ICONS AND INNOVATION
Klaus has countless stories of how he developed innovative watch movements, coped in times of crises and devoted his life to the cra n his wrist he wears an watch named a er him the a inci erpetual alendar Edition Kurt Klaus, released in 2007. It is a tribute to his creation, the automated perpetual calendar, a revolutionar movement that too ve ears to develop. he perpetual calendar existed but ours was a new generation because before, the system was very complicated to produce, and complicated for the user,” explains Klaus. It was a huge success e presented the a inci chronograph perpetual calendar, and I will never forget the price, it was 14,500 swiss francs in a gold case, which was about 10,000 less than the competitors’ price.” Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso, too, earned its icon status in part because when it was launched in 1 22 it was a response to a technical challenge and a major innovation in the industry.
Today, to stay ahead of the game, companies must continue to develop new movements, complications and features that are smaller, faster and more advanced than ever. ana eu says, one way to innovate is to continue pushing the boundaries of watchmaking and discovering new techniques,” giving the example of the unique JaegerLeCoultre semi-spherical gyrotourbillon that makes the watch case signi cantly thinner, and the groundbreaking duometer, which has two power reserves, one for timekeeping and one for other complications. A. Lange & Sohne launched several new movements this year at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève (SIHH) and Schmid wears one of them: the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon featuring a yback function. hile they strive to always do things di erently and at the highest possible technical level, they would never sacri ce function for innovation, he insists. “Our design language is very German. The watches are always [functional] pieces; we would never come up with a watch where you would struggle to read the time, for example,” he says.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is also innovating in other ways. This year they launched a collaboration with shoe designer Christian Louboutin to create a line of watch straps (red on the inside, of course). “When bringing in someone new, with a di erent background, in uences and tastes, you end up naturally creating something that has never been done before,” Pana eu says. The brand also launched Atelier Reverso this year, a platform where clients can customize a watch through an in-store app, and later on the company’s website, choosing strap, colors and other details such as customized engravings and enamel paintings on the spacious underside of the Reverso case. “Because everything is done in-house, in a way there’s nothing we can’t do,” says Pana eu, adding that exceptions would be requests that are bad for the watch’s performance or go against the brand’s principles.
The purpose is to make the watch more accessible says Pana eu, explaining, “the Reverso is such an icon and we want to avoid it reaching a stage where it’s considered untouchable.” That said, with this kind of freehand customization there’s a ne line between original and gaudy (think velvet Porsche and platinum Bentley). But customization also allows the watches to become a lot more personal and therefore more sentimental; one client engraved a marriage proposal on a Reverso he gi ed his future wife, while others choose to have enamel paintings of family pets, as well as elaborate diamondencrusted designs.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
While some have suggested that smartwatches could threaten the mechanical watch market, similarly to the Quartz Crisis of the 70s that Klaus helped IWC survive, others say there is no comparison. “Smartwatches are not a threat,” assures Pana eu. “They are useful tools but what we do is totally di erent. When you talk about a mechanical watch there is a lot of emotion to it. I doubt someone will pass a smartwatch on to the next generation,” he says. Klaus agrees: “They are two di erent worlds. IWC clients buy watches because they love them. All our watches have history and people like mechanical watches,” adding that some collectors might even wear smartwatches from time to time, but it would not be a replacement.
Pana eu points out that becoming part of the Jaeger-LeCoultre family does not necessarily come at a high cost. With a starting price of a stainless steel Reverso at around ,000 euros, it is indeed much more a ordable than other luxury watches, while remaining one of the most recognized and respected styles to date. Klaus makes the same claim: “Our luxury is at a realistic price, not like some other luxury factories who only have watches in the $100,000 range. We also have similar watches in that range, but we have a very large price segment. A simple stainless steel watch is still a luxury product because it’s a movement, it’s IWC,” he says proudly.