Photos — David Willen Date — 2010-04-01T00:00:00
Let’s not beat about the bush: IWC makes watches for men. Despite that, some of the brand’s best ambassadors are women who wear its watches with pride and make the question as to whether they were designed for men or women redundant. Women like actress Cate Blanchett, for example. But the group of women who believe firmly in IWC includes Schaffhausen-born Christine Schlatter. And in more respects than one.
To the many hundreds of guests who follow her through the factory every year it is clear that watches made in Schaffhausen are very close to her heart. Christine Schlatter is one of six guides at the service of hundreds of devotees from all over the world who visit the watch centre on the banks of the Rhine each year. She not only has a winning personality but is also a highly persuasive ambassador because she knows and understands all there is to know about the company. After all, she learned watchmaking from the bottom up. At IWC, needless to say.
She finished her apprenticeship just as battery-powered watches came into their own. It was a shock to learn that the ultra-complicated high-precision mechanical movements she had learned to make in the four long years of her apprenticeship were suddenly old hat. Back then, she had no other choice but to turn the tiny spools of fine copper wire that were destined to drive the watches of a new age. Fortunately, after the biggest crisis in the industry’s history, the renaissance of mechanical timepieces was not long coming. Since then, handmade mechanical watches have become more attractive and fascinating than ever.
It is no great surprise to learn that for Christine Schlatter, the inner workings of a watch are always more important than its form, although, as she laughingly admits, the packaging has to be right, too. But her focus on the soul aspect probably comes from the realization that without it she might be superfluous: after all, her guests, who usually have to wait for over a year before they can join one of the tours, are highly demanding. “They want to know everything, and are very well informed before they come to IWC.”
The highlight of every tour is the moment at the end when watch lovers are able to make hands-on acquaintance with the collection themselves. “Just seeing their pleasure and enthusiasm is always a source of immense satisfaction for me.” IWC’s ambassador, who was born in Neuhausen just outside the town boundary, is also delighted that Schaffhausen’s pride and joy has remained true to its hometown for over 140 years and continues to grow. And with a strong sense of environmental consciousness, as the mother of two grown-up daughters is quick to point out.
Watches remain her passion. Her first IWC was a Yacht Club – a gift – but her avowed favourite is the Portofino Romana with its perpetual calendar, along with many another. Is there any model in particular she’d like? “One with a tuning fork,” she laughs. The choice there is very small and exclusive: a Portuguese Minute Repeater. It is probably only a question of time before Christine Schlatter is able to take one of those precious watches home with her to Hemmental on the outskirts of Schaffhausen, where she lives and is in charge of the local ladies’ gymnastics club. To which she no doubt brings the same enthusiasm as to her job with IWC.
Just seeing their pleasure and enthusiasm is always a source of immense satisfaction for me