 50 pieces worldwide. This piece was seen on the wrist of Toto Wolff when his Mercedes Formula 1 team won the championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December last year.
Have there been any exciting innovations in watch design that have impacted IWC’s range in the last few years?
Innovation has always been at the centre of our product strategy. The search for innovative materials that combine the functional and the aesthetic demands of a watch is central to our engineering approach. The latest innovative material from Schaffhausen is Ceratanium (ceramic titanium), which can be found in our Pilot Double Chronograph Top Gun watch. The new material is as light and tough as titanium, but as hard and scratch-resistant as ceramic. This exceptional timepiece has quickly become a bestseller in our collection.
IWC boasts an impressive number of partnerships. When did this become a part of your strategy and what does the brand gain from them?
IWC watches have always been designed with the duality between form and function, between aesthetic and technical features, as unequivocally indistinct. In that spirit, IWC has been associated with and demanded by individuals and organisations that made history from the very early stages of the brand. IWC has been making Pilot watches since 1936 and became associated with the British Royal Air Force years later, through the iconic IWC Pilot Mark 11 watch.
Storytelling is at the core of the brand and the numerous partnerships that we promote contribute to enriching our stories as well as making new ones. I am particularly proud of working for a company that supports the fight against illiteracy around the world, thanks to the partnership with the Foundation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and our Le Petit Prince special edition pieces.
One of the most significant partnerships has undoubtedly been The Longest Flight expedition – can you tell us how this first came about and how the iconic design and engineering of the Spitfire aligns with the IWC brand?
We met Matt Jones and Steve Brooks in the very early stages of the Silver Spitfire expedition in Goodwood, south of London. We immediately realised how much we shared in common, not only about the dream of flying but also the passion for adventure. From there, every step taken has been a direct consequence of this natural conversation. Just like the iconic Spitfire plane, IWC watches combine form and function. The visionary engineering and timeless design of the Spitfire are characteristics also embodied by our expertly engineered watches. The Spitfire collection is directly inspired by the cockpit of the legendary airplane, and the Pilot Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight”, which is limited to 250 pieces, has been specifically designed for the two pilots.
Social media has become a new and intriguing way to market luxury products to a much wider audience. How has a historic brand such as IWC been able to capitalise on the opportunities presented by these platforms?
There is no contradiction in being proud of your heritage and communicating it in an innovative way. New technologies have enabled us to engage with our clients much more frequently and meaningfully. A few years ago, we launched the limited edition Big Pilot Safari watch through an Instagram post. The response was beyond our expectations – in only a few weeks, the watch had sold out worldwide. Technology allows us to enhance our customer experience and keep a constant conversation with our clients, whether they are in Oxford, Riyadh or Miami.
Looking ahead, what trends do you foresee in the watch industry and how is IWC continuing to innovate its range?
Nobody has a crystal ball – the only certainty is that there are none. However, what we can already anticipate is that the pace of change is going to be even faster. The way we do business is constantly evolving. I believe the ones who will stay relevant will be those who can adapt while being authentic to their DNA, focusing on client experience and elevating the interaction.
Clients are engaging with our brand everywhere – through our points of sale, on social media, on forums, or through word of mouth. What is obvious today is that clients are much more informed about every product. They research, travel, compare, visit our boutique several times, aspire for exclusivity and extreme personalisation. We have to focus on delivering our values and our stories with uncompromising excellence, tailoring our approach to this discerning clientele. We recently developed a Portugieser Annual Calendar with a green dial dedicated to the Middle East that quickly became a strong success. We’re entering the new decade with a positive outlook and a stronger connection to our customers than ever.
This is a promotional article and does not necessarily represent the opinions of Etihad Airways or its staff