Beyond the Rational

A conversationwith Mehdi Rajan

IWC Brand Director, Africa, Middle East, India and Turkey

Mehdi Rajan’s career has become characterised by his ability to make connections. Over the last 12 years, he has worked with the luxury world’s top maisons, starting off in Paris after which he relocated to Dubai to work for the Richemont Group, as regional Brand Director for IWC Schaffhausen. Since joining the team, the watch brand has seen unprecedented growth in the region. Apart from his strategic abilities, at the heart of Mehdi’s approach lies a passion for exemplary craftsmanship and the stories we tell.

What is your definition of luxury?

Luxury is an emotion that brings me positivity and has a long-lasting impact on your life. An IWC timepiece – like the Pilot Le Petit Prince Editions – evokes these wonderful memories from my childhood. Every time you wear the watch, you remember the emotion. I think the ultimate luxury is spending time with those close to your heart such as close friends and family – making time to really enjoy life.

What is it that you find so alluring about the inner workings of a watch?

Watchmaking is a world where, once you’re inside, you can learn and discover new things all your life. I’m not an engineer or watchmaker, but I find the way a mechanical movement functions without a battery so incredibly fascinating. The watch I’m wearing is the Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le petit Prince”. My go to watch is however the  (IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar), which was created 35 years ago by Mr Kurt Klaus, without using any computers, has a specificity that is all adjusted by a single crown. And when you consider that this watch will give you the time, day of the week, the month, the year (including leap years) for 577 years with complete accuracy and without any source of power, it beats rationality! The beauty beyond function which this watch represents, it’s that aspect that makes a watch like this almost mystical.

What distinguished IWC Schaffhausen from other brands?

I get this question a lot, and every time my answer is different. (Mehdi laughs) But more seriously, our founding story makes us unique at heart. IWC Schaffhausen was founded by Mr Florentine Ariosto Jones, an American who had a bold dream to create a watch that would bring together engineering and design. He founded this in Schaffhausen in 1868, where we still operate today. And that duality between design and performance, form and function, aesthetics and engineering, is at the core of the brand. What I love about IWC is that we are incredible storytellers. There’s a story behind every single watch we create. And that is what makes IWC so successful.

What’s next for IWC?

Last year (2021) was all about our new Big Pilot’s watch, which was incredible at opening up conversations with a new audience.

We’re continuing to build on that Pilot momentum and storyline by developing more Pilots Watches but focus on different facets and colors of the watch, which brings us to the Colors of TOP GUN. With the new TOP GUN collection, we’re bringing together the robustness of ceramic and the lightness of titanium with an incredible new alloy (Ceratanium®) which we developed a few years ago. We innovate on the level that we do due to our incredible partnerships across many industries, including not only engineering and design, but with other brands outside of the watchmaking world as well.

What has been one the greatest challenges of your career?

At the start of the pandemic, figuring out how to react as fast as we had to while keeping our team together was certainly a huge challenge. It forced us to adapt a lot faster than usual – to accelerate change – on all levels. It makes me extremely proud to see how much continuity there still is in the team. In the end, I know that no matter what the circumstances, someone’s got my back, and that sense of family is what makes our team so incredible.

What are the parallels between the work of a watchmaker and a chef?

Creativity lies at the heart of both. There’s always a quest for perfection that drives both artists – and both chefs and watchmakers are artists. When creating a dish you engage all the senses, and it’s the same with a luxury mechanical timepiece. The emotional journey you go through when discovering a new watch is very similar. People respond to food emotionally, and the way they bond with a watch is no different. We still don’t know why someone buys a particular watch, and you can’t predict it.

To what extent do you feel a quest for perfection helps us excel, and how does it hold us back?

Average is the enemy of success in every endeavour. It’s very important not to compromise on what matters; your values and your vision, but at the same time, remain pragmatic and agile in the execution.