IWC dive watch enthusiasts rejoiced to see a freshened up line of IWC Aquatimer watches released recently at SIHH 2009 in Geneva. There are a number of new models, and a slightly updated a depth gauge version as well (the Deep Two). IWC seemed to take a completely different approach this year as the line is much more colorful and shiny than it was previously. I am sure that the watches are mechanically and functionally superb, but I have mixed feelings on the new looks. Still the details are impressive, especially the use of sapphire crystals over the rotating bezels.
People associate professional instruments with IWC watches. The Aquatimer series was always for the serious enthusiast. The new line has models that almost look cartoony in some angles, and the sheer range of colors available seems to miss the point of why people chose IWC Aquatimer watches over competitor offerings. Looking at the large hands, and bight yellows, oranges, blues, and other colors, I kept thinking to myself where I had seen this before. All over Japanese dive watches of course. These looks are usually typified by watches in a much lower range, not the price points at which IWC prides itself ($5,000 plus). I can’t say what type of success IWC will have with the new watches, and it is possible they will be a strong commercial success. Further, this commentary isn’t solely in regard to the marketing images. You can see this in the video and other images of the watches. Decide for yourself the resulting looks of the new line.
There are also the redone metal bracelets. Still in titanium I believe, but plenty of steel versions as well. The Aquatimers used to have a very unique bracelet, and these new watch bracelets have a look that is much more mainstream. Did customers complain? Were the old bracelets no good? When I think about getting an IWC watch, I want something that stands out. For a few hundred bucks you can get a diving watch that has at least 70% of the looks of this new Aquatimer line. In my opinion, it should not be that way. Overall, I like most of what the new Aquatimer line has to offer, but I keep questioning if it is enough? Think about it, these are basically very high quality versions of a less mature look. Though perhaps during depressed economic times, IWC is simply turning to bright colors to heighten people’s days.
One of the new watches takes a case and covers it with vulcanized rubber, for one of the coolest looks of the new line. This style places a thin rubber coating on the surfaces of the watch. The look doesn’t exactly make them appear “high-market” but it is functional, and protects the metal underneath. The Tiffany & Co. Mark T-57 had some watches that also experimented with use of vulcanized rubber. There is also the new bracelet/strap quick change feature. A clip on the watch makes these elements modular and easy to change. I like this a lot as depending on your mood or need, a diving watch needs to have a different strap. This is a great functional addition to the Aquatimer line.
Overall, these are standout watches, but I wonder if IWC missed the ball a bit when it comes to their key market, and the look they are interesting in paying IWC dollars for.
Video and some images via Roger Ruegger.