A HOUSE FOR THE FU­TURE

A ma­jor new IWC pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity is the lat­est mile­stone in the brand’s tra­di­tion­al­watch­mak­ing-meets-high-tech story.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Watcher - TEXT LYNETTE KOH

There is no doubt that IWC’s new in­te­grated fa­cil­ity is its pride and joy, and one that it is proud to show to the world. In our sec­ond out­ing to the heart of Ger­man-speak­ing Switzer­land for the open­ing of the IWC Man­u­fak­turzen­trum, there are ab­so­lutely no lim­its on pho­tog­ra­phy or video-record­ing, and we prac­ti­cally breathe down the necks of some of the watch­mak­ers. This is a far cry from four years ago, when we vis­ited IWC’s head­quar­ters and its other key fa­cil­ity at nearby Neuhausen, and strict re­stric­tions were placed on pho­tog­ra­phy, as well as where we could ven­ture.

We would want to show it off, too: Lo­cated in Mer­ishausen, a Schaffhausen mu­nic­i­pal­ity just a ten­minute drive away from the brand’s head­quar­ters on Baum­garten­strasse, the 13,500 sq m fa­cil­ity makes a def­i­nite first im­pres­sion. Amid a thor­oughly ver­dant set­ting, it is a long, low-ly­ing build­ing with a fa­cade dom­i­nated by floor-to-ceil­ing glass win­dows and rig­or­ously rec­tan­gu­lar white con­crete struc­tures. Partly de­signed by the brand’s CEO, Christoph Grainger-Herr – an ar­chi­tect and in­te­rior de­signer by train­ing – the fa­cil­ity is meant to see IWC at least 50 years into the fu­ture.

Hous­ing key pro­cesses – in­clud­ing case and move­ment-part pro­duc­tion, as well as move­ment assem­bly – un­der its mas­sive roof, the Man­u­fak­turzen­trum brings to­gether 239 skilled work­ers and high-pre­ci­sion ma­chines in a log­i­cal, con­tin­u­ous pro­duc­tion flow.

“We don’t just cel­e­brate can­dle­light ro­mance,” says Grainger-Herr with a wry smile, dur­ing a round­table in­ter­view. “In watch­mak­ing, there are times when the hu­man touch is the only thing that makes a dif­fer­ence. But it’s never a con­tra­dic­tion

to have ma­chine tech­nol­ogy come to­gether with the hu­man hand. I don’t think we need to be afraid to use the best tech­nol­ogy to make a bet­ter prod­uct.”

This two-pronged phi­los­o­phy has guided IWC since 1868, when its Amer­i­can founder, Floren­tine Ariosto Jones, started his com­pany in Schaffhausen in east­ern Switzer­land. In con­trast to the cot­tage in­dus­try that de­fined watch­mak­ing in west­ern Switzer­land, F.A. Jones com­bined Swiss watch­mak­ing know-how with new Amer­i­can in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion meth­ods, driven by hy­dropower sup­plied by the nearby River Rhine. To­day, the open­ing of the Man­u­fak­turzen­trum brings that vi­sion full cir­cle.

Says Grainger-Herr: “I think the Man­u­fak­turzen­trum is one of the most im­por­tant sell­ing points that we have. You fall in love with the brand, the de­sign and the story, but here you can see that love, that crafts­man­ship, that ded­i­ca­tion, the pas­sion that goes into each and ev­ery IWC watch. It’s a beau­ti­ful re­con­fir­ma­tion of what this brand stands for.”

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