“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
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.