“WE’VE SEEN THE MAR­KET GROW TREMEN­DOUSLY AND IT MIGHT WELL BE THAT CHINA OVERTAKES SALES IN HONG KONG NEXT YEAR”

Goris Ver­burg, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of north­east Asia for IWC Schaffhausen

Prestige Hong Kong - Tic Talk - - PEOPLE | INSIDE VIEW -

What were some of the stand­out mo­ments for IWC in 2017?

To mark the 50th an­niver­sary of the Aqua­timer diver watch, we launched the Aqua­timer Per­pet­ual Cal­en­dar Dig­i­tal Date- Month in cer­ata­nium, an al­loy of ce­ramic and ti­ta­nium: we’re the first brand to use this ma­te­rial for a watch case. We also re- launched the Da Vinci collection, which first hit the mar­ket in 1985 with the per­pet­ual cal­en­dar for men and a more fe­male- ori­ented 36mm dial. We ad­di­tion­ally bought back the En­gi­neer collection, first launched in 1955; an anti- mag­netic watch that en­gi­neers could wear in the lab. The new En­gi­neer has the look of the orig­i­nal 1955, whereas previous re- launches re­called the 1976 model.

Our new CEO, Christoph Grainger- Herr, took over on 1 April [ from long- time CEO Ge­orges Kern], and that’s also a big change for the brand.

Which time­piece have you worn most this year and what makes it so spe­cial? I wear watches like I wear suits and ask my­self, “what do I feel like wear­ing to­day?”. Some of my favourites in­clude the Por­tuguese Per­pet­ual Cal­en­dar in white gold, which syncs through the crown. I ap­pre­ci­ate the mech­a­nism and the aes­thet­ics are quite so­phis­ti­cated, too. I’ve also en­joyed wear­ing the Big Pi­lot Spe­cial Edi­tion, which has a sil­ver dial and or­ange tinted hands.

Were there any sur­prises from your most re­cent sales re­ports?

Hong Kong is tra­di­tion­ally our big­gest mar­ket, and for the lux­ury watch mar­ket in gen­eral. That’s still the case, although the mar­ket has been dif­fi­cult over the past three years. In April, when China raised taxes on lux­ury goods pur­chased abroad, we’ve seen the mar­ket grow tremen­dously, and it might well be that China overtakes sales in Hong Kong next year. South Korea also does ex­tremely well for us – many don’t recog­nise that’s it’s one of our top- per­form­ing coun­tries.

What will be the dom­i­nant trends in the lux­ury watch mar­ket next year?

I think sports watches will be­come a lot stronger than clas­sic mod­els, and this is partly driven by de­mand from main­land Chi­nese con­sumers. Their at­tire is be­com­ing more ca­sual, and they’re look­ing for sporty, big­ger watches. Sporty mod­els glob­ally are also do­ing bet­ter, and that’s some­thing that will prob­a­bly con­tinue next year. I think they’ll also be more lim­ited edi­tion pieces, and ref­er­ences to his­toric watches in de­signs.

Are there any spe­cific re­leases aimed at the youth mar­ket for 2018?

We’re not de­vel­op­ing watches aimed at the younger gen­er­a­tion. Next year will be our 150th an­niver­sary, so there will be a num­ber of lim­ited edi­tion watches to com­mem­o­rate that. We want to be true to our price seg­ment; we have a wide range of watches al­ready in the HK$ 30- 35,000 price bracket [ to ap­peal to younger con­sumers] while most are priced at around HK$ 80,000. Our key cus­tomers are aged be­tween 30- 45, which rep­re­sents a younger clien­tele when com­pared to other brands.

What de­fines a watch for you?

When you’re do­ing sports, a dig­i­tal watch is great as it has GPS and dis­plays de­tails like alti­tude. But be­sides the con­ve­nience of it, there’s no emo­tional at­tach­ment there. Me­chan­i­cal watches have a soul, a his­tory; there’s a beauty in the fin­ish­ing, move­ment, and con­struc­tion. While some may keep their watches in a winder, I en­joy set­ting the time … the sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence of feel­ing it and wind­ing is a joy, as it the her­itage that you carry around with you.

How will IWC bridge the gap be­tween ar­ti­sanal time­pieces and their digi­tised cousins?

The pur­pose of them is very dif­fer­ent, and I think me­chan­i­cal watches are some­thing to keep, some­thing that can be passed on, a watch from your fa­ther or mother. Young peo­ple still want to re­ward them­selves with a lux­ury watch at a spe­cial mo­ment in their life, such as a grad­u­a­tion, and we’ll con­tinue to play on th­ese emo­tional mo­ments. We’re not com­pet­ing [ with dig­i­tal watches] on a day- to- day ba­sis. In prin­ci­ple, there’s room for both, as they of­fer two dis­tinct func­tions.

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