For many watch enthusiasts, manufacture visits are among the most memorable experiences in their horological journeys. It’s one thing to read about watchmakers assembling, testing and decorating timepieces amid quiet, lush Swiss environs, and another altogether to witness these things in person.
Come September 28, IWC — one of the most earnest adopters of new digital initiatives among fine-watch brands — will be opening the virtual doors of its Manufakturzentrum in Schaffhausen to fans worldwide. When we visited the 13,500 sq m facility during its inauguration in 2018, we were impressed by the modern aesthetics and expanse of the facility, which brings together more than 200 skilled workers and high-precision machines, and houses key manufacturing processes, including case and movement-part production, as well as movement assembly.
Thanks to the new virtual tours, IWC fans everywhere will be able to enjoy an immersive experience in the IWC Manufakturzentrum. And make no mistake, these virtual visits are not about just clicking on videos on a website. Taking place via a livestream — and yes, advance bookings are required — each tour is customised to the specific interests of a group of guests, and features real-time narration by knowledgeable guides. Essentially, it’s like being there, except you don’t get to wear the manufacture’s lab coats (we know, we love those too) and get to touch actual movement parts (although we wouldn’t be surprised if IWC is working on that as we speak).
Each journey begins with an introduction to the brand’s history, which dates back to 1868, before a guide welcomes guests to the manufacturing centre. Viewers will be shown short videos with live commentary, with video links to different departments bringing visitors right into the thick of the watchmaking process. Guides can also offer in-depth looks at different areas such as movement decoration or innovative materials.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour is the opportunity to look at the assembly of movements through a watchmaker’s eyes. IWC’s patented Cyberloupe technology comprises a specially developed version of a watchmaker’s magnifying glass, which features an integrated camera and network connection, allowing visitors to see from the watchmaker’s viewpoint in real time on their devices. There will be accompanying live narration so that viewers can better follow along, instead of guessing at which bits are being fixed in place on what movement.
The new virtual tours will be available from Sept 28 via IWC.com, IWC boutiques and official retail partners. There is a fee for each virtual visit, but the amount has not been finalised yet. For bookings and for more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.