A refreshed perspective on coloured ceramics in watchmaking was revealed at Watches and Wonders Geneva this year when IWC Schaffhausen launched additional Top Gun models in its Pilot’s Watch collection.
Continuing its pioneering development of coloured ceramic watches since the 1980s, IWC revealed fresh ceramic colours “IWC Woodland” and “IWC Lake Tahoe”, created in conjunction with the Pantone Color Institute, at the annual watch fair. IWC CEO Christoph GraingerHerr set the tone on the first day, dressed head to toe in the new darkgreen shade reminiscent of the vast forest landscapes that elite pilots in the US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor programme (the real Top Gun flight school) fly over.
The purity and clarity of the IWC Lake Tahoe edition are inspired by snowy winter landscapes. Every day was marked by a new colour theme, engineered to the finest detail, from the clothing worn by staff to the healthy smoothies served at the IWC bar. It’s all tied into Pantone’s language of colour, designed to achieve consistent reproduction of colour anywhere in the world. Laurie Pressman, vice-president of the Pantone Color Institute, says the colours we wear and surround ourselves with reflect who we are and how we want others to perceive us.
“Colour is the first thing we see and the first thing we connect to, influencing up to 85% of product-purchasing decisions, which is why the use of colour for product and how brands put their colour themes and stories together are so important,” she says.
Stefan Ihnen, associate director of Research & Development at IWC, smiles when he comments on the precise development of the Pantone code. “We are very German in our way. On the one hand, it looks special, but on the other, it helps us because it’s a nightmare to match the colour of the dials, hands, and straps. It’s also difficult to get all the components the same because you have other materials, textures, and surfaces on the dial. “And the colour looks different when you have it brushed or polished or sandblasted.”
The engineering ceramic used to produce watch cases consists of zirconium oxide, which is mixed with other metallic oxides, shaped, and then sintered at high temperatures in a kiln. This hi-tech material, characterised by its extreme hardness and scratch resistance, is one of the most durable and long-lasting materials on Earth. Finding the right mixture of raw materials and finetuning the manufacturing process to achieve perfect quality and colour consistency is no mean feat.
What excites Ihnen about this year’s launch? “What makes me happy is to be here right now. The theme of this fair is the work done in the last decade in ceramics, titanium, and Ceratanium. This is a fantastic story, and it’s cool to see this technical content within the booth. Materials are anchored in the heritage of IWC, and we started to refocus on them around 10 or 12 years ago. Our proprietary material, Ceratanium — a special titanium alloy as light and rigid as titanium and almost as hard and scratch-resistant as ceramic — is the result of that.”