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In conversation exclusive: interview with Georges Kern, CEO IWC. Part 2.

by Peter Chong on October 17, 2015

We continue with more from our tête-à-tête interview with Georges Kern. For part 1, please click here. In this second part, we focus on his analysis of the state of the IWC collection, and what’s in store for the future.

Interview with Georges Kern

State of the Collection Address

We delved into a discussion on the IWC Collection. But as a recap, we discussed the values associated with IWC as a successful, modern, brand. Alive, like a human being, and continually growing.

 

 

“Surprise with the existing”

Georges Kern

Powerful phrase. And with that quote, we delved into Georges’ own analysis on the IWC lineup, in no particular order:

The Portofino line: Elegant, Entry level into the IWC world. Beginning to introduce in-house movements. First example is the Watches & Wonders Portofino Hand-wound Single Button Chronograph. More to come!

The Portugieser line: Perfect. Design, beauty, balance.

The Pilot line: Will be made much broader. Great potential. Working on a revamp of the line.

Da Vinci line: Not dead. Redesign in progress.

Ingenieur line: The elegant sports watch rather than the sporty elegant watch.

Aquatimer line: Strong presence and image. Will continue to innovate with strong technical and usable features.

We briefly touched on the question many of our hard core readers are asking: “Is IWC becoming too commercial, and abandoning the technical?” The short answer, of course is no. Commercially biased products are a necessity. Success breeds success. And commercial success is essential to be the engine for growth. As a case in point, the success of the IWC Portofino Automatic 37 line allows Georges to direct resources into the new in-house movements in the Portofino line. The IWC Portofino Hand-wound Monopusher Chronograph which we reviewed is one example. Great, technically interesting, well finished in-house chronograph movement. The mid to long term strategy is to be able to phase out ETA and Selita based movements.

Georges then offered a revelation: that key to the successful collection strategy is to be able to offer strong products at all price points. IWC watches start from the CHF4,120 for the Portofino Automatic 37 entry level up to the Portuguese Sidérale Scafusia (ref. 5041) at CHF750,000. A collection at every price point is essential, and IWC is perhaps the only manufacture who offers strong products in such a wide price range. Today, the IWC manufacture remains one of the largest in the industry, with a very high value addition made in Schafhausen. They recently added 1200 new jobs in the manufacture, and are still growing.

 

IWC CEO Georges Kern proudly showing the Portugese Monopusher Chronograph. Hong Kong, August 27, 2015.

IWC CEO Georges Kern proudly showing the Portugese Monopusher Chronograph. Hong Kong, August 27, 2015.

 

Basic to all these is the teutonic philosophy that the watch must work, and work well. Very basic, but it is surprising how may watch companies do not get this right. To Georges, servicing a watch is a cost center, and he does not hope to make money through it. And it is a critical component of the IWC strategy, as an IWC watch must work.

 

The IWC Friend’s of the Brand

 

 

The video personifies the values of German engineering in a Southern Europe setting. Elegant setting, wonderful location, beautiful people. La dolce vita! 

Discussing this beautiful short film, we touched on IWC’s take on celebrity endorsements. IWC Friends of the Brand, Georges prefer to call them. Powerful friends indeed. Among them, Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt and Zhou Xun. And famous photographer Peter Lindberg well known for his artistic ability to tell a story, to speak an emotion. It tells when you have talented people do the work. Like on the film. Like in IWC.

Georges maintains a close and personal relationship with each and every one of them. They are not merely ambassadors to a brand bound by agency contracts. But one where the Friends are attracted to IWC because they love the brand, and deeply respect the work of the brand. And above all, share core values. The elegance of the design, the techniques in the movement, the heart of the watch, all these things mirror the value of the person who will wear it.

 

Passionate about cycling

“The closest you can get to flying” – Robin Williams

 

The IWC Tortour team, with Georges Kern doing riding duties.

The IWC Tortour team, with Georges Kern doing riding duties. Pic from IWC.

We continued a little more about his passion for cycling, as this author is also passionate about cycling. And talked about milage, climbing mountains and other vélo pursuits – bicycles, gearing, wheels, etc.

We returned briefly to the IWC sponsored Tortour, and the Charity Partner Laureus where Georges is on the board of Trustees. A very tough event, it is an endurance cycling race, which Georges have participated personally. It takes strength, character, and determination to complete such a race. Testament to those who try it, and indeed to Georges Kern.

And thus ended our discussion. We have certainly enjoyed the time together, and hope there will be more such interactions. We found Georges to be very intelligent, very sharp, and quick. A keen nose businessman with a deep passion for the watchmaking industry and IWC. And a enthusiastic cyclist. And that’s as big a praise as can be said.

 

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