Many different faces

Swiss watchmaker is debuting complex novelty pieces, writesElizabeth Turner

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 5:12pm

All eyes are on Hong Kong as it debuts the region's Watches&Wonders fair. With its clear focus on customers, the event is being used by brands to leave a lasting impression on the Asian audience.

Georges Kern, CEO of IWC, says Asia is a valuable market of "utter importance", and the fair is an opportunity to give visitors insight into the Swiss company's heritage and values.

"This trade fair will give us a chance to explain who we are and what we offer to all the Asian guests who are passionate about the craftsmanship and the intricate engineering of our timepieces," Kern says. "It will give a close insight and deeper understanding of how IWC crafts masterpieces of haute horlogerie. We are happy to have this excellent platform to showcase our achievements and demonstrate the brand's multifaceted character."

IWC is set on becoming a globally recognised benchmark for engineered men's watches and is using the growth of Asia's luxury goods market to expand its presence in the region.

Two of its three flagship boutiques have opened in Hong Kong and Beijing. And last year, the watchmaker launched a Chinese Year of the Dragon special edition watch in appreciation of Asian customers and their cultural heritage.

Watches&Wonders' focus on customers, collectors and connoisseurs sets it apart from the annual Geneva-based Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) trade show by giving visitors a behind-the-scenes view of advanced technology and sophisticated mechanisms, which Asian customers are keen to learn, Kern says.

"Due to their own tradition, they are great admirers of excellent craftsmanship. They also have high quality requirements and understand that design tells a story about the quality of a product," Kern says.

IWC will use the Hong Kong fair to debut several new novelties that it anticipates will be a great success in the region.

The Portofino collection will be extended with two complicated additions, the Portofino Hand-Wound Big Date and the Portofino Monopusher, while two Pilot's Watch pieces will mark the 70th anniversary of the debut of the popular novella The Little Prince by writer, pilot and adventurer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Those timepieces are the result of a partnership between IWC and the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation.

IWC will also debut its most complex timepiece to date which, according to Kern, sees the watchmaker set a new benchmark. The timepiece follows the Portuguese Sidérale Scafusia launched two years ago after 10 years of research.

Details of all these novelty timepieces will be unveiled at Watches&Wonders.

IWC will also highlight three limited-run additions to its Top Gun series, which takes inspiration from the legendary US Navy Fighter Weapons School, which trains elite military pilots. The series debuted under IWC's Pilot's Watch family in 2007 and contains the classic functions of that collection, but is characterised by combining the latest technology, hi-tech materials and modern design.

Ceramic cases and titanium casebacks give the watches a rugged appearance and a lighter weight, while luminescent hour and minute markings keep legibility clear.

The first new addition to the series is the Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Boutique Edition, which is one of IWC's most elaborate Pilot's watches and is limited to 250 pieces. The imposing timepiece has an oversized case measuring 48mm in diameter and 16mm deep, which is necessary to accommodate IWC's large, automatic 51614 calibre that powers the engine. Red hands and indices against a black dial add more weight to its tough exterior.

The dial displays complex technology, including a perpetual calendar featuring a four-digit year display that accounts for every Gregorian leap year until 2100. A moon phase function observes its movements in the northern and southern hemispheres.

The second new model, the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Boutique Edition, is limited to 500 pieces and designed to withstand complex airborne manoeuvres. It's constructed with a soft-iron inner case to protect against magnetic fields, while secured glass protects the movement from drops in pressure that can occur in the cockpit.

A black dial features a classic cockpit arrangement, including a date display resembling an altimeter. A central chronograph hand displays recorded times in seconds, while a subdial at 12 o'clock shows elapsed minutes. A flyback function sets the stopwatch hand back to zero to start a new timing sequence, and a small seconds hand rotates at 6 o'clock. The third timepiece to debut, the Big Pilot's Watch Top Gun Boutique Edition, combines 21st-century technology with 1940s style. The 311-part movement includes a seven-day power reserve, and construction that secures the glass front against drops in pressure while airborne.

Design features include green hands and indices, and a miniature aircraft silhouette that doubles as a counterpoint on the tip of the seconds hand. The watch is limited to 500 pieces. All the timepieces are etched with the Top Gun logo on the reverse side.