Luxos talks to Georges Kern, CEO of luxury watch brand IWC Featured

The approach to luxury timepieces in an exclusive interview
by 07 October 2009

Tradition, technology, the spirit of adventure – these are the identities of IWC since its foundation in 1868. It all began in the town of Schauffhausen, Switzerland, where an American called Florentine Ariosto Jones established a watch factory. There was no looking back for IWC. After more than 140 years, today the brand’s CEO is Mr. Georges Kern. We bring you this exclusive interview where he told us all about IWC.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Being the son of a jeweller, I was surrounded by the world of jewellery, gems and luxury watches as a child. I developed an affinity for beautiful things and a feeling for design, and I find that these now stand me in good stead.
How would you describe a person who wears an IWC watch?
We appeal to people with an interest in technology. Although they may not understand the technology in depth, they derive emotional inspiration from it. Typical IWC customers appreciate the restrained design, the functionality and the user-friendliness of our timepieces.

What is IWC’s mission?
Every business has economic, social and ecological responsibility. We at IWC are facing up to this challenge. We have already been actively involved in improving our environmental balance sheet for a number of years. Thanks to our initiatives, IWC has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions produced at our headquarters in Schaffhausen by 80% since 2001 and IWC has been certified as a CO2-neutral business since the summer of 2007. Environmental adventurer David de Rothschild will set off this spring - with the support of IWC - on his Plastiki Expedition. It will take him to the so-called Eastern Garbage Patch on a boat constructed with plastic bottles and recycled material. Through this spectacular action, de Rothschild will draw attention to the enormous floating refuse dump that is adrift in the Pacific Ocean. We recently entered into a further partnership with the Charles Darwin Foundation, which is committed to the protection of the environment and marine conservation in the Galapagos. Our Aquatimer Chronograph Edition Galapagos Islands is dedicated specifically to this undertaking.

What are the most important things we must know about IWC?
In the world of watchmaking, IWC Schaffhausen has been setting standards in Haute Horlogerie for more than a hundred years. The International Watch Company was founded in Schaffhausen in 1868 by the American-Florentine Ariosto Jones. We have a balanced collection, in which six families of watches are represented: Portuguese, Da Vinci, Ingenieur, Pilot's Watches, Aquatimer and Portofino. We also offer a number of connoisseur's items in the Specialities range with the Grande Complication and our pocket watches. Most of our watches are priced between 7,000 and 20,000 Swiss Francs. At SIHH in January 2009, we presented the updated Aquatimer family of diver's watches, which have undergone extensive revision technically and aesthetically. IWC has grown into a strong brand and has gained a worldwide reputation with its passion for ingenious inventions, innovative solutions and technical refinements.

What are IWC’s major markets today?
Europe is still our prime market, although we have extended our activities in Asia on a massive scale. We will continue to invest there in the future. China in particular is a strong growth market.

On a more personal note, what are you favourite hotels or restaurants in the world?
I like hotels and restaurants in Asia and the Middle East. I love the service of the Four Seasons and Hyatt. And I love Nobu, Zuma and other similar restaurants. Last autumn I was in Thailand with my family and we all loved it.

What does time mean to you personally?
I am admittedly no philosopher. To me, as a determined individual, time is a precious asset. Yet I find clichés such as "time is a luxury" too pretentious. Time for me is simply a pragmatic means of mastering all the challenging tasks that await me every day at IWC.

For a list of IWC boutiques worldwide, click here.

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