Interview with IWC's Associate Director Creative Center, Christian Knoop Featured

The Portofino is a new icon for the Swiss mechanical watches brand
by 05 February 2011

Luxos interviews Christian Knoop, Associate Director of the Creative Center at IWC

Can you tell us about your role at IWC?
I've been at IWC for two years, heading the internal Creative Center. My role as the Creative Director is to orchestrate all visual aesthetics for the brand, from the watches and all our coprorate and print materials, to the design of our boutiques and points of sale around the world. My background is in industrial design. Before IWC, I worked for a couple of international agencies on product development and branding.

What's your personal experience so far with IWC?
It's a great creative challenge to work for such a brand. For me, what makes the experience fascinating to take care of the brand's overall aesthetics. I love working with an international team, with designers from different backgrounds and nationalities. In Schauffhausen, we're all on one floor: marketing, product research and development, design and so forth. So we have very close communication and idea cross-fertilization.

Every year, IWC's stand at SIHH is so unique. How do you achieve that?
Nowadays, a product launch is much more just presenting one product. It's an integrated event. So it's about coming up with a beautifully designed product, with all the right content, which is going to be sold around the world. It is being communicated - supported - with great marketing and printed materials, which can often determine whether a product is going to be a success or not.

How would you describe IWC in your opinion?
IWC is not just a brand. It's a company with more than 140 years of history. When you come to Schaffhausen and see the watchmakers working, see the old factory building, you can see that everything happens here in an authentic way. Schaffhausen gives us the foundation to do something special. We like to surprise at the fair, playing with themes like with the Portofino. We are a true manufacture in every sense. We are lucky to have six unique families with distinct identities, so every year, we tell different stories of our brand and get closer to our customers.

What makes the Portofino so unique from a design point of view?
When we got started, we were looking at a product that has always been very well-received in the market. We wanted to extend the collection with more references, and bring it up on par with the Portuguese and the Big Pilot. To elevate its technology, we integrated a couple of new movements into the new Portofino line too.

What is the Portofino's image?
The spirit of the Portofino is holiday and the traveller's leisure. We have a Dual Time, the Hand Wound watch with eight days of power reserve, which is handy when you're away from home. All watch functions have their usage, not just the looks. We wanted this for our Portofino also. From communications to the visual environment, we have elevated the Portofino. We're presenting this collection at SIHH for the first time.

Can you tell us about IWC's collaboration with Peter Lindbergh?
We invited Peter Lindbergh, one of the best photographers in the world, to do a photoshoot last May in Portofino, with 13 of our friends of the brand. This photo exhibition will tour around the world in more than 20 locations. We collaborated closely with Peter Lindbergh to create the catalogue for the photo exhibition too. We want people to experience what Portofino is about. Portofino got international recognition in the 50s and 60s, when this fishing village on the Amalfi Coast became a popular holiday destination for the international jetset, like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Clark Gable. The secret behind La Dolce Vita is a simple, elegant lifestyle. The spirit of casual sophistication leads our Portofino line.

I've been working with a couple of photographers in Zurich. Our goal is to capture the spirit of the IWC product families with the watch in the photo. So when someone looks at our image, there is no doubt about what the watch is used for. You'd immediately understand, "It's about diving" or "it's about expeditions" or "it's about holiday leisure" and so on

Do you have a typical day or week?
Apart from the daily emails and meetings, an important thing that I do is planning. We plan at least a couple of years ahead. From the first sketch to the product launch, it takes about two years. Right now, we are already working on and discussing about 2013's, 2014's launch.

Where do you find inspirations?
That's very hard to describe. Most designers will say they find inspirations from books, magazines and newspapers, but you can also find inspirations at places like the flea market, a vintage store. Sometimes you come across old products, or things that your families and friends share with you, or you see someone wearing something special in a café… Things outside the context of watchmaking can be inspiring. I find it amusing that the 50s and 60s trends were so big in the fashion industry last season. Perhaps creative people think in a similar way and sometimes they get inspirations from similar resources. In the watch industry, we have a different pace from, say, fashion, which comes and goes quickly.

With the new economy, has the consumer's taste changed?
It's our observation that people have been looking for more timeless design and long-lasting products this past year in particular. People are wondering whether something they buy is a sound investment that will still be good in 10 or 20 years.

What are your recommendations this year?
I recommend the new Eight-day hand would and the Dual Time. I personally love the Dual Time because I travel a lot and find it very useful. The Portofino is timesless, classic, and it is not a follower of the latest fashion. For over 20 years, it has had its own design codes, and is quickly becoming an icon in our porfolio.

Read more:
Our interview with IWC's Research and Development
Our Top 10 watches in the world coverage
The Spirit of Portofino
IWC's New Romance
IWC, the Extraordinary Story of a Luxury Watches Brand
Breaking the Waves with IWC
IWC's Shanghai Opening
IWC boutique worldwide listings