Retrospect is a funny thing. It is often laced with embarrassment and discomfort, as one looks back with disbelief at the decisions they made once upon a time. However, true growth involves and derives from looking at decisions made in the past, interpreting them in one’s present situation and then applying it to enhance your future. IWC, being one of the world’s longest standing luxury watch brands, can attribute retrospect – at least in part – to the brand’s enduring relevance and progressive success to being completely in tune with their history.
David Seyffer, IWC Museum Creator, has been working with the brand for a decade now and emphasises the importance of a little bit of tradition in our fast-paced modern society. “With all this new technology and new ways of communication, everything is fast,” said David. “Society will throw away everything. In life, a mechanical watch is the only thing that stands. For example like we at IWC (you know that we’re more than just 150 years old) and you know that there is a service department who can manage to make the pocket watch of your grandfather work one more time, then hey, how cool is that?”
“Society will throw away everything. In life, a mechanical watch is the only thing that stands.”
Since the brand’s inception in 1868, they have never shied away from maintaining a vintage aesthetic while combining with futuristic mechanisms, which is pretty obvious in pieces like their Da Vinci Automatic 40mm which debuted at this year’s SIHH. Much like the collection’s namesake, innovation was pivotal. David notes how integral it is to this particular collection’s ethos.
“At a certain point, all innovation becomes very important for the heritage,” said David. “Keeping elements from the 1980’s (Da Vinci) collection onto the new was very important from a technical point of view. Da Vinci, you know the name? The guy? It’s always about innovation like we do have today – the perpetual calendar with a new in-house movement tourbillion, with a chronograph, really innovative stuff. It has to be in the Da Vinci. So, this is something new, very new”.
“That’s the advantage of studying history. You always know the result.”
David also goes on to talk about the mundaneness that some people associate with history and how people in positions like himself work to make that interesting. “Museums sometimes are a little bit boring because maybe not everybody likes it, but we have to make it appealing and tell the story so that people like it – using new technology,” said David. “There is so much around I would like to have, for example, more integrated cabinets because there is technology, which can bring things alive. You never would think about it. I think, the technique with presentation also in the museum, you could take that and make it interesting.”
That challenge to make history interesting again is something that is certainly integrated deeply throughout the IWC brand. David explains how he believes, quite existentially, that every single watch carries a story with it – as if it retains personal information – and that’s enough to make it compelling. “You should remember that it’s not just a gadget or an accessory you buy or looks nice,” said David. “No, it has a soul.”
David, on a final note, discusses how this understanding of the interplay between yesterday and tomorrow is key to IWC’s timeless appeal. “You take (a vintage IWC) on your wrist and I swear nobody would even think it’s historic,” said David. “And you know that’s kind of the design of our modern piece – the timeless design. This is good. This is what we have with a lot of our items.”
All in all, it’s pretty clear that with watchmaking it is essential to remember the past in order to progress towards the future. History possesses both mistakes and triumphs, and one needs both to manufacture quality, unique products in the coming days.
As David so perfectly put it: “That’s the advantage of studying history. You always know the result.”