Expert advice from IWC Schaffhausen

L'Officiel Arabia sat down with Mehdi Rajan - IWC Brand Director Middle East, India & Africa IWC Schaffhausen
Reading time 6 minutes

You recently launched the Pilots Watch Spitfire collection and launched a round-the-world Spitfire trip. Please can you explain a little bit about this collection to our readers and why you chose to focus on the Spitfire?

We have launched our first Pilot watch in 1936 and today the Pilot collection is one of our major pillars of our portfolio with models such as Le Petit Prince Editions very sought after by our collectors around the world. One of the highlights of this year are the new launches in the Spitfire collection, where the dials are inspired by the cockpit of this iconic plane.

To pursue the dream of flying even further we have partnered with The Silver Spitfire journey and two adventurous aviators (Steve Boultbee and Matt Jones) who have acquired a Spitfire plane from the 40’s and will embark on a journey around the world.

This August they will depart from Goodwood UK to go towards the US with a stopover in Boston where our Founder, Florentine Ariosto Jones came from. Then after going through Asia the Spitfire journey (called the longest flight) will return to the UK flying over Europe and stopping by Schaffhausen. In October we are excited to welcome the longest flight in Abu Dhabi.

IWC is one of the oldest watch brands in the world. How do you stay true to your heritage being a 151-year-old company and still innovate?

IWC has very clear values and a strong DNA. Innovation has always been an integral part of our history. In 1985 IWC was the first brand in the world to introduce a timepiece in black ceramic, at the time on the legendary perpetual calendar created by our historical watchmaker Kurt Klaus. This year we achieved another great milestone by introducing the first Pilot watch in a Ceratanium, a combination of Ceramic and Titanium, and a world premiere. When you have such a fascinating history and genuine heritage it is essential to tell your stories and we take a lot of pride in sharing them with our clients.

You recently opened up a new Manufacturer in Switzerland - what does this mean for the brand moving forward?

We indeed opened our second Manufacturer (Manufatuzentrum) last August. This ultra-modern structure enables us to vertically integrate all the operational steps, from component machining, pre-assembly, movement assembly and watch assembly operations under one roof. This is a great step in our constant effort to bring our in-house calibers to a much leaner approach. What particularly fascinates me in this facility is that everything has been thought through for the visitor experience with carefully planned paths so that guests can follow each stage in the construction of a watch and appreciate the immense expertise but also passion of our watchmakers.

Bradley Cooper is one of your current brand ambassadors. Please tell us a little about why he was picked for the role?

(Laughs) I don’t think we ever picked Bradley Cooper in a sense where we sat in a room and discussed this. Bradley Cooper has been a friend of the brand much before we even started discussing him being a brand ambassador.  It was very natural and logical decision. He genuinely loves our watches, especially his big pilot watch black dial which he takes with him wherever he is, whether on movie sets or casually with friends.

What can fans in the Middle East expect from IWC in the second half of 2019? Do you have any launches coming up?

We have introduced in January during Salon International de Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) many Pilot novelties in our Spitfire Collection or even in our Top Gun family. But few models will be released starting October, especially an outstanding Pilot Top Gun Perpetual Calendar on Ceramic with deep blue dial. Stay tuned for more.

Tell us a little bit about the conservation work IWC has done partnering with ocean charties and divers?

IWC has a long history of preserving the beauty and the diversity of the maritime life, whether it is through the preservation of the Galapagos Island with the Charles Darwin foundation or the oceans with the Jacques Yves Cousteau foundation. We have recently announced our support to the Cousteau Society and its divers who are attempting to understand better the impact on the temperature of our oceans. This initiative is crucial for the preservation of what is considered to be the lungs of this world.

Which IWC timepieces are most popular with your customers in the Middle East? Please tell us a little bit about the products and why you think these models, in particular, are popular.

Each customer is different and buying a luxury watch is always an emotional journey. However we see that our Portugieser collection, especially the Perpetual Calendar double moon blue resonate very well with our middle eastern clientele. The Portugieser collection is our most iconic collection and the perpetual calendar a true masterpiece where you can adjust your complication simply by the crown. It combines an astonishing esthetic provided by the double moon phase with an impressive complication on a 7 days power reserve. By listening to our clients we have also developed this year a Portugieser Green Annual Calendar, special edition to the Middle East and limited to 150 pieces, which is a real success. This model is very sought after our clients in the region and one of my personal favorite in our collection.

In your role as brand director for the region, which are the most exciting and challenging parts of your job?

Without a doubt the most exciting part of my role is leading such a diverse and exceptional team across the region. Dealing with colleagues from various nationalities and background is very enriching and humbling. I am learning every day from my team and I am grateful of the great successes that we have achieved so far but also of all the future ones that we have in front of us.

Making sure that our clients live an unforgettable experience across all touch points and that we are able to offer consistent excellence in our boutiques is a daily challenge. There isn’t a day like the previous one in this region and that makes this part of the world so interesting!

What have been your career highlights working for IWC so far?

I feel there are so many. Recently I felt extremely proud when I saw the movie that we developed for this Ramadan on our social media platforms. We wanted to capture the essence of the moonlight and at the same time engage in an emotional level with our audience. The result is simply incredible: an impressive movie highlighting our iconic Portofino Moonphase going away from the clichés that you sometimes see about this season. A perfect example of leveraging a global platform while being locally relevant. But we are also working on a project quite innovative and extra ordinary for the end of the summer and I can’t wait to present it to you.


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