In Conversation with Walter Volpers, Associate Director of Product Management for IWC Schaffhausen
This year at Watches and Wonders 2022 I had the great pleasure to speak with Walter Volpers, Associate Director of Product Management for IWC Schaffhausen.
With the launch of the new models from IWC, Walter Volpers speaks in this interview for GmtPost Magazine, the changes in the watch industry in the past three years, the cool and innovative materials that IWC is using for their watches and other interesting stories for the watch enthusiasts.
Ionut Bocea, founder of GmtPost:
How is the feeling of meeting all the watch lovers in one place after three years and how the pandemic changed the watch industry (or not) through the IWC perspective?
Walter Volpers, Associate Director of Product Management for IWC Schaffhausen:
First of all, it’s amazing to be back in Geneva, it is amazing to see all the colleagues worldwide, and see the people face to face, this is something that was missing throughout the last few years. Interaction with people is very important although one can do that very good via Zoom and the new technology, and this is actually what changed us the most - to learn how to communicate through these new technologies like Zoom, Teams and so on. It is a different way of explaining and showing the watches.
You cannot explain the details when you don’t have the timepiece in front of you, when it is not close to you to point to what you are speaking about. Therefore, it’s also as a challenge in the sense that it pushes you to describe the watch differently. We have also experienced different approaches in communicating information to the press from bringing the content on CD’s and sending that to the press, while today it’s about an interactive platform where we meet together. This is something that has been pushed forward through this pandemic crisis, we have been forced to start communicating without being face-to-face or physically present.
After the Big Pilot’s Watch Monopusher Edition “Le Petit Prince” can we expect more complications in the Pilot Collection?
IWC has been known for introducing a lot of complications, we like that, so haute horology watches are interesting for us to. It is a way of showing our knowhow, our watchmaking competences and of course introducing the Monopusher to an iconic watch and an iconic design like the Big Pilot it’s really difficult, because it is a chronograph. If we look in the world of watchmaking, the chronograph is one of the most complicated timepieces, it is really complex. Watchmaking is all about energy consumption and the chronograph is a consumer, so it is very challenging to get so many parts to work together without losing the energy and the accuracy of the watch.
By having different pushers for the start, stop and reset function, this is an intrusion into the case probably reducing the functionality. The more holes you have into the case, the more it is going to be affected by water, so the challenge was how to bring this iconic complication into an iconic watch, without disturbing the functionality of the cases without having to many pushers or without losing the sign of the iconic Big Pilot. And I think the Monopusher (please read more about here) is the perfect complication, it fits perfectly well. The Big crown allows you to have a very important mechanism, a mechanism into that crown, packed into that small space and of course having the utility there.
The Big Pilot is also known and if you go to the wall of our Big Pilot you can see the history since 2000 and you see a lot of perpetual calendars. This is the simple perpetual calendar that we introduced in 1985 from our famous watchmaker Kurt Klaus and this is a module that has been adapted to different movements. So, this is also a strategic direction of IWC where you have the base movement and you built on top of its complications. So, we have the chance to introduce by example the Big Pilot Big date which was introduced on our 150 anniversary, or we have the Annual Calendar which is also an interesting complication. It is a calendar complication. IWC now has the chronograph, the perpetual calendar, so this allows us a lot of flexibility. The Big Pilot is a great watch, an iconic watch, to bring that kind of iconic tradition together with technical innovation or with haute horlogerie.
Will IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Monopusher Edition “Le Petit Prince” become a regular production model like the Perpetual Calendar Big Pilot?
That is a very good question. We have had a very good echo with Monopusher limited edition. We are thinking always on the future and what future can bring. I believe it is a great possibility to have these watches as non-complicated ones. Let’s wait and see. I hope your followers and all the people keep on watching, keep on reading, as there might be some very nice surprises.
IWC always added new materials to their watches. How important are them to the Pilot Watch Line?
I wouldn’t reduce the technology or the know-how on the materials only to the Big Pilot’s watches. If you look back into the history, we were the first to introduce the colour ceramics into the watchmaking industry. In 1995 with the Da Vinci we introduced colours like white, black, green. Also, in the 80’s we had the first titanium watch. IWC was the first company to introduce titanium to the watch industry, so this is like a competence that has been with us since ever. Thus, bringing these materials to the Pilot line is more like a historical point started in 2007 when we introduced the first ceramic watch. Technologically, it is a state-of-the-art material which is also used in plane or aerospace industry.
With this introduction in 2007 into the Pilot watch line, we have just increased that by using different colours which were inspired actually by the partnership we have with Top Gun. We visit them at the premises where they make their training in different scenarios. For example, Lake Tahoe with the mountains and the white snow is an inspiration for our Lake Tahoe Chronograph (please read more about here).
Furthermore, from the aerospace industry we have introduced the titanium aluminium which is also a very interesting material. Therefore, the tradition of IWC with materials is very deep and since aerospace is so state of the art and also pushing technologies, pushing boundaries, I think it matches perfectly well.
Which are the highlights IWC watches launched this year at W&W 2022?
I would like to cast some light on the chronograph Ceratanium which we introduced this year. This chronograph is an amazing thing because it integrates all that IWC represents. Thus, it is a state-of-the-art technology in materials with Ceratanium, which is a material property of IWC, developed with and for IWC. It is a material that combines the best of two worlds of titanium and ceramic. It is an alloy that has Zirconium inside which, when backed, will turn into Zirconium Oxide which is the ceramic and make it as scratch resistant as the ceramic, but allows you to produce and industrialise it like normal steel. We were the first in titanium, we were the first in ceramic and we are the first in ceramic and titanium, Ceratanium, which is property of IWC. This watch is now being beautifully integrated in the Top Gun sub-line. It has this black grey beautiful colour which matches perfectly well with these IWC Pantone colour we have developed. They are IWC Ceratanium materials and today we also have the pleasure to introduce this watch with the Ceratanium bracelet with EasX-Change system and adjustment system.
This watch has everything in terms of materials, in terms of state-of-the-art bracelets and movements, since it has an in-house movement, calibre 69000, developed by IWC. I had the chance to wear it today for a few hours and it is an amazing watch. The titanium is so light making it very conformable to wear. The temperature adapts very fast to your body temperature, so you don’t even feel that you are wearing it. And that is a very nice characteristic for a watch.
We have for the first time a Big Pilot in ceramic in a diameter of 43 mm which is the Top Gun in IWC Jet Black (please read more about here), which is the black ceramic. We also have the same watch, on the same reference, but in a green ceramic. So, these two watches plus the Ceratanium chronograph are my personal highlights.