IWC President: People Aren’t Buying Our Watches to Tell Time

While unveiling a limited-edition Portugieser Annual Calendar, the company reveals it has no plans to create a smartwatch like rival Tag Heuer.

IWC unveils its Tribeca Film Festival-inspired timepiece.

The North American president of watch company IWC argues that the future of luxury watches will be in making rare collections—and creating partnerships that appeal to new audiences, not smartwatches.

In honor of Manhattan's annual Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place starting on April 13, the Swiss watchmaker produced a limited edition of its latest perpetual calendar watch with special TFF branding on the back.

The IWC "Tribeca Film Festival" Portofino Monopusher Limited Edition watch.

The IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar Edition Tribeca Film Festival 2016.

Source: IWC

“We don’t think anybody is buying our watches to tell time,” confessed Edouard D'Arbaumont, speaking on Bloomberg Markets to promote the limited edition watch. "It’s all about the DNA, the history of our product, also what is behind our watches. We have to tell stories, like in the film industry."

The audience for a branded watch like this—which is essentially the same as other Portugieser Annual Calendars, a line the company kicked off last year—will be people who want something no one else has. Only 50 of them will be made.

"It’s going to be people who follow IWC and who enjoy the brand, and people who are into the filmmaking industry," explained D'Arbaumont. "They like the exclusivity."

This is how IWC plans to thrive in an era when most people have a phone that can tell them the time—and do lots of other useful things, too. The company has no plans to create a smartwatch like rival Tag Heuer.

"The last thing you want is your IWC perpetual calendar to include a piece of technology that will become obsolete in a couple of years," he said. "You want your IWC to still be [up-to-date] when you pass it along to your kids and grandkids 50 years from today, or 100 years from today. That's the whole point."

IWC does plan on launching a connected strap, called IWC Connect, that will connect to the Internet of Things and will work as a fitness tracker.  That way, when the technology becomes outdated, you can just swap out the strap for a new one and keep that mechanical watch you want to give your grandkids in 100 years.


The IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar Edition Tribeca Film Festival 2016, as seen in Bloomberg TV studios.

Photographer: Chris Rovzar/Bloomberg
(A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the watch in the fifth paragraph and photo captions.)
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