DEPLOYANT friend KS shares his recent Interview with IWC’s Chief Marketing Officer – Goris Verburg.
At the first sight, you may find him a little cold, especially if he doesn’t smile. At least that was how I felt when I met Goris Verburg in 2010 during his time as General Manager(2009) and later as Managing Director of IWC Southeast Asia in Singapore. The truth is he is one of the most sincere and genuine personalities I have ever met in the watch industry and in stark contrast to he appears initially, he is a pretty warm person as well.
One could be forgiven if he thinks Goris is in the fashion industry for he is often sighted in his well-cut Tom Ford suits paired with matching pocket squares. He is now the Marketing and Communications Director at IWC Schaffhausen and I caught up with him briefly for an interview at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva last week.
1. You were MD of Southeast Asia, having IWC, Baume & Mercier and Roger Dubuis in your portfolio and you were recently promoted to Director of Marketing & Communication at HQ taking over from Karoline Huber. What are the major differences in terms of scope and nature of work?
The focus of my new role is the definition and development of the marketing strategy, tools and initiatives, as well as ensuring the global implementation and coordination of the programs. As a regional brand manager, the focus was much more sales oriented as well as the local implementation of the marketing programs. Therefore, the jobs are entirely different, but the local market understanding of the needs of retail partners and end-customers really help me in designing and defining the effective programs. I continue to maintain them and build new ones endeavouring to keep in touch with the customers and not end up in the ivory tower which would be my biggest fear.
On a personal level, the key adaptation is to become from a very independent position in Singapore where my bosses were distant, to a very embedded position where my boss and peers are in the immediate vicinity. This is a clear loss of autonomy which needed adjustment, at the same time you are much more challenged in a HQ environment and you learn and grow a lot faster than you do in a more autarkic setting.
2. Can you tell us some challenges you are currently facing in your new role and how you intend to overcome them?
Although you know the company and its marketing tools, it is very different when you actually have to define and develop them. There are various stakeholders and the team is also much bigger. You first have to develop an understanding of how things are done, what are the strengths of the various stakeholders and then you can build a strong and performing team. This takes quickly a year. At the same time you want to input some new ideas and insights from the local market experience, however lead time at headquarters are much longer than in the local markets, as it takes for example 4 years to develop a new movement till implementation. Therefore, change is always evolutionary, as only the communication can be changed instantly; the rest takes time.
3. IWC have been known for watches ‘engineered for men and tool watches in the last century’. In recent years, the image of IWC has often been linked to celebrities and lifestyle and colorful variations of dials in certain lines are being seen. Moving forward, what can we expect from IWC?
IWC has gone through a period of rapid growth in the last 10 years. When Richemont acquired the brand in 2000, it was a mid-sized company with a strong regional focus in Europe and a weak distribution around the world. The global activities and infrastructure of Richemont around the world allowed the brand to establish itself on all continents. At the same time the brand needed to be known and not only be present locally in stores. The work with the various global Artists helped to put the brand on the map for a wider audience. Now that we have reached a strong level of recognition in the relevant circles, we will refocus on our technical innovation and manufacturing capabilities.
4. This year is the year of the Aquatimer. Can you tell us more about the new range of AQUATIMERS and how you intend to excite fans of IWC?
The Aquatimer has gone through the most physical changes over the last almost 5 decades since 1967 with various adaptations from outer to inner rotating bezels. In the new collection, we will combine an outer rotating bezel for ease of setting with an inner rotating bezel with the scaling. We will have the previously clearly differentiating and appreciated inner rotating bezel with an outer rotating bezel that resembles the legendary Ocean 2000 from 1982.
The new collection will also have a proprietary quick bracelet change system and all watches have now at least a water resistance to 30 bar, equivalent to 300 m diving depth. The legendary 2000 m watch will not be missing in the new collection either, as well as a new mechanical depth gauge.
For the first time, we will offer a bronze case as a the tribute to Charles Darwin’s initial expedition to the Galapagos Islands. And there will be an oversized digital perpetual calendar in red gold (49 mm diameter) with a very technical looking dial in a 50 piece limited edition topping the new collection.
5. Which is your favorite piece in this year’s novelties and why?
I like the Deep Three as it combines some of the pioneering characteristics of the Aquatimer collection as IWC was the first to produce watches in titanium and develop a mechanical depth gauge. This watch combines both and offers with its subtle color accents and clean dial an inspiring leisure watch.
6. How successful has IWC been in the last 5 years with thematic booths?
We have attracted a lot of attention with the thematic booths and it was for many attendees of the SIHH a highlight. As mentioned above, we are now well known in the watchmaking world and will focus more on technicality and manufacturing in the future that lend to a new and maybe more mature appearance at the SIHH as well. It will not be less intriguing or even boring, as we have already some very exciting and surprising models to be unveiled.
Furthermore, a thematic appearance limits the focus on one watch collection that restricts the communication at the same time.
7. That being said, what can fans of IWC expect in the next few years in terms of new products or innovation knowing Georges Kern has once famously said ‘IWC do not need innovation’?
There needs to be some surprises in life. We are working on it.
8. Personally, how has moving back to Switzerland changed you and your family?
Singapore and the Asian region have really grown on us and we had a wonderful time. It was enriching from a cultural point of view and professionally. We appreciate the beauty of Singapore and its surrounding countries with its diversity of people. We have returned invigorated and strengthened as a family with extraordinary memories and experiences. (WOW)
9. What do you miss most from SEA?
Foremost friends and then the food and the sunny, warm weather.
(Republished with permission from KS Low – this article was first published on IWC’s SEA club FB page)