Old-school, high-end watchmaking. The dynamic world of modern streetwear and ‘hype’ culture. To the uninitiated, these two fields seem worlds apart – but as IWC Schaffhausen’s latest collaboration reveals, streetwear and watches have much more in common than you might think.
The esteemed Swiss watchmaker has teamed up with legendary Singaporean sneaker customiser and streetwear designer Mark Ong (a.k.a. Mr. Sabotage) on a unique, limited-edition leather strap for their newest pilot’s watches, including the Big Pilot’s Watch 43, Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 and the new Pilot’s Watch Mark XX.
The buttery-soft Austrian leather strap features an ‘x-ray’ camouflage pattern – a signature of Mark’s SBTG brand – as well as other military-inspired touches, such as a sewn-on patch, military-style product designations and even a little skull and crossbones on the underside.
It’s a postmodern and versatile design that perfectly suits the military character of IWC’s pilot’s watches – and thanks to IWC’s EasX-CHANGE quick-change strap system, it’s a cinch swapping out your standard strap or bracelet for the SBTG one.
DMARGE had the chance to sit down and chat with Mark as well as Christian Knoop, IWC’s Creative Director, to talk about this exciting collaboration, and what it means for both streetwear and watchmaking as a whole.
“Working with a top watch brand like IWC is like winning an NBA championship… It’s like a championship ring for sure,” Mark tells us.
Christian explains that the collaboration initially came about after seeing how, on social media, so many of IWC’s customers like personalising their watches by swapping out different straps – and how IWC wanted to be able to facilitate that.
“We saw our customers really experimenting with our watches and giving these watches completely different looks, depending on their personal mood, on the outfits, on the occasion that they would wear the watch,” he says.
“Versatile designs, like our pilot’s watches, lend themselves perfectly to be worn on many different straps and bracelets… There’s an enormous amount of creativity going on, and we said ‘okay, we’re happy to be a part of this, to facilitate this’.”Christian Knoop
“I mean, it’s not that we want to take this over – we can’t – but why not create something that enables people to do this even easier and quicker.”
It’s this thought process that inspired Christian to create IWC’s EasX-CHANGE system, as well as design a wide variety of different straps in-house, from rubber straps to leather straps to metal bracelets. He also points out that a goal of IWC’s quick-change system, unlike some systems that have been introduced by other watch brands, is to make it inclusive rather than exclusive.
“We don’t want to want to limit people… It is still a spring bar system so people are still free to load whatever strap they like on our watches. It’s not about excluding people with an exclusive system, but really, to see this as an inspiration and to be part of that as a brand and to play along with the creative ideas we can come up with both internally but both also together with partners like Mark.”
The way IWC have released the SBTG strap is rather ingenious, actually. By having a limited-edition, online-only release, you mirror the sort of ‘drop’ system that limited-edition sneaker releases like to use – a rather apt concept, considering how Mark grew to fame for his creative customisations of rare and special sneakers.
Christian explains that there are actually a lot of similarities between sneakers and watches: both have iconic designs that have stood the test of time (like the Big Pilot or the Nike Air Jordan I, for example), both have functional origins but are increasingly valued as pieces of art or collector’s items, and both are constantly reinterpreted in different materials and with different functions.
“There’s a strong similarity when it comes to the mentality of the buyers, the collectors and the whole mechanisms you find in the whole reseller and aftermarket circles around both watches and sneakers, too.”Christian Knoop
IWC and Mr. Sabotage’s collaboration comes at a time when the traditional bastions of luxury – the grand fashion houses and watchmakers of Europe – are increasingly being challenged or supplanted by younger, more hype-driven brands. While some luxury brands have been open or eager to embrace the streetwear world, others remain stubbornly insular.
As Mark puts it, “fashion houses and luxury watch brands all have very, very deep histories. Compared to where we [in the streetwear space] are super casual. We do things quick. We are very young. We’re impatient. We’re part of the Instagram generation… But finally, finally, I think they made up they made up their mind to say, ‘hey, this change is inevitable’.”
“I’m really glad to be able [to collaborate with IWC] because we can learn from each other as well… When we have both cultures; both disciplines intertwining with each other, we get an in-between feeling that has never existed. And that’s beautiful.”Mark Ong
The IWC x SBTG special edition strap set is available in two different widths and in limited quantities online (as well as in a select few boutiques) as of right now. In addition to the strap, the complete set also includes a pin buckle, fitting spring bars to assist with mounting the strap on watches that are not equipped with the EasX-CHANGE system, and a customised box in the signature SBTG camouflage design.
Find out more at IWC’s online boutique here.