IWC’S Chris Grainger-Herr talks heritage, innovation and the importance of detailsBorna Bošnjak
Walking into the IWC booth at this year’s Watches & Wonders, you were instantly transported into the 1970s, surrounded by iconic shapes from design geniuses of the time. To efficiently navigate this landscape that likely resembles the inside of Dieter Rams’ brain, you need a competent guide, and who better than IWC CEO Chris Grainger-Herr? Whether it’s connecting all the small design details of the booth that supplement the Ingenieur story, teasing new technology that’s set to be used by the brand in the future, or geeking out over actual Lego pieces being used in a stress-testing machine – Grainger-Herr is your man.
The fact that Grainger-Herr is simply obsessed with the details is immediately apparent. The centrepiece of the room is Bruno Sacco’s retro-futuristic Mercedes C111, a prototype that never made production, but was mooted as a follow-up to the iconic 300 SL Gullwing. Displays around the room are Dieter Rams’ FS80 TV sets, accompanied by the stereo system and speakers designed by the icon of industrial design. All of this, of course, is here to accompany one of the headlining releases of the entire fair, and that’s the revival of Gerald Genta’s IWC Ingenieur, the original hailing from the same decades as the aforementioned designs.
Those same FS80 TVs show off IWC’s foray into the future as well. As Grainger-Herr explains, the brand has been looking to integrate AI technology into their design and manufacturing processes in the future. Though that technology isn’t quite there, IWC made use of Midjourney and GPT-4 to create the Genta Around the World teaser campaign and the Ingenieurgeist chat-bot, which combs through IWC’s and ChatGPT’s archives and delivers Genta-like responses to any question you may have. A little eerie, a lot cool.
As for the Ingenieur’s conception, white and black colourways were no-brainers, considering their historic relevance to the Ingenieur SL. A colour that surprised many was the greenish-blue “aqua” dial. Beginning life as a shade for another project (no prizes if you guessed the Pilot’s Chronograph Mercedes F1 team collaboration), it captured Grainger-Herr’s eye when fitted on a prototype version of the Ingenieur’s H-link bracelet with polished mid-links. Grainger-Herr’s relationship with IWC far precedes his taking over of the brand, going as far back as 2000. And wouldn’t you know it, working as an external architect for the IWC museum, his job was to design the display for the Ingenieur collection. Unfortunately, IWC came back letting him know that the entire museum cannot be centred around the Ingenieur. Nearly two decades later, his involvement with the Genta design finally came to be.
While the Ingenieur stole the headlines, IWC’s other releases kind of went under the radar, especially the two new Pilot’s Chronos in the Green & Gold and TOP GUN Oceana. The former features a rich 18k 5N gold case with a trendy green dial, combining them with a EasX-CHANGE-equipped rubber strap – a couple of these could be found chilling in one of IWC’s many testing stations.. For the Oceana, IWC followed in the footsteps of the highly successful Woodland and Lake Tahoe models, this time opting for a matte blue ceramic case and dial, with a denim-like strap.