IWC’s Big Pilot Collection Is Coming Soon To A City Near (Many Of) You
The brand’s newest ambassador, Top Gun actor Glen Powell, helped fête the opening of its first-ever traveling exhibition in Los Angeles last week.
IWC is going mobile – and not in the digital sense. Between now and November 14th, the Swiss watchmaker will bring its first-ever traveling exhibition to seven cities across America in specially converted shipping containers designed to showcase their 2021 pilot’s watch collection and watchmaking know-how.
In other words, if you can’t make it to Switzerland to visit IWC’s state-of-the-art watchmaking facility in Schaffhausen, then rest easy – it’s coming to you!
“A select few have the experience of going to our manufacture and seeing how our watches are made from scratch, but it’s not as straightforward to transport that experience,” Christoph Grainger-Herr, IWC’s chief executive, told Watchonista at the exhibition’s inaugural event at the Westfield Century City Mall in Los Angeles on September 23rd. “With the roadshow, we’re giving clients an opportunity to see that,” Grainger-Herr said.
The selling exhibition, which began in Europe with stopovers in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, heads next to Palo Alto, California (September 30th to October 3rd), followed by stints in Newport Beach, California (October 7th to 11th); Scottsdale, Arizona (October 14th to 17th); Miami, Florida (October 21st to October 24th); Charleston, South Carolina (October 28th to October 31st); Houston, Texas (November 4th to 7th); and New York City (November 11th to 14th).
Products and Personalities
Among the revamped pilot’s watches on display is the new Big Pilot 43, the model Grainger-Herr chose to wear at the kickoff event in Los Angeles. “It’s got a very pure Big Pilot look and feel, but the case is flatter, smaller, and much more wearable,” he said. “You’ve got a really versatile sports watch – you can wear it to everything and with everything.”
Besides a robust collection of exclusive pilot’s timepieces, the shipping containers house displays dedicated to different aspects of the watchmaking process, including a tactile explanation of how the brand transforms raw metal – represented by cylinders of bronze, stainless steel, titanium, and Ceratanium (IWC’s proprietary ceramic-infused titanium alloy) – into wristwatch cases.
“We don’t have stores everywhere,” Grainger-Herr said. “By creating these kinds of pop-up platforms that allow us to go from beach resorts to big events to ski destinations, we can have interactions with our clients where they spend their time. It’s a fantastic way to interact with us and to meet our watchmakers.”
Visitors to the traveling exhibition will even have the opportunity to meet the 86-year-old watchmaker and longtime IWC ambassador, Kurt Klaus, who created one of the brand’s most complex watches, the 1985 Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar. But, there’s a caveat: Klaus – like his fellow IWC ambassador, seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton – appears as a life-size, 4K resolution, three-dimensional hologram, thanks to proprietary software and technology developed by the Los Angeles-based company Portl.
The Glam Squad
The shipping containers boast an industrial-chic vibe that goes well with the brand’s handsome, utilitarian designs. But, make no mistake – these events are the epitome of glamour.
In Los Angeles, for example, actor and IWC ambassador, Glen Powell, joined the festivities, highlighted by a musical performance by the multiplatinum recording artist, MAX. During a sit-down with Watchonista prior to the cocktail event, Powell, who recently earned his pilot’s license, talked about his passion for aviation, his favorite pilot (Chuck Yeager), and his recent visit to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, where he flew aboard jet number four in a demonstration flight to mark the 75th anniversary of the Blue Angels.
“They put me in the slot position, which is way more extreme,” Powell recalled. “Civilians don’t get to fly in this position. You’re literally in the middle of the hive and once the show starts, it can’t stop. So, whatever happens, you’re in it,” Powell said.
Perhaps it was the training he received on the set of Top Gun: Maverick, the 2022 sequel to the 1986 original Top Gun film, in which he plays a pilot trainee named “Hangman,” alongside Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, or the knowledge of aviation he brought with him to the Blue Angels flying experience, but Powell was able to keep his composure even in the midst of a 90-minute flying demonstration in which he experienced g-forces that only highly trained professionals can withstand.
“That relentless pursuit of perfection – it’s really inspiring to be around,” Powell said at the Century City roadshow, alluding to both the Blue Angels and IWC, whose history of making aviator-approved tool watches he only recently learned about through friends in the pilot’s community.
“I realized there was something about this brand that people really leaned into; there was some storytelling around it,” said Powell. “And, living on these military bases, and being around all these pilots, you realize when great engineering meets great branding and a great cool factor, it’s the best. Now I’ve totally bought in.”
(Photography by Watchonista, images by IWC)