IWC Management Interview: WatchProSite Members' Questions Answered

May 21, 2020,14:57 PM


Last month in April 2020, WatchProSite members had the opportunity to ask IWC executives some detailed questions about IWC watches!  We are pleased that we received answers from IWC.


There were some two dozen questions posed and some have been answered already by the launch of some new product! 


But WatchProSite members are known to be the most demanding and technical amongst all the forums, so many of these questions were of a technical nature.  IWC Management was very impressed with these difficult questions, as some were very technical and indicated a solid foundation of watch mechanical knowledge.  Without further ado, here are the questions presented by WatchProSite members and answers from IWC's Associate Director Technics, Research & Design, Stefan Ihnen and Associate Director of Product Management Technics & R&D, Walter Volpers.   


From Moderator Patrick_y: From a product perspective; what comments can be made about IWC’s long-term strategy?  What can we expect to see in the future from the brand?    
Walter Volpers (Associate Director of Product Management Technics & R&D): We will continue to develop our six iconic product lines and deliver timepieces that bring the finest technology, timeless design and unique emotions to the wrist. During recent years, we made significant investments in manufacturing capabilities and quality. In 2018, we inaugurated our new Manufacturing Centre, where we combine traditional craftsmanship with state-of-the-art production methods. We have introduced several new IWC-manufactured calibres, such as the 69000 calibre family of column-wheel chronograph movements, or the 82000 calibre family, a highly precise and robust automatic movements. As a consequence of our investments in the longevity and durability of our products, we have also introduced our new My IWC program last year, which extends the International Limited Warranty for their timepiece from 2 to 8 years. All the models in the new Portugieser collection we just launched at the digital “Watches & Wonders” exhibition are fitted with IWC-manufactured movements. The new collection is also an excellent example of what you can expect from our brand in the future: all-manufacture technology paired with timeless, iconic design.


From “Pour Le Merite” a watch collector and long time reader of WatchProSite: What can you tell us about the future for the IWC Aquatimer?  

Walter Volpers (Associate Director of Product Management Technics & R&D): A broad range of product families that cater to different tastes and preferences is key to the sustained success of the IWC brand. While our Pilot’s Watches, the Ingenieur or the Aquatimer are on the sporty side, the Portugieser, Portofino and Da Vinci impress with classic elegance. The Aquatimer is a watch that has been developed specifically for diving, and it is by far our sportiest line. It has been an integral part of our portfolio since 1967, and we introduced many exciting technical features in this line. The Aquatimer enjoys substantial success, and even though I can not go into any details at this time, you can rest assured to see more innovations in this family in the future.

Lavrentivs: Why isn’t there a three-hand Portugieser manual wind with no date in the current collection?  The discontinuation of the 5454 is a pity because it was the last of the pocket watch movements with three hands and no date, the genesis of the Portugieser.  Any plans to reintroduce the 5454 or a successor? 

Walter Volpers (Associate Director of Product Management Technics & R&D): The Portugieser Hand-Wound Reference 5454 is based on the IWC-manufactured 98000 calibre family. These pocket watch sized movements took inspiration from the early Jones calibres and also featured the distinctive “Jones arrow” for regulating the balance. However, they oscillate at a frequency of only 2.5 Hz and have a limited power reserve. All of our current IWC-manufactured movements feature a rate of 4 Hz and also have a higher power reserve. Because the 98000 calibre family was not up-to-date anymore in terms of technology, we decided to discontinue these movements. We have, however, introduced the new Portugieser Automatic 40 in the iconic three-hand Portugieser design. This watch is fitted with a movement from our new IWC-manufactured 82000 calibre family. These highly precise and reliable automatic movements feature Pellaton winding with ceramic components. An automatic winding system is well in line with what our customers expect from a modern dress watch of today.


Lavrentivs: Would IWC consider reusing the “International Watch Co.” cursive script on the dials of future releases?

Walter Volpers (Associate Director of Product Management Technics & R&D): In our Portugieser collection, as in all the watches in our current portfolio, we are using the new “IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN” logo in capital block letters. There are no plans currently to reuse the old, cursive “International Watch Co.” logo on our timepieces.


Lavrentivs: Would IWC consider introducing a column wheel, manual wind, chronograph movement into the Portugieser line? 

Walter Volpers (Associate Director of Product Management Technics & R&D): I n 2017, we introduced the new IWC-manufactured 69000 calibre. These highly robust and precise chronograph movements in classic column-wheel design have since been used in the Ingenieur line, in our Pilot’s Watches family, and in the new Portugieser collection. The IWC-manufactured 69355 calibre now powers the Portugieser Chronograph, one of the most iconic models from Schaffhausen. Nowadays, our customers ask for practicality and everyday wearing comfort, so an automatic winding system is a very useful feature. By designing a manually wound version of this chronograph, we could indeed save some height in the case. However, for the time being, we have no plans to do this.


Lavrentivs: Any plans to introduce thinner and smaller watches?  A 38-40mm diameter Ingenieur under 10mm thick would likely sell well.

Walter Volpers (AAssociate Director of Product Management Technics & R&D): Even though IWC has garnered worldwide appeal for its distinctively large timepieces which often were influenced by our pocket watch heritage, we also offer a broad selection of models with more compact sizes. Our new Portugieser Automatic 40 is a great example. It presents the iconic design created with our Reference 325 in the late 1930s in a case measuring only 40 millimeters. There are many more successful examples of rather compact IWC watches. Let me also mention the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, which has a diameter of 40 millimeters and a height of 10 millimeters. It’s available in a range of different versions, including a “Le Petit Prince” edition with a blue dial. The choice between calfskin straps, metal bracelets or textile “Nato” straps further enhances the unique appeal of this elegant all-rounder.

Patrick_y: In terms of research and development; how many months did the R&D team require to design and test the new 69000 series in-house movement? How big is the R&D team? What aspect of this new design was the most difficult to achieve?

Stefan Ihnen (IWC's Associate Director Technics, Research & Design): The development of the IWC-manufactured 69000 calibre took about four years from design to testing. At the moment, I lead a team of 43 specialists. Almost half of them work in the area of movement development. There were a lot of challenges we had to face. Developing a chronograph is always a challenge, and this project was no different. During the last 15 years, we developed three different chronographs, and each of them was a considerable challenge. Our 69000 calibre family was designed to replace third-party movements and to be manufactured in significant quantities. The development not only needed to ensure complete functionality as well as maximum quality and reliability of the chronograph. But they also had to work very closely with our production and assembly teams to make sure that the movement could later be produced using the modern and industrialized processes that we set up in our new Manufacturing Centre.

Patrick_y: Is the new 69000 movement an integrated or modular movement? How did IWC arrive at this choice?

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design): The 69000 is a fully integrated chronograph. We believe that the integration of the chronograph mechanism into the movement is a technically superior solution. The advantage of this approach is that, from the very beginning, you can design and position every component as you think it works best, without any restrictions or limitations from the base movement.

Patrick_y: From a movement perspective; what comments can be made about IWC’s long-term strategy? What can we expect to see in the future from the brand?

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design): The manufacturing strategy that we have been implementing for many years now is fundamental. After the Quartz crisis of the 1970s, IWC had almost no movement manufacturing capabilities anymore. When the mechanical watch made its comeback during the 1980s, IWC started to rebuild third-party movements and completed them with complication modules. Many of IWC’s most famous classics date from that era, for example, the perpetual calendar, the rattrapante, or the UTC, to name just a few. The first IWC-manufactured calibre entirely built in-house was launched in the year 2000 with the calibre 5000. Inspired by its success and driven by the increased demand for manufacture movements, we then developed more and more basic calibres over the past 15-20 years. Each of these basic movements meant a considerable investment. We started with the top segment and then focused primarily on calibres with a lot of energy to drive complications or calibres with a high power reserve. Like this, we gradually worked our way down to the entry-level segment. Today, we can compete with the movements of third-party manufacturers, also thanks to our new manufacturing centre. This leads me to what you can expect from us in the coming years: in-house movements in all segments, a broad range of functional complications, and a few surprises in Haute Horlogerie.

From “LX” a watch collector with 4 IWC timepieces. Is the new 69000 movement partially derived from the Valjoux 7750, or a whole new movement from the ground up? Was any 7750 architecture incorporated into the 69000? And if so, what was the rationale for its incorporation?

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design): The 69000 calibre family is an entirely new movement, built from scratch. A large part of the architecture was developed together with and for IWC's assembly process. But of course, we also took inspiration from other movements, for example, from our existing chronographs like the IWC-manufactured 89361 calibre or the IWC-manufactured 59360 calibre.

From “Pour Le Merite” a watch collector and long time reader of WatchProSite: Any three-hand movement in the pipeline? Will the pocket-watch manual-wind movement (98295 with large balance wheel, not 59215) be reintroduced?

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design ): We have a large number of movement projects in the pipeline that I cannot comment on here. However, in the last years, we have launched two new automatic three-hand calibres (82000 and 32000). Before we venture into the development of more basic movements, we want to expand these calibre families. There are also no plans to produce the 98000 calibre movements again.

From “Spangles” a long-time watch collector: What are some advantages of the new 69000 movement in terms of reliability, serviceability, and accuracy? What technical achievements were made to achieve these improvements?

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design ): When we designed the 69000 calibre families, we used many tried and tested principles, and we put a lot of emphasis on making them even more robust and reliable. The 69000 calibre was the first base movement in which all functions and components were designed for a service interval of well over ten years and tested in our laboratory accordingly. Many, also non-obvious things, have been intensively worked on and improved. For example, we introduced new and highly durable lubricants with this calibre. Or we revised the screw connections. To increase the precision of the movement, we have worked on the tooth profiles to smoothen the torque curve and improved many other details.

From “roundel,” a long-time reader on WatchProSite.   Roundel: How does the new 69000 movement’s winding system differ from a traditional Pellaton winding system? They both wind both ways. Any visual pictures to illustrate the winding systems would be appreciated!

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design ): Both systems use both directions of the rotor to wind up the mainspring, and both are doing so using clicks. The Pellaton system has two pulling clicks, while the 69000 calibre’s winding system has a pulling click and a pushing click. Another difference is the bearing of the oscillating weight (rotor). The Pellaton needs a bearing axle, while the winding system of the 69000 is working with a ball bearing, which makes it much more compact, especially in height.

Roundel: Does the new 69000 movement have a vertical clutch or a horizontal clutch?

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design ): The 69000 movement works with an oscillating pinion, a horizontal clutch system.

Roundel: Any exploded pictures or charts of the new 69000 movement?

From “lk,” a new reader on WatchProSite: Any plans for an alarm movement or other complication to be introduced on the Portugieser or other IWC timepiece?

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design ): At the moment we have more than 30 projects in the pipeline, in different stages of the development, and ranging from simple to highly complicated. I cannot comment here, but there are some exciting things on their way.

From “brandon1” a long-tim reader on WatchProSite: IWC has some models with a free sprung balance and many that do not, why is this? Hopefully it’s not due to costs nor production difficulty!

Stefan Ihnen (Associate Director Technics, Research & Design ): The reason for this are production processes and quantities. The models with a free-sprung balance can be found in our top range of watches. The effort required for regulation is considerably higher than for the index-regulated movements. To ensure equally good regulation in entry-level segment movements, these are semi-automatically pre-regulated so that the watchmaker then only has to fine-tune them. This process is only possible using an index-regulated system.

Many special thanks to our esteemed Interviewees Stefan Ihnen and Walter Volpers from IWC and our WatchProSite members who participated in our previous thread who asked great questions!  Many thanks LX, MTR, Pour le Merite, LankySudanese, India Whiskey Charlie, Spangles, Lavrentivs, Todd B, Roundel, Ron_W, Lk, Weems@8, and Brandon1! 

  login to reply

Comments: view entire thread


Yes Patrick

 By: Weems@8 : May 21st, 2020-15:54
Thank you for replying. It is a lot to read, so i go read everything upcoming weekend. What i read is the Aquatimer text box. A bit disappointed about it. So why look further? IWC said, they have succes with the Aquatimer, so they do not change anything. ... 

Thanks for putting this together, Patrick.👍

 By: India Whiskey Charlie : May 21st, 2020-16:24
I could not have done a better job.

Why thank you! [nt]

 By: patrick_y : May 21st, 2020-16:32

Thank you Spangles for participating!

 By: patrick_y : May 21st, 2020-18:37
I hope you're satisfied with the answer you received for your question!

Thanks Patrick for making this possible!

 By: agyzace : May 21st, 2020-22:17
Having read it I was disappointed I have to say: a) because their answers were created as out of a textbook - they were not authentic in the way they wrote them and b) the prospects of anything a bit romantic or inspiring (eg manual winds, vintage logo, f... 

Swiss-German watchmaking is very serious!

 By: patrick_y : May 21st, 2020-22:55
Swiss-German watchmaking is very serious and the answers are about what I expected, although I do agree with you some were very "textbook" to me as well. Plus, we were so much more "technical" than others that they probably responded with a more "technica... 

Thanks for the great further input and insights, Christian!

 By: agyzace : May 22nd, 2020-03:38
I will read the other interview with interest. Have a great day! Alex

Thanks Alex! Hopefully you like the other interview!

 By: patrick_y : May 22nd, 2020-19:29
We will be having another interview with the CEO of IWC soon!

I have to agree. 👍🏻

 By: MCG (Markus) : May 22nd, 2020-03:16
The answers are somehow ok for watch novices, but not for serious watch lovers / collectors, that did care for this brand and topic for many years already...

Overall, it's very difficult...

 By: patrick_y : May 22nd, 2020-19:27
I once had a protracted discussion about motorsports, and the conversation segmented to tires on race cars. When I got into the technical stuff about tires, I realized quickly that my audience was not interested and that it was not what they wanted to hea... 

Thank you Ron! [nt]

 By: patrick_y : May 22nd, 2020-00:32

Incredible effort and result! Looking forward to your ceo interview!

 By: darrony : May 22nd, 2020-08:12
Owner of 3536-01 and 5001-07... looking for a 3rd!

Why thank you!

 By: patrick_y : May 22nd, 2020-10:48
I like both of those models. The 5001 has a true Pellaton winding system. A third one for you? Maybe a Pilots watch if you like the style? Otherwise, if you like the Portugeiser, the classic Chronograph is another one of my favorites!

Can't go wrong there!

 By: patrick_y : May 24th, 2020-22:07
The only thing I didn't like about the Big Pilot is that the strap is a little thin. For a 46mm strap, it has an extremely narrow strap. This is not very comfortable as it doesn't spread the width and the weight of the watch over a large surface area. It ... 

Thanks Patrick, great work putting this together.

 By: brandon1 : May 22nd, 2020-10:15
I appreciate the honesty of their answer. I'm surprised they were willing to acknowledge such a distinct stratification within their collections.

Me too!

 By: patrick_y : May 22nd, 2020-10:46
Although honestly, more pieces could be free sprung, even those in the lower price strata. But, at the same time, the people who pay the big bucks do need to get some differentiation for the additional costs!

An interesting read.

 By: lavrentivs : May 23rd, 2020-08:28
Thank you very much for your effort and time in organising and compiling this. It's greatly appreciated.

Thank you Lavrentivs!

 By: patrick_y : May 23rd, 2020-09:40
I trust your questions were answered to your satisfaction! Thank you for your generous comments!

A Bit late for me to read, but I appreciate it very much.

 By: hoseachandra : May 24th, 2020-22:27
Thank you, Patrick for the effort. As a fan of IWC ( I have owned a Mark XVI, a Spitfire UTC; sold both of them and now have Pilot 3706 that I will never sell), honestly a bit let down by the answers, although I respect their honesty. What is see is , a s... 

I agree with all of your points!

 By: patrick_y : May 24th, 2020-22:33
The answers to the interview are very direct and on point. They're very factual questions. So there's not a lot of room to extrapolate. Furthermore, it's Swiss-German, that Germanic culture is very on-point. I agree with you, the current Ingenieur is a me... 

I am an IWC Big Pilot Fan, I have had many over the years. Currently in rotation 5002-01, 5002-02 5004-28 and Heritage 48. [nt]

 By: nacelle : June 2nd, 2020-14:15
Looking for a Heritage 55 but have not found one at a price point that I am comfortable with....