When on the lookout for the various IWC models, Hans-Conrad Stamm has all the tenacity of a hunter. He watches the market, fosters contacts, makes inquiries – then pounces at lightning speed when a sought-after timepiece emerges somewhere at an affordable price. “My budget does not permit me to pay any price for a watch,” he points out. “So I have to wait for the right opportunity.” You just have to be patient. “Every watch comes up sometime, somewhere.” Supply has dwindled over the years, and price levels have risen. “But if you wait for the right moment, like a game hunter, there are still bargains to be had.”
Every few weeks he meets other collectors from the Schaffhausen region, to swap ideas. He has contact with the wider collecting community via the forum at the IWC website. As his job takes him round the world, he can also cultivate personal contacts abroad. “If I’m in Chicago, I sometimes meet up with Michael Friedberg.” Friedberg is the attorney who moderates the English-speaking “Collectors’ Forum” at www.iwc.com.
On his travels, the Schaffhausen pilot realizes how his favourite watch brand is becoming increasingly global. For example, he glimpsed gigantic IWC billboards in Florida while coming in to land at Key West. Another place is Shanghai. Once he actually co-piloted a flight to the Arctic Circle for IWC. The Schaffhausen factory unveiled a new Ingenieur model in the far north in 2005. “IWC CEO Georges Kern was celebrating his 40th birthday on that trip,” reminisces Stamm, “so we invited him into the cockpit.” As a keen IWC collector, of course this flight was a really special experience for Stamm.
Engineering and history are not all that attracts Hans-Conrad Stamm to IWC watches. For him, a watch is “the only piece of jewellery a man can wear”. He would never sport an earring or other ornament. But he does wear his watches: his IWC collection is not just for hoarding. “Apart from three or four watches, I regularly wear all the pieces in my collection.”