IWC is no stranger to perpetual calendars, and while the company did not make the first perpetual calendar, it nevertheless scored an important innovation in the field with the introduction in 1985 of a most accessibly priced and simplest to operate (all indications advanced via a single crown) perpetual calendar, the ref. 3750. But what was to follow was even more stunning: 1993’s Il Destriero Scafusia.
Because their pilot’s watches were adopted by the RAF as well as the Luftwaffe, IWC had become associated with pragmatic tool watches. But when he took over the brand in 1985, Gunther Blumlein, a man considered to be one of the great geniuses in the modern watch industry, wanted to add another dimension to IWC’s abilities. He wanted to demonstrate that IWC could enter the world of complicated watches. In 1989, Blancpain created the 1735, at the time the world’s most complicated wristwatch. It featured a tourbillon, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, split seconds chronograph. The 1735 was a hugely audacious timepiece that symbolized the renaissance of mechanical watchmaking after the quartz crisis and became a rallying cry to the entire Swiss industry.
Blumlein wanted to demonstrate that IWC could match the 1735, but in a smarter, more cost effective and robust way. He already had the split second chronograph mechanism ready to launch in 1991 with Richard Habring’s Doppel Chronograph reference 3711. He already had the world’s fully synchronized perpetual calendar created by Kurt Klaus in 1986 with the reference 3750 (For more about the ref. 3750, read here. He already has a tourbillon, which first appeared in the Da Vinci family along with a perpetual calendar in the reference 375203. What he was missing was a minute repeater.
The problem was, as his base caliber for his grand complication was the Valjoux 7750 a fully integrated automatic chronograph, he could not construct a minute repeater into its pre-existing architecture. His solution was to tap the genius of two maverick watchmakers Dominique Renaud and Giulio Papi who had created an atelier specializing in high complications. Since they couldn’t build the necessary strike train into the existing movement, they would create a module with all the repeater function to be sandwiched between the dial and the movement.
In 1990 IWC unveiled their initial foray into high complications with the stunning Grande Complication, an automatic chronograph with perpetual calendar and minute repeater and a solid caseback. But this was just step one in Blumlein’s grad plan. In 1993 for the brand’s 125th anniversary IWC unveiled the full majesty of Blumlein’s vision with Il Destriero Scafusia or “The Warhorse of Schaffhausen a demonstration that IWC could equal the achievements of he Blancpain 1735 at a more accessible price using their engineering intelligence.
As this watch featured a sapphire case back, the decision was to remove the automatic winding system of the Valjoux 7750 to better observe the magnificent flying tourbillon replete with the world’s first titanium cage.