Everything has its time – this year the time was ripe for a new “Made in Switzerland” design icon: the I.N.O.X. Mechanical, eagerly awaited by fans and connoisseurs in the industry, designed with painstakingly detailed work and technically realized by the Victorinox watch experts in Delémont in the Swiss Jura.
We met Basile Maeder, product manager at the center of excellence in Delémont, to learn a little more about the creative process and the special features of the I.N.O.X. Mechanical.
Basile Maeder, you are the product manager at the Victorinox center of excellence in Delémont; what precisely is your role?
As the product manager, I assist in the development of each new watch model from A to Z; I lead the design teams from the creative concept to the final design, before the design file goes to the technical office. This is my specialization, and now and then I also create special watch dial designs.
From the initial concept to readiness for the market? What does the development process look like in practice and how long does it take on average?
The development of a new product takes an average of 18 months; for the quartz model of the I.N.O.X. it took us more than three years. The process follows a clear, bindingly defined structure, and the entire process is broken down into seven steps: concept, design, technical study, prototyping, approval, delivery, and release.
The first I.N.O.X. was introduced in 2014 and very quickly there were calls for a mechanical version. Can you explain to us why that was?
In fact, that question cropped up as soon as we had presented the I.N.O.X. to the public for the first time at Baselworld 2014. Connoisseurs of the industry are always excited about mechanical models because they are more prestigious. It was therefore not at all surprising and is completely normal that a question like that should come up immediately when presenting a new watch.
The development took some time; what were the challenges and how were they resolved?
We went through several stages of reflection in the development of the mechanical version. First of all, it was intended to be clearly distinguishable visually from the quartz version so that customers could see at first glance that it is a mechanical model. Because the design of the case had already been defined by the quartz version, we concentrated on the design of the watch dial, but this also had to conform to the DNA of the original template. That’s why we chose an “Alox” structure with a more metallic surface, similar to the Swiss Army Officer’s Knife. Other points were the strap and the demand to make the watch as durable in everyday use as possible.
The strap is made from wood; what distinguishes it from alternatives in steel, rubber, or paracord?
Wood is a natural material and what’s special about the wooden strap is that each one is unique. Every strap ends up slightly different in color due to the natural origin of the material and takes on an individual patina with wear. Design and sustainability – both are qualities on which we place a great deal of importance.
A quartz movement and a mechanical movement – can you explain once more in detail for the layperson: What is the difference exactly? And what makes the automatic movement so sensitive?
The most notable difference lies in the fact that the quartz movement is driven by a battery, whereas the mechanical movement is fitted with a spring. In other words: what works electronically with a quartz movement must be performed by over a hundred small parts working together for a mechanical movement. This explains the greater sensitivity of the mechanical movement.
The back of the case of the I.N.O.X. Mechanical is transparent and allows you to clearly see the mechanism behind it; what is the thinking behind that?
In general, our customers really like to be able to see the technology of a mechanical movement through the back of the case. That’s why all our automatic watches are fitted with this type of caseback.
What values or perceptions do you associate personally with the label “Swiss made?”
I think it’s something that will remain very important for purists; it will probably be a little different for the next generations of consumers. For a brand like ours that has a Swiss flag in its trademark, it is largely a matter of self-commitment to offer high-quality products that are manufactured in Switzerland, and that will remain the case in future. That’s why we invested in a center of excellence in Delémont in the Swiss Jura, where we operate our own internal research and development, and have our own assembly and production facility.
Do you also wear a Victorinox watch in your everyday life? And if so, which one?
Yes, I do, and to be honest I actually wear two; one on each wrist, and they are both I.N.O.X. models: a mechanical version on my left wrist and a quartz version on the right, each of them slightly personalized.