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IWC_customer_service_972x516
Craftsmanship that keeps watches running for generations

Given regular servicing, a quality timepiece will go on working reliably and precisely for many, many years.

IWC_Perfectionists
Perfectionists in their element

Every new in-house movement created by IWC in Schaffhausen involves around 20 specialists from various departments, sometimes working together intensively for years. With the help of state-of-the-art computer technology, the design engineers generate solutions whose elegance can be quite simply breathtaking.

Haute_Horlogerie_quer
All wound up

Before a mechanical watch movement can start moving, it needs an energy source to drive it. That energy source is the mainspring. And while there are some who enjoy engaging with the machine, lovingly winding it by hand, others take pleasure in the automatic mechanism, which will keep the watch running indefinitely, simply from the movements of the wearer's arm.

IWC Oils
Time That Runs Like Clockwork

Depending on the stresses and strains to which they are exposed, around 50 points in the movement are treated with oils and greases developed especially for use in wristwatches.

Test Lab

At IWC Schaffhausen, new watch models are put through a gruelling test program involving up to 50 separate stages that include long-term immersion in warm salt water and being locked away in an environmental chamber. All this guarantees that they will be equipped for everyday use – and much more – when they finally reach their future owners.

Sound_check_engine_AMG_972x426
Sound Check

How the engineers at Mercedes AMG in Affalterbach, southern Germany, create the right engine sound.

HALF_WAY_TO_THE_MOON_Trucks_972x426
HALF WAY TO THE MOON

For the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team, following the Grand Prix circus means transporting 30 tons of material in 10,000 individual parts and at least 60 employees to venues on five continents. Of course, they have to ensure that everything arrives there on time what calls for a system and improvisation in equal measure.

Grande Complication Dial Explained
Small World

Time moves the world. The IWC Portuguese Grande Complication is an understated, beautifully designed way of summarizing time as the motor of all change: a time machine that shows a tilted globe on the dial.

Experiences

From Atomic Physics
to Quality Management

By Michael Friedberg

Text — Michael Friedberg Date — 17 August, 2012

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A doctor with a degree in atomic and molecular physics plays a surprising and important role at IWC. Dr. Thomas Bregel is instituting cutting-edge quality processes at IWC which are not yet standard in the Swiss watch industry. He proves that watchmaking might be more complicated than even atomic physics, for which he earned his academic degree.

Manufacturing watches involves far more than designing and assembling movements, or milling and polishing cases. It’s more than watchmakers manually assembling parts on workbenches and technicians programming spark erosion machines to produce small metal parts.

At IWC’s main manufactory in Schaffhausen and its new facility in Neuhausen, there are about 700 employees developing, producing and distributing the watches that IWC fans throughout the world buy. But what’s little known is that almost 50 of them – almost 7% – aren’t working as watchmakers, case makers, designers, marketing experts nor typical support staff like those in accounting or personnel. They’re dedicated Quality Management staff.

The Quality Management group is headed by an industry expert, Dr. Thomas Bregel. Away from the public eye, Thomas Bregel has instituted procedures to produce perfect watches with perfect processes, at least to the absolutely best extent possible.

Bregel-563

This is manufacuring as a true science of the 21st century, using the best techniques as studied in business schools and implemented worldwide, and it’s intended to produce the highest quality watches in the world. It’s no small task, and Thomas Bregel is an intriguingly bright member of the IWC team. He is guiding his team, to develop, implement and monitor procedures throughout the IWC organization.

Dr. Bregel isn’t from the watch industry. As mentioned, his Ph.D. is in atomic and molecular physics. Starting his career as a development engineer, Thomas Bregel worked in materials such as tungsten and heavy metals. He then switched to product development, primarily in the electrical industry. Most time of his industrial life he spent in prototype engineering for production machines in textile machinery. He claims this is similar to watchmaking because, as he states, it’s “real manufacturing”. It involves analyzing each step of the manufacturing process and then implementing practical steps to optimize quality. He then switched to the automotive industry until, in December 2009 he joined IWC.

This commitment to top-level talent shows the importance that IWC places on quality management. It’s a major part of the organization, but it’s not one in the public arena. It’s not directly marketed. But IWC devotes significant resources to what Dr. Bregel and his team does, because it unequivocally supports the values of Quality Management at every step of every process.

Technology

Flying high with big date and month displays

A fabulous combination of sportiness and elegance, the Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month is the high-flyer of the IWC Pilot’s Watch collection. The date and month could not be easier to read and the mechanics inside the case are an endless source of fascination.

The working principles from other industries, what Thomas Bregel has learned throughout his career, have been transferred and uniquely adapted to IWC. Thomas Bregel says that what IWC has invested in this process translates to greater reliability, quality management instead of quality inspection and better process orientation.

It’s no small task. There are many new watch models each year, including major new ones and their variations, as well as some with small changes. There are thousands of active “components” needed for watches, and this involves a large number of quality control procedures.

Quality management at IWC has two sides: outside, with its suppliers, and inside, with its product development and internal production. On the outside, it’s important for suppliers to provide perfect components. To do that, IWC has developed precise criteria for what’s needed, and also assigns its suppliers to inspect what they produce per IWC’s standards. This is similar to standards used by the automotive industry and its suppliers. If each step is meticulously checked, there are less problems, including less returns, less delays, and less wasted production.

Inside IWC

Flying High

It’s no flight of fancy that IWC Pilot’s Watches have become icons. Exceedingly popular, they represent IWC values, defining the entire genre of pilot’s watches within the Swiss watch industry.

These standards have been well-received by IWC’s suppliers. The company even furnishes its suppliers with measuring devices, which they must use. It’s a collaborative effort and a team approach.

Internally, IWC similarly has developed criteria and specified procedures to assure quality control. At IWC’s new manufacturing facility in Neuhausen, which produces cases and movement parts, there is a whole team of full-time persons from Quality Management.

Those inspections, however, are the last step in the process. IWC first wants its own workers to self-inspect at each stage. This process is accomplished first by teaching what’s needed, and specifically including time for self-inspection in the workplan. It’s a process of developing understanding, because as Dr. Bregel says “you can’t get anywhere first by pressure”. With low-key charisma, he’s very convincing in “marketing” his procedures and standards.

Haute Horlogerie

When a Complication is Grande

George Mallory, the famous British mountaineer who lost his life ascending Mt. Everest, was asked in 1924 why he would attempt that climb. His reply is among the most famous about mountaineering: “Because it’s there”

1

These approaches, used in other major industries and now translated to IWC, will change watchmaking in this century. These Quality Management procedures take cutting-edge business management principles, developed as a business science worldwide, and applies them to an industry that, just a few decades ago, essentially was much more insular.

Being mindful of quality at every step requires full corporate resolve. Such a significant allocation of staff to Quality Management reflects the significant commitment of IWC to producing watches with the highest possible standards. IWC is a watch industry leader in developing and implementing Quality Management. The result, individually, is pride but there are a lot of statistics – metrics, in industry jargon – fine-tuning and precisely measuring the end results. The QM Team saves time and money, which is good for everyone. It’s good for suppliers, case makers, parts makers and watchmakers. And it produces the highest quality product – and nothing less should be expected by IWC’s watch fans throughout the world.

Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph

—Ref. 3902

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Explore More Articles
IWC_customer_service_972x516
Craftsmanship that keeps watches running for generations

Given regular servicing, a quality timepiece will go on working reliably and precisely for many, many years.

IWC_Perfectionists
Perfectionists in their element

Every new in-house movement created by IWC in Schaffhausen involves around 20 specialists from various departments, sometimes working together intensively for years. With the help of state-of-the-art computer technology, the design engineers generate solutions whose elegance can be quite simply breathtaking.

Haute_Horlogerie_quer
All wound up

Before a mechanical watch movement can start moving, it needs an energy source to drive it. That energy source is the mainspring. And while there are some who enjoy engaging with the machine, lovingly winding it by hand, others take pleasure in the automatic mechanism, which will keep the watch running indefinitely, simply from the movements of the wearer's arm.

IWC Oils
Time That Runs Like Clockwork

Depending on the stresses and strains to which they are exposed, around 50 points in the movement are treated with oils and greases developed especially for use in wristwatches.

Test Lab

At IWC Schaffhausen, new watch models are put through a gruelling test program involving up to 50 separate stages that include long-term immersion in warm salt water and being locked away in an environmental chamber. All this guarantees that they will be equipped for everyday use – and much more – when they finally reach their future owners.

Sound_check_engine_AMG_972x426
Sound Check

How the engineers at Mercedes AMG in Affalterbach, southern Germany, create the right engine sound.

HALF_WAY_TO_THE_MOON_Trucks_972x426
HALF WAY TO THE MOON

For the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team, following the Grand Prix circus means transporting 30 tons of material in 10,000 individual parts and at least 60 employees to venues on five continents. Of course, they have to ensure that everything arrives there on time what calls for a system and improvisation in equal measure.

Grande Complication Dial Explained
Small World

Time moves the world. The IWC Portuguese Grande Complication is an understated, beautifully designed way of summarizing time as the motor of all change: a time machine that shows a tilted globe on the dial.