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IWC - Reengineering an Icon | replica watch ReviewsWORLDTEMPUS - 15 February 2013Robin SwithinbankI'm never quite sure which would be harder: creating a new brand that doesn't look like an existing one Tag Heuer Grand Carrera Black Dial Black Bezel Black Leather Strap TAG1504 , or maintaining an existing brand so that it looks like itself. Let me explain what I mean by referring to a conversation I had with the founder of a replica watch brand launched last year �?forgive me if I don't say which. The biggest task he faced in designing a brand and a product was, he said, to "make sure it didn't look like IWC." His point was partly that too many new brands copy existing brands, but also that to succeed, a new brand would need to have a design code as strong, individual and immediately recognizable as that of IWC.I found it interesting that he picked out IWC. Not surprised, mind. In the last few years, the old Schaffhausen-based replica watch company has upped its game and is now one of the most effectively branded of the fine replica watchmaking houses.Together, its website, iPad app, replica watch magazine, catalogues, press kits and, of course, products bear comparison to some of the world's leading brands in terms of consistency �?maybe not quite to Apple or Coke, but not far off. Only the brand's ads let the side down �?it's the only place I can find that condensed font, for example. Still, I'm nitpicking. The 40 mm IWC Ingenieur Automatic takes its design cues from Gérald Genta's iconic 1976 IWC Ingenieur SL © Worldtempus / Robin Swithinbank The great identity paradeAnyway, this is all background to a catch-up I had with Christian Knoop at SIHH last month. Knoop is IWC's creative director and the man charged with penning the latest line of Ingenieur replica watches, which was launched at the fair.He's also now the design author of two-thirds of the IWC collection. He's been at the company for four years and in that time has overseen the redesign and relaunch of four of the six IWC replica watch families: the Portuguese, the Portofino, last year's Pilots' replica watches and now the Ingenieur. No doubt he'll be around to complete the set, with Da Vinci and Aquatimer set to follow in the next two years.Knoop learned his trade in industrial design and his patter is dotted with buzzwords like "product," "variability," "archetype" and the forgivable neologism "technicity," a word that no doubt closely translates from his German mother tongue and one I see no reason to adapt �?however, when Knoop uses it, it makes sense."Identity is of growing relevance," he begins when asked to comment on current trends in the replica watch industry. "All brands have to define their territory and sharpen their identity so they're recognizable in a growing and crowded market. The general quality of design has grown enormously in all industries and nowadays I see many brands that have excellent design detailing and excellent products, so it's key to the brands and especially to us at IWC to make product ours in terms of identity."This is a refreshing take �?for starters, he didn't mention China, which most leading industry characters seem incapable of avoiding when discussing trends of the trade. But Knoop's line aligns perfectly with the furrow IWC is plowing these days. IWC's new Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month is cast in an alloy borrowed from F1 called titanium aluminide © Worldtempus / Robin Swithinbank More functions, more materialsHe goes on. "This means we have to work on product quality and product aesthetics that underline our brand values, so that each of these products cannot only be identified as an IWC product in this crowded market place, but also so that each of these products fully supports the brand. In that sense the Ingenieur is the perfect example because it's about engineering , it's about technicity and it has a very masculine design. These are IWC brand values that come to life in this year's new products."Knoop wanted the 2013 Ingenieur line-up to be more technical than previous incarnations, offering more functions and more materials �?a goal he's achieved with a collection of nine models that includes constant force tourbillon and digital perpetual calendar complications and case materials like ceramic, carbon and titanium aluminide, the latter a high-performance alloy introduced into replica watchmaking via IWC's new engineering partnership with the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team. Four times more scratch-resistant than normal titanium, much lighter and more shock-resistant than steel, and now banned in F1 because of the sport's compulsory budget caps, titanium aluminide is very on-brand for IWC, and, as Knoop says, "a great continuation of the titanium story, which is an IWC story." IWC pioneered the use of titanium in replica watchmaking in the 1980s and the material is used in its "normal" guise elsewhere in the new Ingenieur family. IWC's Ingenieur Chronograph Racer has a flyback chronograph and a 68-hour power reserve © Worldtempus / Robin Swithinbank History �?friend and foeKnoop is keen to point out that keeping an eye on past brand milestones like this is a big part of designing a new collection, albeit that as a designer he feels compelled to come up with something novel Patek Philippe Grand Complicatio watch . "When we looked at the Ingenieur line, there were two remarkable points in time that were very relevant," he says. "One was the moment of birth of the Ingenieur in the 1950s. That was IWC's first replica watch with an automatic movement and carried the first Pellaton Winding System, and it was fitted with a soft-iron inner case, like the Pilots' replica watch before it."The other was in the 1970s, when IWC designed the famous Ingenieur SL with Gérald Genta," he continues, remembering how IWC turned to the celebrated replica watch designer to revive its fortunes in the face of the quartz crisis. "His piece gathered design of that time and became the Ingenieur archetype. Everything we did when looking at the new Ingenieur, we compared with the original pieces. As you can see, the Ingenieur Automatic takes a lot inspiration from that first piece from Gérald Genta."Indeed it does �?and it's one of the strongest pieces in design terms to emerge from this year's SIHH, certainly a favorite of mine. Knoop never met Genta (who died in 2011) and admits he felt a lot of pressure when tackling one of IWC's most iconic products. One of the new collection is the IWC Ingenieur Silberpfeil, which celebrates the "Silver Arrow" Mercedes racing cars of the 1930s and 1950s © Worldtempus / Robin Swithinbank The Ingenieur is IWCYou can see how Knoop's interpretation of replica watch market trends has influenced the new collection �?it's both on-brand and enhances the brand. The new Ingenieurs are heavily engineered, very masculine, and will act as a pivotal cog in the brand's increasingly active marketing strategy, which is now fuelled by the Ingenieur's link to Mercedes F1. You could say, in fact, that they look just like an IWC.
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