In a year marking its 150th anniversary, IWC officially inaugurated its new manufacturing center. Located just outside the town of Schaffhausen, where its HQ has been located since its founding, the new facility is a center of production and assembly, designed with the future of the brand in mind.
“Back in 1868, our founder Florentine Ariosto Jones was already pairing traditional watchmaking with advanced production methods,” said Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen. “Ever since he established this approach to engineering, we have been systematically developing it; even today, we continue to combine skilled workmanship and sophisticated technology in our new Manufakturzentrum. But the building has more to offer than just optimal conditions for production and excellent working conditions for our employees – it also embodies the spirit of the IWC brand and allows visitors from all over the world to see up close how our manufacture movements and cases are produced.”
The building is modeled after exhibition pavilions, like countries used to create for world’s fairs and grand exhibitions. “These pavilions allowed countries to showcase their greatest achievements in terms of technology, trade and art,” Grainger-Herr explained. “This blend of gallery, workshop and engineering trade fair seemed to me to be a fitting architectural foundation on which to base the design, and the classical modernist style is an excellent match for our brand. We are a manufacturer with a 150-year history, but we are also a manufacturer that looks to the future. This is perfectly encapsulated in modernist architecture. Rather than backwards-looking neoclassicism, it is a classical interpretation with a nod to the future.
“When you first set foot in the new Manufakturzentrum, you immediately get a sense of what IWC is all about, as well as a sense of the pride that our employees take in their work,” he continued. “If production is divided up over multiple stories or buildings, you don’t get that sense. To foster effective teamwork, we have set up special shop floor areas, for example. In these areas, teams can discuss objectives, quality requirements and current issues in the department itself. In this way, the architecture facilitates faster communication flows and improved processes. We also made use of various architectural tricks to create a rather special atmosphere – for instance, the projecting flat roofs are covered with wooden planks. This makes the new building feel a little like a house with a generously proportioned veranda, and creates a cozy ambience.”
The facility has been operational since March of this year and the official inauguration drew a crowd of international journalists, important retailers, customers, local dignitaries (I shared the tour of the manufacture with the mayor of Schaffhausen and a cantonal bigwig) and IWC legend Kurt Klaus.
As part of the inauguration, all the employees lined up outside the main entrance while speeches were made, then Grainger-Herr, Klaus and a watchmaker together flipped a switch that changed the display that initially read 1868 to 2018, after which fireworks and confetti shot into the air and the manufacture was officially open.
“I am excited about this new manufacture, because it will allow us to make more and more of our own movements,” Klaus said. “Having all the processes under one roof will have a great impact.”
In a continuing effort to get ever-closer to its end consumers, this facility is set up to host customers and interested guests, allowing them to get a glimpse of how IWC watches are manufactured. Key parts of the process are visible from walkways and every step of the manufacturing is explained with text, images and videos. It’s an effective combination of high tech manufacturing and customer outreach.
The new IWC facility is definitely worth celebrating. Where many brands are pulling back and carefully watching expenditures, IWC is making a strong statement about where it is and where it is going. The new facility, designed and set up exactly as IWC wanted it to be, is a huge step which reinforces the brand’s growth with a view towards its future
And, just outside of Schaffhausen, that future sure looks bright.