Last week Roland Iten brought his own blend of mechanical luxury to New York, hosting an exclusive event at the IWC Boutique on Madison Avenue.
Who Is Roland Iten?
Now, depending on your horological inclination (and the size of your bank account) you may or may not already be familiar with the name Roland Iten, or at the very least some of his incredible work.
Although not a watchmaker himself, Iten is a well-respected pioneer in fine mechanics and has been commissioned by several master watchmakers such as François-Paul Journe, Greubel Forsey and Jaeger-LeCoultre for the creation of watch buckles that embody the concepts of contemplated calibration and fitness for purpose.
What he has become best known for in recent years though are the gorgeous mechanical accessories he creates for his highly discerning clientele, in particular his luxury belt buckles.
These are not just any old belt buckles though. Each is intricately designed by Roland Iten himself before being brought to life with the aide of the high precision mechanics capability of the Swiss watch making industry. That’s right, many of the same techniques that have been used to create the movement of your prized mechanical luxury watch have also been applied in producing a Roland Iten mechanical belt buckle or credit card holder.
Now, that all sounds well and good in theory but the problem is, until you hold one of these highly original creations in your hands it’s all but impossible to appreciate the complexity and aesthetic beauty of the designs.
This fact became readily apparent at the event, as attendees stood a discrete distance away staring with open curiosity at the luxury accessories laid out before them, reluctant to reach out and touch them in case they were in fact as delicate as they first appeared.
Of course anyone who has met Roland Iten before though knows that these kind of awkward standoffs do not last long. An entirely engaging fellow it is not long before he is regaling his guests with tales of what his clients have put his products through, and indeed what he puts them through before he decides they are ready for sale.
More than anything though he knows the importance of touch when it comes to introducing someone new to his products, after all they have been designed to deliver enjoyment to their owners.
“Let me show you how this works” he says with a twinkle in his eye, before grabbing a shiny new cardholder and somehow making four credit cards appear seemingly from nowhere. “Press here and here” he explains, “it’s all in the wrist.” Before you know it you’ve somehow managed to eject his credit cards all over the floor and Roland is roaring with laughter.
It is this playful nature that makes Roland Iten – the man and the products – so enjoyable. Everything has been designed with the concept of discovery in mind. Although the designs are highly intuitive you don’t just pick up a belt buckle or a set of cufflinks and instantly understand how they work, rather you have to play around it, to learn how to master it before showing off your new found skills to your friend.
In this way it makes Roland Iten products intensely personal, as you really need to spend time getting to know them, which is actually quite enjoyable. Judging by the reactions of the people on the night this was a sentiment that was widely shared.
Who knew something as seemingly simple as belt buckle could be so much fun?