As meetings go, it ranks among the most important I’ve had in nearly 40 years as a watch enthusiast. Kurt Klaus is the legendary master watchmaker who served as Head of Development and Research at IWC for 50 years and since “retirement” has become a global brand ambassador. His stories deserve a book that would tell not just the tale of IWC from the mid-1950s, but also include chapters about the revival of the industry, for Klaus was the key player in IWC’s rebirth, as well as that of A. Lange & Söhne.
As the main designer of IWC’s Da Vinci perpetual calendar in 1985, Klaus deserves to be ranked with the celebrated personalities who not only kept mechanical watches alive, but who re-established them: men like Gerd-R Lang, Nicolas Hayek Sr, Jean-Claude Biver and especially Klaus’s friend, Günter Blümlein, who saved IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Lange. Klaus worked closely with Blümlein, whom he acknowledges as a great enabler. And there’s another book that surely needs writing.
Did you arrive at IWC as an apprentice?
It was 1957. I was then qualified as a watchmaker. I had already been to school to learn watchmaking. After school, I had to do my military service, and between the services, I was working for Eterna. At that time – in 1954-1955 – it was a really high-quality watch manufacturer. The reason I didn’t stay in Grenchen at that time was that I had a girlfriend, like me from St. Gallen in the eastern part of Switzerland near Schaffhausen. We talked about getting married and she said: “Wonderful! But please, not here!” She wanted to go home and one possibility was for me to ask IWC if they needed a young watchmaker? And that’s how I ended up there.