A LEGEND OF YOUR OWN MAKING
For as long as there have been goods, there have been luxury goods. But there haven't always been so many. Just a century ago, procuring that special piece of jewelry, work of art, or timepiece meant seeking out the creator and sitting down for a discussion about the heart's desires and the possibilities of the craft. Everything was bespoke, and clients enjoyed a one-to-one relationship with the audience. And this defining part of the luxury experience has been missing for far too long.
But if you ask Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC, it's about to make a comeback. "Today's technology has enabled a real fusion of craftsmanship and manufacturing, and that's enabled us to make luxury truly personal again."
He's talking about the all-new IWC Configurator, a website tool that enables clients to design a custom Ingenieur Chronograph watch matching their own personal taste, and to then purchase it directly online at iwc.com. "It's been in the works for more than a year," he says with a smile. "Now it's finally possible to realize this dream."
With the Configurator, we can truly make luxury personal again.
Operational changes behind the scenes
"Thanks to IWC's embrace of digital technology behind the scenes, new processes could be implemented quickly and easily. "We were able to adapt our operations to enable a real make-to-order process, in which a single watchmaker works on individual customer commissions in the sequence of orders received, rather than making a series of identical products for global distribution," says Andreas Voll, IWC's COO.
And how do the watchmakers feel about the change? "They've been involved from the very beginning, and they’re very excited about the program and what it entails," he says. Every Ingenieur Chronograph ordered through the Configurator goes directly to a single watchmaker who is responsible for the assembly of the watch. "The watchmaker builds a watch to the unique specifications of a single customer – it’s very personal and tremendously satisfying."
Once assembled, each custom watch spends around four weeks in the quality department where precision, resistance to water, winding efficiency, and functions are all checked in a series of tests lasting no less than 500 hours. "We designed the 500 hour test to simulate all the conditions that a watch might be exposed to in its lifetime." Only when the watch has successfully completed every test will it be packaged and shipped directly to the customer with a US address or to an IWC US boutique for pickup. From ordering to delivery, the wait is just twelve weeks, during which the customer can expect status updates and notes from the IWC executive team.
The watchmaker builds a watch to the unique specifications of a single customer – it’s very personal and tremendously satisfying.
Design DNA of a custom Ingenieur Chronograph
The choice of the Ingenieur Chronograph was relatively easy, according to IWC Creative Director Christian Knoop. "It was the perfect first entry for the Configurator. The entire line was inspired by motor racing, with sporty, classic looks that are perfect for configuration. Which, of course, our clients are used to from configurators in the automotive industry." And how did they choose the configurable parts? "That, on the other hand, was no small task," he says with a wry smile. "There were several … shall we say … passionate discussions."
And no wonder. When it comes to personalization like this, there is always a struggle to find that perfect balance between giving the client plenty of choice while staying true to the brand. What makes an IWC an IWC? Surely it must look and feel like an IWC, and it must be built by IWC with all the craftsmanship and engineering excellence therein. "Our configurator is meant to support an iconic design and not to dilute it. It’s based on the design DNA of the brand and the Ingenieur line, and it allows the customer to play with the attitude of the product depending on his personal taste and style preference," says Knoop.
Indeed, the look of the Ingenieur Chronograph is remarkably versatile – there are many, many strap, dial, and case combinations that look good, and it quickly became obvious that those should all be configurable. "There are far more style possibilities available through the configurator that we could have offered in a single watch collection."
He's also confident that clients will find all the options they're looking for, and then some. "Many of the features available in the Configurator are not available in the standard collection of the Ingenieur Chronograph, including a few things that we've never offered before." It's true. Fire up the configurator and you'll find, among several familiar options, a classic silver-plated dial with black subdials, a brand new green dial, and on select faces, Rhodium hands. Add in the option for an individualized engraving, and clients can create something that is not only unique and true to the brand, but also incredibly personal.
It was obvious that clients should be given a variety of strap options. And the dials were an easy choice as well, along with options for different colored hands. Clients can also choose between steel and gold cases, though, naturally, certain combinations aren't allowed – a gold case can't be equipped with a steel bracelet, for example. In the end, the team agreed on a range of choices wide enough to foster self-expression, but narrow enough to keep the brand intact. You make your own, but what you get is definitively an IWC.
"That's why we could never allow for the case shape to be configurable," Christian Knoop says. "The case is core to the design and defines the silhouette of the watch. If you change the case of your Ingenieur, it ceases to be an Ingenieur."
[The IWC Configurator] allows the customer to play with the attitude of the product depending on his personal taste and style preference.
A time to create
"I'm very happy with what we've created," says Grainger-Herr. "IWC has always been one of the digital leaders in haute horlogerie, and the Configurator is one more indication of where we're headed. But for now, we just can't wait to see what our clients will create." That's for sure – as the launch date approached, the hallways of IWC Schaffhausen were positively buzzing. How will clients react? What will be the most popular colors? The preferred material? The favorite strap? Only time will tell.
For their part, the three executives chose radically different looks centered around the stainless steel case. Grainger-Herr chose the sporty and modern look of the green dial and a nato strap. Knoop kept things classy with a Panda dial and the light brown calfskin strap. Voll blended classic and modern perfectly with the silver dial on a steel bracelet.
And now it's your turn. Point your web browser here and create your own Ingenieur Chronograph to match your taste and style.
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