With a pioneering and historical connection to the world of ceramics, IWC Schaffhausen has raised the bar for aviation chronographs this year by launching a stylish range of new pilot’s watches in bold yet subtle colour variations. Join us as we converse with the charismatic Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, about ceramics, colour concepts, and Ceratanium.
MW: This year, we have seen IWC timepieces return to the world of ceramics. Why has the brand decided to take this route?
Christoph Grainger-Herr: We, at IWC, have a background in functioning watchmaking. We make engineered watches that always serve a purpose, whether navigation, aviation, or diving. We were the first brand in 1980 to make a full titanium watch with Porsche, and in 1986, we introduced zirconium oxide into the Da Vinci line as the first real ceramic watch. During the same year, we invented coloured ceramic watches, including vibrant ceramic colours, way before anybody else. From this, we developed Ceratanium, a proprietary material that combines all the best elements of titanium with all of the best elements of ceramics. It has taken 40 years of purifying the material, increasing our capacity for case construction in ceramic, to develop a modern sports watch that is genuinely ceramic.
What was the thought process behind the inclusion of the colour concept theme?
The colour concept started off with our military watches. Once we started working with pilots, we found that they have a wide-ranging taste. When the materials come together, the inspiration of something functional is then translated into a monochromatic colour code. It becomes more relevant to people than just having a military watch. For 2022, we have expanded and worked with Pantone to introduce the ceramic Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe”, and the green ceramic Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition ‘Woodland.’
What was the design process like while creating the new 2022 timepieces?
Suppose you want to do a monochromatic watch that is truly engineered, you have to bring together different materials and manufacturing processes to ultimately give you the same colour. As there is no colour standardisation between these processes, one has to either go down the trial-and-error method, or use the Pantone colour referencing system and colour engineering to bring a precise colour calibration to each of these processes. When you think about a watch like this, ultimately, it is the same colour grain when you look at it from a side elevation. But you have an FKM rubber and texture moulding process, the textile-weaving process, the stitching process, and coloured ceramic calibration, which must be inculcated in the main case and coloured ring. This means that while you have a very detailed impression when you close up on the watch, it blends into one thing as you zoom further away.
Are there any specific challenges you faced while bringing this all together?
We want to have a watch that a broad audience and IWC fans enjoy. Even though we know that most of our clients will not eject from a jet fighter plane, we know that ultimately, this is a top-level performance aviation watch at the core of it. It is always a challenge to not compromise absolute functional characteristics when introducing new colours, new styles, and new ways of wearing a sports watch.
If you could choose one favourite timepiece from the new 2022 launches, which one would you pick, and why?
I have two favourite pieces this year. One I am wearing today is Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Woodland”. The other one is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium. This is the first time we have launched a wearable chronograph in complete Ceratanium material.