SIHH in Geneva with IWC
The first month of 2019 was a busy one for the expedition team who were in Geneva as guests of our sponsors IWC Schaffhausen at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève (SIHH). The creative vision of IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr and his team was for the Silver Spitfire itself to form the centrepiece of their booth at the trade fair. There was just one problem – the restoration of Spitfire MJ271 is not yet complete.
Nevertheless a plan was hatched and a convoy of lorries arranged to take not just the Silver Spitfire to Geneva by road, but to remove the wings and pack a second airworthy Spitfire too, spray-painted silver especially for the occasion, so that expedition pilot Matt Jones could make the grandest of entrances into the IWC gala dinner.
And so a plan months in the making came to fruition, thanks largely to a phenomenal group of engineers from the Boultbee Flight Academy led by Chief Engineer Gerry Jones, with much support and technical expertise from Martin ‘Mo’ Overall and engineers from The Aircraft Restoration Company. Mo is something of a rarity – a man qualified not only to build and maintain Spitfires, but to fly and display them.
Whilst Mo and his team in Duxford prepared the MJ271 for display at the Palexpo in Geneva, polishing one side to the stunning high sheen the whole plane will have once complete, Gerry and his team were dismantling RR232 ‘The City of Exeter’ at Goodwood. With wing bolts out and myriad parts, cables and pipes painstakingly catalogued and safely packed for the trip they set off for Switzerland on a chilly January afternoon.
With the Silver Spitfire transported into one exhibition hall IWC’s team set about building a quite stunning Spitfire themed booth around it (see Steve Brooks, Christoph Grainger-Herr and Matt Jones in the booth below), whilst Gerry and Mo got to work re-assembling RR232.
IWC were using the event to unveil their range of Pilot’s Watches and invited many of their brand ambassadors to an exclusive gala evening to celebrate and ‘live the dream of flying’. The Swiss luxury watch brand count Bradley Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Dev Patel, Adriana Lima, James Marsden, Karolina Kurkova and Sonam Kapoor amongst their brand ambassadors. Several of them visited the IWC booth for an exclusive look at TOP GUN and “Let Petit Prince” watches with IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr, and of course got to see the Silver Spitfire taking pride of place in the centre.
The gala dinner saw Icelandic quartet Kaleo and others perform to a star-studded crowd of guests – take a look at some of the famous faces in our SIHH Gala Dinner Gallery here, and watch the short highlight video below to get an idea of what an extraordinary event this was.
And then as quickly as this dream of a week had arrived it was all over, the aircraft were being packed back into lorries and shipped back to England where the Silver Spitfire restoration will now enter its final phase ahead of departure in August. And just in case Matt and Steve had got too comfortable in their tuxedos, Expedition Director Lachlan Monro had arranged for them to get back for military survival training in icy cold Cornish waters to bring them firmly back down to earth! Keep an eye on our Pilot Diary and Latest News sections for updates on all this and more.
As we write this the aircraft have been unloaded into different hangars in the UK (that’s Gerry and hist team in Hangar 8 at the Boultbee Flight Academy above) for maintenance and restoration, pilots Matt and Steve are halfway through a week of survival training and the Silver Spitfire is back in Duxford. Roll on August – we’re almost ready to fly this plane around-the-world!
Photos and videos by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images/Charles Osborne for IWC/Boultbee Flight Academy.