IWC Museum Curator David Seyffer speaks five languages, including Latin and old Greek, and spends his downtime with his wife and son, Caroline and Leonard, listening to music and reading philosophy. How did he find his way into the world of watches? His interest in mechanical watchmaking was influenced by his mother, a goldsmith hobbyist who used to buy old gold jewellery at auctions, often packaged with unexpected surprises. “In the 90s, if you applied to auctions for old gold rings, for example, you would sometimes get old mechanical watches too because the auctioneers wanted to get rid of them. It was crazy. At that time, no one imagined there would be hype around mechanical watches, but that is how my interest in watchmaking and mechanical movements started. It became a hobby while I was studying.”
David completed his Study of History of Natural Sciences, Technology and History in 2003 at the University of Stuttgart, the city where he was born and raised. He then obtained his doctoral degree in the same field in 2012.
Interestingly, one of his supervisors for a business research project during that period wore an IWC Ingenieur from the 50s – a natural conversation piece and the first of a few serendipitous events that brought him into the IWC family. “When I got my first job working at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, it was funny to see that the guys from the car industry started every meeting with a wrist check. And so, I thought why not do my doctoral’s thesis on watchmaking history? I wanted to investigate different strategies, but IWC was the only company that granted me access to its historical records. They then hired me to organise their archives, which took five years,” he says.
In 2007, David joined IWC as Archivist and Assistant Museum Curator. He has been the Museum Curator, Department Manager and Executive Manager of the Museum Team since 2010. Ever ready to answer questions on IWC’s history, he is most enthusiastic when allowed to help someone discover something new about their watch and its unique history. The topic is a never-ending source of conversation for him and his wife, who worked in retail for IWC. Their son will inherit their collection, which includes a Pilot’s Watch Mark 11, and an Aquatimer Split Minute Chronograph, the watch he wore to time his wife’s contractions when she went into 40 hours of labour for the birth of their son.
“In our family, there isn’t a ‘men’s watch’ – it belongs to the family so everyone can enjoy it. If you have a watch with sentimental value, keep it. These are the kinds of treasures that must stay in the family, and this is good because they are sustainable,” he says.
In 1993, on its 125th anniversary, IWC became one of the first watch manufacturer in Switzerland to establish an exclusive museum. It was situated in the attic of the historic main building at the Schaffhausen headquarters. Constructed in 1875 by IWC founder Florentine Ariosto Jones (1841-1916), the Manufacture is on the site of what used to be an orchard belonging to the All Saints monastery, at the edge of the old town, on the banks of the Rhine.
In 2007, the museum collection was relocated to the ground floor.
Since its inauguration, the IWC Museum has welcomed around 8,000 visitors to view a remarkable collection of over 230 thoughtfully chosen artefacts. David and his team are committed to creating an environment that fosters a deep connection between visitors and the IWC brand. This involves consistently enhancing and rotating the permanent exhibitions, safeguarding invaluable historical data and horological expertise, and devising a comprehensive museum education strategy to nurture and fortify its position as a public institution.
The design seamlessly blends modernity with timelessness and luxury with functionality. Stepping into this monochromatic realm, guests are transported back in time, embarking on a journey to discover the historical timepieces and illustrious heritage of IWC. The museum provides a comprehensive exploration of each magnificent IWC watch family, tracing their lineage and evolution.
The interior design has more of a traditional IWC look and feel intended to appeal to visitors interested in the museum itself and not only watch fans. It’s a delicate balance providing enough information to entertain watch fans and not overwhelming those new to the luxury watch world. “This is a different kind of approach. You should have the same ‘wow’ reaction when you enter if you know nothing about watches or are a collector. Apps are great and reach a wider audience making the world of IWC more inclusive, but for me, nothing beats experiencing the timepieces in person,” says David.
The IWC Museum app is accessible via the main IWC app, which features news on the latest launches, stories behind the watches, sustainability updates, podcasts and a facility that enables virtual try-ons of IWC watches. The Museum app doubles as an audio guide for visitors and a virtual roadshow for those unable to admire these treasures in person.
The museum has a substantial collection of Ingenieur timepieces. Arguably the most prized for collectors, David says that when he started developing his interest in watches in the 90s, the Pilot’s watches and Da Vinci line were best known by the public. The Portugieser is his accessory of choice today. “But if you knew about the Ingenieur, you were probably in the inner circle. It’s a must-have for collectors,” he says.
The new Ingenieur Automatic 40 revealed at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023 results from “much interest among collectors, friends of IWC and our customers in returning to classical design. It took a lot of discussion, I can tell you, because everybody had a different opinion. It’s always challenging to touch such an important item, but at the end of the day it was the right decision to do something new.”
What does he like most about the new model? “The fact that it is now launched! There was so much talk and rumours, and ultimately, we decided how we wanted it and went into production. It’s something new and this is also important – it’s not a copy-paste. That would not be the IWC way. For us, it’s better to do something new. And this goes back to Evelyne Genta [wife of the late Gerald Genta who created the Ingenieur SL]. If somebody asked her husband to name the best design he ever made, he would always say the next generation of the watch. And it’s the same with this one – IWC optimised it, and made something new, more wearable. It’s the perfect piece for someone who wants a robust stainless-steel watch for daily wear. And this is what the Ingenieur was really made for.”
Would his wife wear one? “Yes, because she loves stainless steel watches and we have a young, active child so it’s practical – shockproof, durable, resistant to scratches but still looks like a luxury material. If I wore a chronograph on an alligator leather strap or even a gold bracelet, and I bumped it once, it would break my heart.