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CHRIS GRAINGER

In Conversation with IWC Schaffhausen’s CEO Chris Grainger

IWC Schaffhausen celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. While the watchmaker boasts technical expertise in the creation of watches for active professionals such as pilots and drivers, it also prides itself on designing timeless pieces that evoke emotion and memory. Hours before IWC’s annual For the Love of Cinema event during the Tribeca Film Festival this spring, Whitewall spoke to the brand’s new CEO, Chris Grainger, about watches that transcend functionality.

WHITEWALL: The Ingenieur collection that launches in October is a sort of relaunch for the brand. Can you tell us a bit about the first watch that this one is revisiting and why?

IWC

Courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen.

CHRIS GRAINGER: This is a relaunch of our traditional Ingenieur collection, which we’ve had in our portfolio since mid-1950s, where magnetic protection was a very big thing for watches historically. Then, there was a lot of magnetic interference from navigation instruments in planes—from engineering installations and where people worked—so making a watch resistant to magnetic fields was absolutely key in watch precision. We had different design inspirations, but over the years we decided to relaunch the one that was very close to the design from the 1950s design codes, and it comes in a full-range collection.

WW: IWC also launched a special-edition Da Vinci model, too—the Da Vinci Chronograph Edition “Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.” Can you tell us more about this?

IWC

The Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph.
Courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen.

CG: Laureus is all over the world, active in lots of different projects, helping disadvantaged children around the world to have the power of sport in their life to change things for the better.

The Da Vinci has its origins in the late sixties. It was the first cross watch on the scene—a then-new, shared development of a movement in Switzerland called “Better 21,” a basic quartz movement. From that moment on, Da Vinci has always been known as this genius, inventive watch of value, and the big break came when we went back to mechanical in 1985. Our technical director in those days, Klaus, invented an incredibly easy-to-use perpetual calendar. What was new was that you could adjust that with a single crown movement. Even to the present day, it is one of the most iconic complications in the watch industry.

Chris Grainger

CEO of IWC Chris Grainger.
Courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen.

We’re celebrating that invention with the new Da Vinci collection for men with perpetual calendar chronograph, and strategically, it is also a big launch for us for women, too. The female collection is a 36mm, automatic moon phase, and a 40mm—unisex in diameter.

WW: Lately, there has been a rapid turnaround rate for technological advancements. Has there been any specific demand for men, women, or both that you’ve had to develop new functions or features for?

CG: I think, fundamentally, watches are dueling. Watches at our price range are a timeless piece of jewelry that you wear for its symbolism and emotional response. Every one has wonderful, precise data, and all the functions you’ll ever want are here—in your phone, your personal handheld computer. There’s no functional need for that. What we give goes beyond the functions of product development. If people fall in love with a complication—like the moon phase, which is extremely popular at the moment—it’s not functionally driven, it’s because they love the complication and how it speaks to them. We are in the business of eternal pieces, full of jewelry with emotional storytelling and memories. It goes beyond the questions of, “What does this offer me versus the other one?” You buy this for life. It transcends functionality.

WW: IWC support the arts, such as the Tribeca Film Festival. What does this entail?

CG: Our connection to film is very tight because we are a storytelling brand. Cinema and film is very close to our hearts, so we have a range of seven international film festivals we are supporting. We support young talent with new concepts, from filmmaking, sports, entertainment, music, racing, diving, and preservation. We have a huge range of partnerships that give us content and production to feed all our channels.

Tonight, we have our Filmmaker Award. This is something we’ve been doing for five years. There are three nominees of film projects that are in progress, and we are awarding a $50,000 grant to help them finance different aspects of the work so that they’re able to finish it. It’s really helping young filmmakers—with different views, who captivate through storytelling—see their projects come to life.

 

This article appears in Whitewall‘s Summer 2017 issue, out in September.

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Amid the flurry of Watches and Wonders, Rolex raised the curtain on a parade of technological novelties and artistic showstoppers.
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