On the road to the new IWC Schaffhausen's Manufacture
Part One - The Aviation and the Foundation on the banks of the Rhine river
Visiting a manufacture is one of the most popular experiences among those offered by watch-making brands and yet it is precisely that type of experience that could be subject to different interpretations. If we were to talk about the type of experience, the one that IWC offers its guests is the most innovative and engaging of all those that I have had the opportunity to do so far.
Although IWC can boast an important history - the manufacture was founded in 1868 and it will celebrate its 150th Anniversary this year - the brand represents one of the most avant-garde brands within the Richemont Group and the market among traditional watchmaking brands, as it is also stated in the official pay-off; "The future of watchmaking since 1868".
It is a motto that recreates, in an intelligent and original manner, the fusion between the (original) history of the brand that was founded by an American who moved to Schaffhausen in the second half of the 19th century and the most modern and automated manufacture that I have ever seen among all the premium mass-producing manufacturers.
Two days and two different experiences
The visit to Schaffhausen is divided into two different and complementary experiences; the first aspirational one is an invitation to discover IWC’s aeronautical origins and it reaches its peak with a flight experience on board a 1939 Junkers 52 branded IWC Schaffhausen flying through the Swiss Alps.
The second one is dedicated to the discovery of the new manufacture that was completed in only 22 months and that, last November, was still a site under construction when the brand hosted the preview of its releases for the SIHH 2018 - an event that I also attended. This is also the reason why I decided to separate this articles into two different parts; the second part that is dedicated to the manufacture and the product itself deserves its own editorial piece.
The flight, if we focus on Tuesday’s experience, is part of the brand’s DNA and the Junkers 52 was the place where WWII pilots would wear their thick leather suits completed with a Grosse Fliegeruhr wrapped around their wrist. Although IWC converted itself from "Engineered for men" to a broader "Engineering Time since 1868", it still remains, objectively speaking, a brand that is designed for men, where some Portofino timepieces and (above all) some Da Vinci watches bring women closer to the brand.
The headquarters of IWC Schaffhausen is located on the banks of the Rhine river and right in the middle of Schaffhausen. This is where we had dinner after our one-hour-flight. The experience on board the Junkers is the most exciting moment of the first day, especially if it is enjoyed immediately after flying on a modern Swiss Air Bombardier (from Milan to Zurich); the engines by BMW start up very slowly and everything else, from the take-off to the landing and flying among the peaks of the Swiss Alps, is paced down and romantic.
The Junkers 52 has been completely overhauled and updated when it comes to the on board equipments and devices, but, nevertheless, it has not lost its vintage flavour.
All the flight control systems are manual - excluding the transponder that, I think, is mandatory on any modern aircraft used for civil aviation and other equipment that is necessary to guarantee a safe flight.
One of the two pilots was a former pilot of the Patrouille Suisse wearing an IWC Fliegeruhr Mark XII Limited Edition Patrouille Suisse sporting the historical logo of the Patrouille (his timepiece was the 20th out of a series of 29 pieces).
If we want to talk about collectible Pilot's Watches of the modern time we could actually start from here, but, first, we would have to try and convince one of the 29 pilots who received one of these timepieces as a gift more than 20 years ago and I have found out already that one of these pilots is definitely "incorruptible".
Among all the people who took part in the trip to Schaffhausen - among whom were influencers and IWC ambassadors wearing IWC watches, I was the lucky one to be made an IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition 150 Years available; the Jubilee version that sports a sophisticated white enamelled dial made of twelve layers of enamel according to a process that IWC used in the past on their Pallweber watches and that Marco Scarpa, IWC’s official photographer, perfectly portrayed in his pictures.
I own an IW3777, the version that precedes this IW377725 with an altimeter-shaped date, but I have to admit that the new edition of the Pilot's watch Chronograph with its classic date and its contrast between the white enamelled dial and the blue hands is particularly successful and is probably at the same level as the Chronograph Le Petite Prince.
On the banks of the Rhine river
When Florentine Ariosto Jones left Boston to found the International Watch Company he stopped in Schaffhausen that is only a few kms away from the German border. Here he laid the foundations of his own manufacturing company located on the banks of the Rhine river, because he could exploit the energy coming from the waterfalls that also fed the city's hydroelectric power plant and that was the source of energy of all the manufacturing companies of this area.
IWC Schaffhausen is the most German brand of the Swiss brands (the Portuguese has now become the Portugieser) and it is the only brand that puts together an industrial approach - we will find out more about this topic when we will talk about the new Manufakturzentrum - and activities and tasks that require the handwork, the precision and patience of women. Stay tuned!
(Photo credit: courtesy of Marco Scarpa)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®