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; 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. The caveat: the customised watch costs an CHF1,500 over the retail price of the standard-production model.
Despite the clunky name, IWC’s Individualisation Service is 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.
All this comes at a price of CHF1,500, which is pricey relative to the retail price of the steel model but acceptable for the gold version. It’s especially expensive for the steel watch considering the fixed range of options.
This is a good idea that makes a regular production watch more interesting, but it costs a bit too much. IWC should be offering more options or more flexible customisation at that price. That said, I hope to see this extended to IWC’s time-only models such as the Portugieser Automatic, which are more affordable to start with, 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.
The cost of the Individualisation Service is a fixed CHF1,500 that covers the dial and strap choice, which is on top of the retail price of the Portugieser Chronograph.
For more, visit IWC.com.
Addition March 16, 2023: Price of service added.Back to top.