With luxury brands vying to offer clients individuality in products, customised watches are now fairly common. The trend began at aftermarket providers, but establishment watchmakers are gradually making such offerings available beyond their highest-end clientele.
The latest entrant is IWC with its Individualisation Service, a surprisingly straightforward customisation process that’s a first for a mainstream watch brand. Available at just two locations for now, the service allows clients to personalise a Portugieser Chronograph. Essentially anyone can walk into either of the IWC stores in Shanghai or Dubai and select a case material, match it with a variety of dials and straps, with the finished watch ready in about three weeks.
Despite the clunky name, IWC’s Individualisation Service is a definitely a welcome development since it’s a factory-official customised watch that is relatively accessible in price. Customisation is typically offered to only a brand’s biggest-spending clients, so this democratises the concept to a degree. Granted, it’s being trialed at just two locations, but it will surely be rolled out more widely once its commercial viability is proven.
That said, the Individualisation Service has limitations. It allows clients to choose from a range of fixed options, rather than allowing free rein to tweak or redesign the watch. So if you were thinking of a unique dial colour or special emblem on the dial, that won’t happen. And customisation is limited to a single model, the Portugieser Chronograph ref. 3716.
Overall though, this is a good idea that makes a regular production watch more interesting. I hope to see this extended to IWC’s time-only models such as the Portugieser Automatic, which are more affordable, and also offered in more locations.
The Individualisation Service is a straightforward process that allows the client to customise his or her watch via a design console at the boutique. Rather than software, IWC has opted for a physical design console made up of actual components like cases (in either steel or gold), dials, and straps.
The client can mix and match these parts to create an ideal combination. Though the options are fixed, they are numerous, at least compared to the standard versions of the model.
The console offers 16 different dials assemblies (complete with hands and crystals), ranging from turquoise to indigo, all of which are exclusive to the Individualisation Service. The dial assemblies have magnetic backs, allowing them to be secured to the sample cases for a lifelike mockup.
Similarly, the strap can be selected from a number of options, including a steel bracelet and straps in TimberTex, the brand’s proprietary leather alternative composed of plant fibres.
Once the design process is completed, IWC will assemble the personalised chronograph, which will be delivered in about three weeks. The customised watch will bear an “I” (for Individualisation) on the seconds register at six o’clock. IWC has not yet revealed the cost for this service, but we will update this article as soon as we hear back from IWC.
For more, visit IWC.com.