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Kurt Klaus
The Art of Creating Stories and Dreams

Every watch tells a story – about its origin and age, personality and character, tradition and culture, and not least about its owner.

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Swiss National Day

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The Art of Being an Engineer

The engine faltered and cut out. Hunched over his metal baby, Benz wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

INGENIEUR - TAKING POLE POSITION

We are pleased to welcome you on IWC’s qualifying lap. View the video, and join us as we are about to start the race.

the scotsman

A brilliant researcher devoted to the discovery of new treatments for many diseases. A keen footballer coaching the company team of his employer Roche for several years. A watch enthusiast intrigued by the engineering beauty and precision of mechanical movements. Andrew Thomas is a dedicated man of many passions.

Experiences

The Sculptor-Designer

Text — Nicholas Foulkes Photos — Berto Martinez/Unit.nl Date — 26 February, 2013

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The sculptor-designer is a phenomenon. Even if you are not at all design literate you will know him by reputation. His name has become a synonym for severity.

His work is immediately recognizable for its uncompromising angularity. Every piece of work that he creates – whether it is a yacht or a yoghurt carton, a telephone or a teapot – is characterised by the absence of the curvilinear – his furniture designs are famous, even if his chairs are far from comfortable to use.

Born in France in the 1950s, his father was an influential art critic, his mother a moderately successful playwright. And it is to their influence that he owes the path his life took. His parents were very friendly with the artist Bernard Buffet and one summer when the sculptor-designer was not yet in his teens, they went to spend the summer at the Buffet Chateau in Provence. The junkyard-like chaos of the artist’s studio, where he was working on giant sculptures of butterflies, and the uncompromising angularity of the Buffet style made a lifelong impression.

A high flyer, he attended the Lycee Louis-le-Grand and graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique. Then surprised his family by becoming apprenticed to a welder and learning about boiler making. However, this was no calculated act of youthful rebellion (even though he had been just old enough to be out on the streets of Paris in the spring of 1968, throwing cobblestones at police and entering into the Revolutionary spirit of the time). He wanted to learn about metals from living and working with them on a daily basis, and some of his early work featuring his now instantly recognisable razor edge styling is among some of the most sought-after in the entire canon of contemporary design.

Ingenieur Automatic
—Ingenieur Automatic, Ref. IW323906

During this period of his life he made two large tables, these cost him three years and numerous cuts and gashes, but in the end he achieved the result he sought, edges that were quite literally sharp enough to shave with and legs that tapered smoothly until they became like the points of compasses, they destroyed parquet floors and tore the clothes of those who sat at them and in the mid 1970s were written off as being nothing more than wilful eccentricity. Today one is in the permanent collection of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris and the other sold for $1.7 million in a recent sale at Phillips – Simon de Pury was an early advocate of his work, educating international collectors that these are not pieces of furniture in the conventional sense of the term, but works of sculpture that somehow resemble a piece of furniture – a subtle but important difference. At about the same time he created a series of sculptures using found objects, mostly tin cans welded together (an ironic commentary on the work of Warhol); their torn and jagged edges protruding like the leaves and spines of a metal cactus. The show was all the more powerful because it was not held in a conventional gallery but in a Paris scrapyard. The photographs taken of the event in late 1976, he is to be seen in one picture lighting a Gitanes with a blow torch, show the sculptor-designer much as he remains to today; with his close cropped hair, overalls and cigarette seemingly genetically attached to his lower lip.

Le Punk de Junk

The provocative nature of his work (and a little influence from his father who by then was a close adviser to the newly appointed French Culture Minister Francoise Giroud) succeeded in getting him noticed by a few avant-garde publications by whom he was dubbed “Le Punk de Junk” (after all it was the autumn of 1976). Indeed it was at the suggestion of the French Ministry of Culture that he submitted a design for cutlery for use on board the Concorde. Although his designs failed to get approval (not least because the handles were just as sharp as the bladed elements), he acquired an international reputation and began working with such noted architects and engineers as Paul Andreu, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel, and today the pavilions he designs at the major art fairs and biennales around the world are a familiar part of the international artscape.

Like Buffet he has remained true to his hard-edged style and he has welcomed the arrival of such materials as carbon fiber as it has enabled to work to ever finer tolerances, creating furniture of papery thinness with edges of guillotine-like sharpness – fold his portable sun lounger incorrectly and you could find yourself losing a finger or two.

Success has not really changed him, unless you count the Provencal Chateau, the world class collection of Buffet pictures and the new Ingenieur that glints from his wrist. The gold indices are a flamboyant touch that he secretly rather likes, along with the solidity and angularity of the bracelet. Just one thing bothers him … the bezel is a bit too, well, circular for his liking.

Ingenieur Automatic
Ingenieur Automatic

—Ref. 3239

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Explore More Articles
Kurt Klaus
The Art of Creating Stories and Dreams

Every watch tells a story – about its origin and age, personality and character, tradition and culture, and not least about its owner.

Aquatimer video Screenshot
IT'S AQUA TIME - The new aquatimer video

The evolution of the diver’s watches from IWC continues.

The Next Generation of IWC Engineers

For over 60 years, IWC has been training generations of watchmakers in its own workshops. Candidates need to be deft with their hands and have a flair for technology. After completing their training, most of them remain loyal to the company in northeastern Switzerland for many years.

Swiss National Day
Swiss National Day

Experience the secret talents of the IWC watchmakers.

The Time is Right

The parallels are endless: technology, innovation and cutting-edge design dominate both businesses, and they’re both defined by time. The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team tries to beat the clock in FORMULA 1 motor racing; at IWC Schaffhausen, we are the clock.

The Art of Being an Engineer

The engine faltered and cut out. Hunched over his metal baby, Benz wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

INGENIEUR - TAKING POLE POSITION

We are pleased to welcome you on IWC’s qualifying lap. View the video, and join us as we are about to start the race.

the scotsman

A brilliant researcher devoted to the discovery of new treatments for many diseases. A keen footballer coaching the company team of his employer Roche for several years. A watch enthusiast intrigued by the engineering beauty and precision of mechanical movements. Andrew Thomas is a dedicated man of many passions.