The news that IWC had allied itself with the Mercedes Benz AMG Petronas Formula One Team came out late last year, and I was lucky enough to be one of the few journalists invited along for the opening event –a soup-to-nuts tour of the team’s headquarters in Brackley, UK, where drivers train, strategy’s formulated, and –most interestingly for newcomers to Formula One like myself –the cars are assembled. At 2 per year at a cost of about $150,000,000 per year to run the operation, it seems outlandishly expensive for the results until you go in-depth on what it takes to make an F1 car competitive (and keep drivers, maintenance, and development teams competitive.) With a difference between a great car and a lemon in F1 consisting of just a couple of seconds’ time on the track, you can understand how a preoccupation with time forms a common bond between racing and chronometry, and of course watches –especially chronographs –and racing have been natural partners almost from the moment that Karl Benz created the Benz Patent Motorwagon in 1886.
Of all the IWC families the most natural partner for F1 and the best incarnation in wristwatch form of the F1 ethos is, of course, the Ingenieur. Originally created in the 1950s as a tough, highly anti-magnetic watch designed for, well, engineers (and those in allied professions who needed a watch resistant to magnetic fields) the Ingenieur today (with a designed that’s descended from one created in the 1970s by Gerald Genta, the Ingeniuer SL) is a platform for sports watches in which anti-magnetic properties are not necessarily the main attraction.
At the top of the heap, for instance, is the Ingenieur Constant Force Tourbillon.
This is essentially an Ingenieur version of the IWC Siderale Scafusia, though minus the star chart and calendar the latter sports on the back. Here the focus is front and center –the hour and minute hands have their hands full competing with the visuals of the enormous, constant force tourbillon. The tourbillon is fitted with the constant force mechanism known as a remontoir d’egalité, which is essentially a second spiral spring, mounted on the axis of a wheel on the tourbillon carriage (the escape wheel in this case, though a remontoire can theoretically be mounted on any train wheel) which is rewound once per second (and unlocks once per second) to provide an unvarying amount of torque to the escapement. The energy to rewind it comes from the mainspring. The spring remontoir was originally developed by John Harrison, for his H4 marine chronometer, and they’re extremely rare in any kind of watch and have been fitted to a tourbillon carriage only a few times in the history of watchmaking. Serious chronometry freaks take note.
Since the remontoir unlocks once per second, the carriage rotates in one second increments, and as the seconds hand is on the axis of the carriage it acts as a deadbeat seconds complication as well. There’s enough torque in the mainspring to keep the remontoir wound for around 48 hours, after which the torque left in the mainspring is no longer strong enough to defeat the elastic resistance of the remontoire spring, and the tourbillon cage rotates every time the escape wheel unlocks, like a normal tourbillon (the very large balance swings at 18,000 vph.)
Above, the lever escapement and escape wheel are visible, and below, the remontoir wheel, and its escapement.
For the first time, as well, an Ingenieur watch has a moon-phase display. (Thanks to a reader we’ve found out this isn’t true; see end-note.) This one’s a doozy –a photo-realistic laser cut map of the moon adorns the dial.
Case, ceramic and platinum, 46mm x 14mm, with a 96 hour power reserve (48 or so under control of the constant force mechanism, for optimum chronometry.)
Just as interesting a surprise was the Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Date-Month. I was skeptical about the idea of a perpetual calendar in an Ingenieur case –the complication’s one I associate with exercises in elegance (like the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Chrono) not with a sports watch profile, but I think IWC’s got the combination nailed.
The instrumentality of the F1 world and the aristocratically cerebral nature of the perpetual calendar play very well together, thanks to the dual digital display –and it’s a chronograph as well. Date, month, and the leap year cycle are shown digitally, and the case is of titanium aluminide –a material used in pistons and valves in F1 engines. We’ve been road testing its older brother –a Da Vinci Perpetual –for the last couple of weeks, and if this one’s as robust and easy to use, it’s a great fit for a sports watch case.
46mm titanium aluminide case, 28,800 vph, 68 hour power reserve.
Carbon fiber’s far from a newcomer to the watch world, but like any other material, there are varying degrees of quality of execution ranging from the downright fraudulent (carbon-fiber imitations) to top tier (use of actual carbon fiber in multiple layers, forming the actual body of the case.) IWC, we’re glad to report, has done the later, taking probably the single most essential material in F1 racing (carbon fiber panels are about 80% of an F1 car by volume) and turning it into the sleek, sexy, back-in-black Ingenieur Automatic Carbon Performance.
46mm, carbon fiber case and bezel. Available with either red or yellow arabics on the rehaut, limited edition of 100 each worldwide. We got to try one on at Brackley and again at SIHH and it sits on the wrist beautifully.
The last one’s a gift from IWC to all the Genta purists and functionality fanatics for whom any Ingenieur that ain’t antimagnetic ain’t an Ingenieur. Your wishes, fellow retro-grouches, have been answered –we’ve seen the Ingenieur 40mm automatic before, but I could look at it all day without tiring of its retro, Genta inspired design (it’s not an exact duplicate of the Ingenieur SL but it’s damned close) and –huzzars! –it’s fitted with a soft iron inner case that gives it a resistance to magnetism of 40,000 A/m. We hate making predictions but we think this one’s going to be a big hit, especially in the USA.
Authenticity and integrity of functionality, combined with unadorned sober dignity –I think I’m in love.
Update: A reader has pointed out that this is actually NOT the first time a moonphase –and perpetual calendar –has been placed in an Ingenieur case. In 1985, two yellow gold models were introduced, which used the Kurt Klaus designed perpetual calendar module. This was the year that Kurt Klaus and IWC introduced this module, so in fact, the Ingenieur has a history of using a perpetual calendar complication that goes back quite a lot further than I’d imagined. –Jack Forster