It’s probably no surprise that the brands exposing at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or short SIHH, are competitors. What is maybe not as well-known is that during this show the biggest competition is not about watches. It’s about the booth!
In 1986, a movie turned a famous actor into a worldwide super star. Tom Cruise was playing the role of a young and talented fighter pilot joining the elite Navy fighter Weapon School based in Miramar, north of San Diego, in California. This school is world famous under its nickname: Top Gun!
If you ever get the chance to pilot a jet aircraft, this is great, no it’s spectacular. If you can fly an american high-tech jet aircraft, this is absolutely awesome. Now imagine the very few pilots who get to fly the latest and greatest aircrafts, take off from an aircraft carrier for missions no smaller than protecting the Nation, and again land on that small floating island regardless of the sea state or time of the day. It is hard to find anything that would give anyone a bigger adrenaline rush.
Now get ready for the next challenge. How about a company who would bring an aircraft carrier in a landlocked country, to immerse their fans and customers into the very ‘Miramarian’ atmosphere of Top Gun. That’s exactly what IWC did this year!
The lucky people who made it to SIHH this year probably all got their breath taken away when discovering the booth of the brand. I surely did.
The USS F.A. Jones is an extremely realistic reproduction of not only the flight deck of a modern aircraft carrier but also the inside of the ship, from the officers briefing rooms to the pilot locker room and the flight deck control room. There was one very noticeable upgrade: the bar of the USS F.A. Jones at the SIHH was serving champagne and other refreshments and snacks, which are probably not easily available onboard an aircraft carrier in operation.
One could meet gents in fly-suits or chat with lovely smiling ladies all well-dressed for the ocassion.
Besides watches, the main attraction was a very realistic flight simulator. Realistic is an understatement as one would actually sit in a cockpit with all the gear of a real aircraft including the ejection seat.
Instead of a head-up display, a large flat screen would let you forget where you are in no time and you would end up fully focused on landing a multi-million-dollar machine safely on the deck of the USS F.A. Jones. A simulator coach would try to minimize your mistakes, while your performance is displayed on very large screen for the pleasure of the people queuing to take your seat.
If there is one rule in fairs, it can be summarized by : “impress the press”. No doubt that IWC scored sky high with the presentation of the new products of 2012 in a room that looked like the war room at the Pentagon.
In the whole booth, no effort was spared, no shortcuts were taken, to make you feel that you were a crew member of a battle ship on a mission. Everything felt right, down to the last detail.
Finally, this is about watches, and again, the theme of the navy jetfighters and aircraft carrier could be seen in every window. A clever superposition of sandblasted glass gave the feeling that we were looking at the watches through a head-up display.
If we needed a sign for the focus of IWC for the coming years, it is all in this impressive booth, powerfull flying machine, adrenaline pumped experiences. Buckle your 5 point safety belt, thumbs up, and… the sky is the limit!