IWC had a sensational appearance at the online debuted Watches & Wonders 2020. The novelties of the Portugieser Collection are exceptional and cover a large range of wishes and necessities. The novelties were presented in detail on the website, each press release article coming with video explanations from IWC’s Creative Director, Christian Knoop. He took some minutes from his busy time to answer some questions. Enjoy!
- We have seen in the latest years an “explosion” of new materials. We are now, more than ever helped by computers in design and CNC or robots in production. How much the creative process has changed in the last years? How it is integrated into the “modern” times?
Some decades ago, a designer and a watchmaker were the only people involved in the development of a new watch. Nowadays, there are many more disciplines; designers, movement and case engineers, material scientists, product management, marketing and sales, after-sales, and purchasing. The fact that you have all these people around the table does not only make the process more complicated but also contributes to a far better product. All these experts are constantly challenging each other. These intensive exchanges, and also frictions, lead to unprecedented levels of precision and quality. Because our designers and engineers work on the same CAD platforms, they can exchange 3D data at a very early stage of the development process. We are using 3D printing to generate visual prototypes at virtually every step of the creative process, allowing us to monitor factors such as wearability and ergonomics continuously. Using digital data of all product components helps to define all aspects of the product and to accelerate and secure development and production processes. When you compare the finishing of our cases, for example, the precision of the edges is just incredible and far beyond what was possible decades ago. Applying state-of-the-art technology in the design and development process enables us to make a better product than ever before, with extremely high levels of consistency and quality.
- What is the most challenging stage of a watch creation? (having in mind maybe the brand’s 2020 novelties)
The first stage is the creation and development of a product as such. We have to translate an idea into a new product, and then integrate it into an existing watch family with an established design signature. However, the job is not done with the birth of a new product. We also need to look after a full collection and develop it further. For the 2020 Portugieser collection, for example, we not only created new models like the Portugieser Automatic 40. We also wanted to find a design expression which is perceived as unique, allowing people to look at this iconic product line which has been around for more than 80 years in a new way. We achieved this by translating the nautical heritage of the Portugieser into the context of modern yachting, with a design featuring lots of crisp contrasts, for example, between blue and white. For our Boutique Editions, we created an overarching nautical design code that encompasses new as well as existing models. It is characterized by blue dials, gold cases, and braided blue calfskin straps, taking inspiration from the ropes on the deck of a sailing yacht.
- IWC has 7 collections and almost 200 pieces now available. Which one would be your favourite piece? Why? (personal reasons or maybe the personal story behind)
The Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph will always hold a special place because it was one of the first watches I got my hands on when I joined IWC almost 12 years ago. We introduced the Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph with our 2010 collection as a sporty interpretation of this iconic watch. I am very excited that we are now launching the third generation of the Portugieser Yacht Club in a 44-millimetre case with reworked proportions, a carefully refined dial layout, as well as a newly developed and beautifully detailed metal bracelet. With the tide indication of the Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide, we are also presenting a new complication that fits nicely into the universe of sailing and navigation. It’s a beautiful example of how a timepiece can take inspiration from the past and respect the DNA of the collection, while still pushing the boundaries in terms of design and technical functionality.
- Leaving, just for a moment, the world of watches aside, what from the followings attract you at most: automobiles, bikes, boats? A personal favourite? (car maker, bike or whatever – could be also another topic) Do this attraction manifests itself in your creative process?
I am a passionate sailor myself, and so I am attracted by boats. I have been sailing since I was seven years old, and I have also been sailing and working on various classic and modern boats since then. I am very excited about our new partnership with the Italian yacht builder Solaris, which we announced recently. Our design team is currently working intensively with the designers of Solaris to build a customized Solaris 55 yacht, which will contain a lot of beautifully thought out design elements. You can expect to hear more about this exciting project in the summer.
- Beginning of the February brought what many of the brand’s fans requested for many years – in-house/manufacture calibre in the Portugieser Chronograph. What led to this decision for 2020?
Thanks to its iconic design with the two recessed totalizers and the inner flange printed with a quarter-second scale, the Portugieser Chronograph is one of the most popular models from IWC. The idea to fit this classic with an IWC-manufactured movement has been around for some time. The foundation for this was laid in 2017 when we first introduced our in-house 69000 calibre family with robust and precise chronograph movements in a classic column-wheel design. In 2018, we inaugurated our new Manufacturing Centre, where we combine the making of movement parts, movement assembly and case-making at the latest technical standards. The design of that calibre, together with a continually increasing production quality in recent years, allowed us to equip the Portugieser Chronograph with an in-house movement. In the same context, we have also announced our new MyIWC Program, which includes an offer to our clients to extend the International Limited Warranty for their IWC watch from 2 to 8 years.
- Last year, IWC gain our interest with a nice lineup of Pilot watches. The pinnacle can be considered the Constant-Force Tourbillon Le Petit Prince. This year will be the turn of the Portugieser Collection to impress us. What is the most spectacular (technically and/or visually) piece prepared?
The second talking piece of our new collection is the Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph, which combines a flying minute tourbillon at „6 o’clock“ with a retrograde date display at „9 o’clock“ and a chronograph. It’s the first time we are presenting the IWC-manufactured 89900 calibre in the Portugieser family. Thanks to the tourbillon stop mechanism, the watch can be stopped completely, allowing the time to be set with down-to-the-second accuracy. The pallet lever and the escape wheel have been executed with the IWC diamond shell technology, giving it an extremely tough surface that reduces friction and improves the flow of energy in the movement. We present this masterpiece of Haute Horlogerie in 18-carat Armor Gold® and platinum.
- The Portugieser collection is, let’s say, a traditional collection. Until now there were used steel, gold and platinum. Can we expect to see some more modern alloys or materials? Or the Collection will keep its classic aura?
The Portugieser is a classic collection which is characterized by timeless modernity and elegance. Therefore, it also features traditional materials, such as stainless steel and 18-carat 5N gold. However, for the high-end models of the new collection, we are now also introducing 18 ct Armor Gold®. Using a special physical treatment, the microstructure is altered, which results in significantly higher hardness values than traditional 5N gold alloys.
- What other surprises we should expect in 2020 from IWC? (Of course, the ones that can be shared at the moment)
This year, we are entirely focusing on the launch of our new Portugieser collection. Like in previous years, there is more to come in the second half of the year. However, I can not talk about anything specific at this point. So stay tuned.
Christian, congratulations on the new collection. I find it rather lovely, especially since I got the chance to have all pieces on my hands before the Covid19 breakthrough. Thank you, Christian, for your time. We are looking forward to what these next months will bring.