Watches & Wonders 2020: Our Interview With IWC Schaffhausen CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr
We sit down with the head of IWC Schaffhausen to go through the new Portugieser collection, talk Yachting, and the new Manufakturzentrum.
Before the virtual shutdown of the world. We sat down with Christoph Grainger-Herr, the CEO of IWC Schaffhausen. This interview took place at the brand's Madison Avenue boutique and covered a variety of topics, including the brand's new Portugieser collection.
Interview with Christoph Grainger-Herr
Josh Shanks: 2020 is shaping up to be the year of the Portugieser (read our overview HERE), despite the situation in China and Europe, how’s 2020 been for IWC?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: We’re not called the International Watch Company for no reason. We’ve always really focused on a strong representation in all different markets focused on local clients. We’re used to turmoil ever since the first financial crisis of 2009. It’s become a regular occurrence, but the point is that you have a good customer base and a good flexible manufacturing and distribution network.
Josh: The new Portugieser Yacht Club is obviously tied to the sea, do you have a personal interest in sailing?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: Absolutely, this comes in quite handy to our passions! So we’re not only creating a watch, but we’re doing something tangible.
Josh: What was the inspiration behind the Moon & Tide reference.
Christoph Grainger-Herr: This watch is made to reflect a mood. Akin to daytime sailing and another version for nighttime, which is reflected in a marina at night with the lights on with a dark blue sky. These color codes give a luxurious representation of that lifestyle.
Josh: I noticed a red version (ref. IW371616). I might know where the inspiration came from for this piece (Lewis Hamilton, read HERE):
Christoph Grainger-Herr: We have two versions, which represent a maritime component, a green piece, and a red piece representing starboard and port side for navigation on a yacht, but absolutely this was based on a successful Lewis Hamilton launch. He’s amazing, just a dedicated and super hard-working driver, and we're happy to have him.
Josh: Now that the new manufacture (read HERE) is up and running, is it meeting your expectations?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: It’s exceeding our expectations by far. With the new in-house calibers, we're going through a massive ramp-up in terms of quantities. This new manufacture is the only way we can do that. We built for flexibility, and it seems that every ten days, we move around again, which is great.
Josh: Could you give us an example of how the new manufacture has changed the way the IWC Schaffhausen teams work?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: The ability to have all the departments in a logical workflow in one open space and being able to talk to each other has really sped up the learning process in the organization. People are not afraid to speak to each other [and learn best practices]. Plus, on the new Portugieser, these watches are being assembled start to finish in one dedicated area in our movement assembly line. This allows us to massively ramp up the production of in-house calibers.
Josh: You also talk about the visitor experience, could you tell us more?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: We’re the only one that I’m aware of in Switzerland where the visitor experience has not been an afterthought. We worked in parallel teams from the beginning to determine the most efficient layout but also how we can tell the story [of IWC]. We can start with a magazine of raw bars of metal and go to the finished watch case and movement, and you really understand step-by-step how it all goes together.
Josh: Your new novelties focus heavily on the new manufacture (read HERE) and in-house movements. Any hints about what’s to come later in 2020? Perhaps new Pilots or other things coming down the pipe?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: Of course! It's all hidden behind the door. There will be key novelties across the families, and some interesting new functionalities are coming.
Josh: In speaking with you, I can tell you're quite passionate about IWC. But I have to ask what keeps you coming to work every day?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: It's really a pure joy and fun that we have. Broadly speaking, we make emotional products that people want, but they don't necessarily need. So there's a feel-good factor in our industry. We're providing a positive experience to our clients that makes a difference to their lives and adds meaning and self-expression to their lives. To see that and see the passion that goes into the creation, production, and advertising of these products, it’s an awful lot of fun.
Josh: Do you still get excited when you see someone out at a restaurant wearing an IWC?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: Absolutely! I would get even more passionate to see more people wearing IWC. I can't think of any other objects that packs so much meaning and symbolism in such a small piece. But with a watch, you take it everywhere. It's the one thing where you can very quickly figure out what someone is trying to say about themselves and where their values are.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)