It would be difficult to find a spot more removed from the glitz, glamour and exclusivity of the world of luxury watches than Mae Sot, a Thai trading hub for gemstones and teak on the border with Myanmar. Nevertheless, that’s where IWC Schaffhausen’s managing director for Southeast Asia, Matthieu Dupont, appeared one fine day this past summer.
The district around Mae Sot is home to a patchwork of ethnic groups, including Karen hill tribes, and for decades the busy border town has been a safe haven for thousands of Burmese refugees, most of whom also belong to the Karen ethnic minority. With jobs scarce for young Karen adults, the Hospitality & Catering Training Centre (HCTC) was established in 2008 to give them a brighter future through education. It was to attend the inauguration of new facilities at the centre—a media laboratory and garden—funded by IWC that Dupont travelled to Mae Sot.
“We’re proud that we can make a tangible difference for these students here in Mae Sot,” Dupont said. “The new facilities will contribute to the enhancement of the educational programme at HCTC, underlining our support for children and adolescents facing challenging circumstances, which is one of the cornerstones of our corporate social responsibility programme.”
IWC funded the project—a collaboration with a French charity, the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation—by auctioning off a Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” in November last year. The watchmaker is also sponsoring tuition for 60 students.
The auction was the third held by IWC to raise money for the work of its French partner. In April last year, an IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” in platinum was auctioned off, with the proceeds used to build a new recreation area and library at a children’s hospital in Curitiba, Brazil. The previous year, an IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince,” also in platinum, was sold to help build two school buildings and a library in Roluos, Cambodia.
The Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation, which is named after a famous French writer and pioneer aviator, relies on the philanthropy of corporations and patrons such as IWC Schaffhausen to realise its projects. The collaboration with IWC dates back to 2006. Of the latest project, Saint Exupéry Foundation patron Hélène Pichon said: “The holistic approach of nurturing both practical skills and character development perfectly reflects the core values of our foundation, and with strong partners like IWC, we are able to carry out our work.”
This article first appeared on hk.asiatatler.com