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Shopping Bag

The Journal

A timely evolution: IWC reopens its Zurich boutique

IWC unveils an exciting new retail experience on Zurich’s famous Bahnhofstrasse that highlights not only what goes on the wrist, but what goes on the racing track as well. The Journal talks to Pascal Sbrzesny, Head of Architectural Concepts and Store Planning, about the freshly renovated boutique and what watch lovers can expect.

Mercedes 300 SL garage in the boutique
— Mercedes 300 SL garage in the boutique

PS: Pascal Sbrzesby

RT: Rashunda Tramble


RT: The Zurich boutique has been open since 2012. What sparked the decision to renovate?


PS: We had much more motivation to renovate Zurich compared to our other boutiques. We needed to bring a more contemporary look to the boutique, something that we’ve been doing with our entire store fleet since 2015.


We have a new concept called “Evolution”, but it’s an aesthetic evolution of the same IWC approach. You still have the same layout setups and the same atmosphere and feeling you want to evoke. There’s just a more contemporary and fresher look and the product presentation is much crisper and cleaner than it was before. The previous concept was called “Black” and was based on dark wood surfaces with library style, homey lounges.

The Zurich boutique is a complete, full 360-degree immersive flagship concept. This means that you not only have that classic IWC feeling in which you walk into a welcoming space and want to stay. There’s much more to explore and it’s all based on a story from the IWC universe. For Zurich it’s “IWC Racing”, with a Mercedes 300 SL - the team car - being the boutique’s highlight. Everything IWC touches in the world of racing comes to life there. Visitors can experience a classic vintage racing loft style atmosphere, where garage and living room blend to create this contemporary looking space even though it’s based on classic racing.


RT: What can we expect when we walk into the new boutique?


PS: Each area is dedicated to a watch family and has a personal character. There’s an open display for the Portugieser collection, where you can explore the full collection right at the entrance lobby. We placed it there because the Portugieser is our most iconic product. We also have boutique and haute horlogerie pieces in special showcases in the lobby.


Our Pilot’s collection is partially presented with an original 300 SL engine. There’s also a “Pilot’s Lounge”, which highlights aviation pilots and car drivers.


The Portofino collection is displayed in a new format. We’re presenting it vertically on the wall and embedded into a 300 SL-inspired suitcase. So here it’s about leather and the style of the watches.

RT: What are some of the other highlights of the new boutique?


PS: Visitors can also take a virtual ride in the 300 SL. They can sit in the car and drive the Goodwood track as a VR experience. In addition, we also have IWC-branded stationery, food and drinks, gifts and other items.


You could say that we’re bringing the trade fair experience out into the open for all IWC customers and fans to enjoy. That was our mindset at the beginning of the project. We thought, “Why are we only telling our brand stories in such a comprehensive way at trade fairs for a few days for a very few selected people? Most of them already know us and most of them have already been to events with us”. So we decided to have a permanent space that everyone can experience.


RT: How do you balance giving the customer an experience with making sure they get what they come for, which is to buy a watch?


PS: The boutique’s layout is perfect for this. It meets operational needs; providing locations where people can come in, sit down, get assistance from the sales associates, look at the watches and purchase them. But there’s also the experience: We have three sales tables, but none feel like a generic sales table that you’d see in a watch store or a multibrand store. Each is unique and has a surrounding that tells a story. For example, one table is the “Engineering Lab”. This is where customers can explore all of IWC’s material engineering innovations and their history.

Driver’s Lounge with the F&B space in the background
— Driver’s Lounge with the F&B space in the background

Next we have the “Custom Studio”, which is about the craftsmanship and the leather treatment, customization of a watch. The third one is “The Bar”, because it’s an essential part of the IWC personality. So there you obviously get a much deeper feeling of our level of hospitality. We have beer and gin, everything we have available at fairs such as Watches & Wonders. You have that fully holistic experience. And then of course there’s the classic lounge, which is the “Pilot’s Lounge”, highlighting that adventurous spirit.


RT: How did you keep the renovation sustainable?


PS: In the new flagship store concept we kept the “base fit out”. This includes the technical infrastructure, air conditioning, heating, all of these installations as well as the general partition walls and so on. Basically it’s everything you don’t see when you walk in, it’s what’s behind the visible layer.  Normally this would have been dismantled and rebuilt every five or six years with a new boutique.


What we’re doing now is that we’re building in a way in which we can take off the visible layer and we can modify that and we can reinstall it to be a completely different story, but it’s still based on the same layout and same construction.


Everything you touch and see can be easily exchanged and everything you need to make a boutique operational remains.

Customs studio for watch straps
— Customs studio for watch straps

RT: And there’s a digital aspect to the boutique, correct?


PS: Absolutely. And to be honest, it’s not just an aspect. Digital is actually integrated into the boutique in many ways. For example, our on-site watchmakers are outfitted with loupes that have cameras installed. This allows customers to follow along online through augmented reality while the watchmaker is working on a piece.


In addition we also have a partnership with Mr. Porter. Visitors can see IWC watches paired with outfits from the online retailers in the boutique. They can even buy them online right there on the premises. And the boutique windows are interactive so people can have an IWC experience 24-hours a day. For example, they can scan a QR code and “take control” of the window. They can also book appointments, share with friends and do many other things.


RT: What would you like for a customer to know when they visit the Zurich boutique?


PS: The best reaction I could hope for is a clear realization that this is an IWC environment. Despite all we have in the store that could surprise and cause a positive feeling, and maybe even overwhelm in a good way, they should know that this is an IWC boutique.

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