WATCHESPEDIA: I wanted to ask you about the Fabian Cancellara special edition watches. I think it’s good to partner up with a 2-time Olympic winner. Can you tell us a little about the partnership with Fabian Cancellara? How did it start and how involved is he in the partnership?
CHRISTIAN KNOOP: Fabian has been with IWC for a long time. This partnership was initiated by the former CEO, they both shared the same passion for cycling, so Fabian was with IWC on a couple of events and activities. As a sportsman, he represents perfectly our values, he is always striving for performance, and is a gentle sportsmen to the very extent. He really was a perfect match on the value side and, after having been with us for so many years, we decided to pay tribute to him and his achievements winning the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, so we came up with this special edition watch. This is how it started.
WATCHESPEDIA: We’ve seen the watch when you previously showcased it, I’d say it has a nice custom design and it really looks great. Can you describe for the readers the IWC Ingenieur watch design elements? I think a lot of people see it but don’t really understand everything about it.
CHRISTIAN KNOOP: First of all, for us the relaunch of one of the 6 iconic IWC collections is a very important moment, as this only happens every 5 to 8 years, like it was the case with Da Vinci. Since it is so important for us, we work hard on the design codes of each collection to make it recognizable and innovative at the same time. The new Ingenieur is inspired by the original from 1955, and we were aiming for a very elegant yet sporty collection with clean cut lines, pure geometric case with straight lugs – like a classic sports watch. It combines the purity in the graphics with sports features like luminescent material and perfect readability, something we have throughout all the lines. We have combined these aesthetic codes with a sun ray finish on the dials, which was a very popular treatment for classic sports watches in the 50ties and 60ties. Having said this, we have a very consistent core range, but we were also aiming to animate the collection with partnerships and stories willing to support certain aspects of the collection, like performance. We did this with the Ingenieur line for the 50 years anniversary of AMG. Fabian is the second special edition we bring on this new Ingenieur and brings a new element to the collection and opens nice opportunities for the designers to give a specific sporty flavor to the watch, inspired by Fabian and his ideas and going together with an iconic design like the IWC Ingenieur.
WATCHESPEDIA: Going back to the heritage, you mentioned you see the inspiration from the 50 or the 60s. How do you let them combine your heritage with the future-oriented vision? What is the mix between keeping the classic or the heritage and going to the next step in redesigning a watch?
CHRISTIAN KNOOP: This is one of the big challenges we have with every relaunch of a collection. As designers, we must find a good balance between the past and the future. Something which is inspired by the past looks familiar. But we also want to surprise our customers with new elements, new technology, new aesthetic details, new materials or new treatments. If we go too much the classic way, then we have a kind of vintage related design, which is not exciting enough. If we go too far away from it, we will probably lose the connection with the brand and it’s heritage. The key is to find the right balance between something which is readable as IWC, which follows the code of a certain collection, and some new elements, new details, new movements, materials and technologies inside that will surprise and inspire our customers.
WATCHESPEDIA: Talking about your inspiration, can you tell us what your daily inspiration as a creative director is?
CHRISTIAN KNOOP: I draw a lot of inspiration from the brands’ history, like from our museum or archives and this is fundamental for the job I do for such an institutional brand. But, as a designer, you look at the world with “designer” eyes, meaning I might see or notice details that other people don’t, e.g. things from fashion, from architecture, from technology. Beyond that we are lucky to have partners in various fields, with materials or technologies that inspire our work, for example in diving – here we work with the Charles Darwin Foundation – or in motorsports – where have a strong partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team. Furthermore, working with people from different environments gives new inputs too. Every time I speak to the staff who maintain the old aircraft Ju-52 or whenever I sit in one, I discover new details and how we could integrate them into the next Pilots collection. Having fascinating partners which inspire our products and add new stories is one of the strongest assets of IWC Schaffhausen.