Revolution Awards 2017: Lifetime Achievement — Kurt Klaus, Master Watchmaker and IWC AmbassadorBy Ken Kessler
As the most turbulent time in watch history was the era of the great Quartz Crisis, those stalwarts who ensured the survival of the mechanical watch beyond the 1970s certainly qualify as heroes among watch aficionados. Among those who kept the faith was Kurt Klaus of IWC.
2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Klaus joining IWC. In the ensuing years, he would work with the great Albert Pellaton, his mentor, and he would play a major role — if less known to the public than that of the bean-counters and suits — in IWC’s rebirth, as well as that of A. Lange & Söhne.
He was the main designer of IWC’s Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in 1985, a pivotal watch for both the era and for IWC’s reputation. In its own way, it was more responsible than any other timepiece for reviving interest in “grand complications” and other watch functions beyond time, day and date.
For this alone, Klaus deserves to be ranked with the celebrated personalities who not only kept mechanical watches alive, but who also re-established their desirability and their position as the pinnacle of horological excellence: men like Gerd-Rüdiger Lang, Nicolas Hayek Sr, Jean-Claude Biver and especially Klaus’ friend, the late Günther Blümlein, who saved IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Lange.
Klaus worked closely with Blümlein, whom he acknowledges as a great enabler. Blümlein’s faith in Klaus was exemplified by the way he employed Klaus as a master watchmaker with a key role in reviving that trio of houses. Klaus was thus one of those who, behind the scenes, laid the groundwork for A. Lange & Söhne to emerge from a half-century under the heel of communism to stand — within a decade of its rebirth — as one of the most highly-regarded watch manufacturers on the planet.
He arrived at IWC in 1957, already qualified as a watchmaker, following a period at Eterna. He worked directly for Albert Pellaton, among whose designs was IWC’s legendary Mark XI, creating its anti-magnetic case and its movement, the caliber 89. Klaus recalls assembling these movements from his start in 1957.
It was working closely with Pellaton that established his high standards, along with absorbing the knowledge imparted by a master watchmaker. Blümlein saw this in Klaus, and the reward was positions of responsibility in the salvation of IWC and the reincarnation of Lange. Klaus remembers that Pellaton’s obsession was to always ensure “the highest, best quality.”
Since 1957, Klaus — as inventive as his mentor — has imbued every IWC on which he worked with this credo. The world’s Lange connoisseurs, as well as fans of IWC, owe him thanks. And we at Revolution are privileged to show our gratitude with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement award.