In a world full of mounting metrosexuality, IWC’s new Da Vinci expresses all that is good about being a real man
In modern society, the barking, hellish myriad of feminists and the swelling ranks of self-emasculating sensitive New Age men would have us all give up the symbols of our masculinity. They would have us trade in our Aston Martins for soulless hybrid tin cans, and our .45 caliber 1911 Les Baers for sensitivity seminars. They believe that luxury is the sole domain of the mincing, verbally capricious and satirically effete modern, girly man, and much of consumer culture has listened to them. It is for this reason that any man not suffering from body dysmorphic disorder can’t fit into Hedi Slimane’s suits. Fortunately, the modern era is experiencing a backlash where real male oriented brands are crafting the type of high luxury symbols that are collectively bitch-slapping the growing culture of metrosexuality back under the plucked eyebrow rock from whence it sprang.
In this world where men eat their red meat dripping in robust sanguine glory, wear their Mark Powell suits like bespoke armor and exhale their Bolivars indoors, the International Watch Company reigns supreme. Because no other brand makes watches for men with as much understanding of the aesthetics, performance needs and emotional content that make us tick. So tapped into the collective male consciousness is IWC that were Gladiator’s Maximus alive today, he’d be screaming “Roma victor!” and generally unleashing eight kinds of ass-kicking hell with IWC’s new Da Vinci chronograph strapped to his wrist.
MEET THE NEW BOSS But what’s that? You recall IWC’s groundbreaking Da Vinci, the watch featuring the world’s first fully-integrated perpetual calendar, where all the date indications could be easily controlled with a single crown, as being a far cry from hyper masculinity. You recall it being, well, a bit anemically undersized with lugs that were just a touch ornamental. Well, apparently, so did IWC’s very dynamic CEO, Georges Kern.
Now, Kern is what you would call a proactive leader — a Type A personality combined with a vast horological knowledge and razor sharp business acumen. And so it was he who recognized years ago that the Da Vinci, which we have known for over two decades, needed to perish and in its place, he would construct a modern Da Vinci — a shimmering symbol of New World power. This would not be a revised version of the previous watch actualizing its DNA. No, the new watch would signify a rupture from the past, bristling with eye-catching architectural form that would be the harbinger of a new era of empowerment for the Da Vinci. His brief given to IWC’s dynamic design chief, Guy Bove, was to avoid repeating the round case shape of the previous watch. Says Kern, “Such is the iconic nature of our other round dress watch, the Portuguese, that any other round watch would have suffered in comparison. Even if it was successful, it would have been a cannibalization of our own product range.” (For the full interview with Georges Kern, check out ‘Top of His Game: In Conversation with Georges Kern’ on page 259.)
Then, Kern made the radical move of giving Bove and his team room to create an all-new reference. His goal was simple: he wanted to fuse IWC’s technical strength with a design-oriented emotionality to capture the market currently under the spell of Hublot, Audemars Piguet and Roger Dubuis. Says Kern, “There is an emerging new global elite that is very interested in watchmaking. There are many brands, which I won’t mention, that are capitalizing massively on this hunger for very contemporary watches. So, the Da Vinci was specifically created for this market.” The decision was made to creatively forge a watch based loosely on a tonneau-shaped Da Vinci watch from the ’80s featuring a Beta 21 quartz movement, but the resulting timepiece is light years from the fussy, tonneau dress watches of the past. Says Guy Bove, “I’m incredibly happy with the new Da Vinci. I think that it really expresses the idea of strength in a way that is both modern and classic, and which surpasses the majority of timepieces on the market.”
And while the watch pays tribute to Da Vinci’s idea of proportions, it is more a message of male strength that is imparted from the first glimpse of the Da Vinci. To understand the Da Vinci, you should know that it is sprung from the mind of a man who designs concept motorcycles based on Harley-Davidson engines and counts Buell motorcycles and Aston Martin’s V8 Vantage as some of the most perfectly designed objects on earth. Like the Buell and the Aston Martin, the Da Vinci is squat, brutally powerful and yet, somehow, rakishly elegant. It is for lack of a better description that you can call it a gentleman-thug of a watch. A throwback fusion — think Sean Connery or Daniel Craig as James Bond — of impeccable taste combined with a serious don’t-f**k-with-me attitude.
Hold the watch in your hands or better yet, strap it to your wrist and you’ll be captured by a sense of the contrast between organic and architectural lines that flow through its form. Says Guy Bove, “This is the result of the combination of man-made and natural curves. Natural curves are concave; man-made curves are convex and result, for example, from man hewing something out of rock. The majority of watches use primarily concave curves, but here we’ve mixed in convex curves to create a greater sense of drama, velocity and power.” Look closely and you’ll see that while the bezel flows with a concave ergonomic line, the recession for the chronograph pushers as well as the pushers themselves express convex curves. The types of curves are further distinguished by using alternate rhythms of polished surfaces for concave curves and brushed finishes for convex curves to create an even more sculptural effect with the timepiece. The result is a case that defies total comprehension the first time you see it. You discover more and more as you turn it around in your hands. Notice that the both the crown and the opposite case band bulge outward with the forceful promiscuity of the arched fenders found in a Porsche 911 Turbo. Says Bove, “This is to echo the lines of the round movement contained within the tonneau-shaped structure.” Every design element has a purpose to it. The huge lugs flexing outwards like Mike Tyson’s trapezoids also allow the strap of the watch to be positioned at 90 degrees to fit smaller wrists. Says Bove, “I wanted to create the equivalent of a car or bike, where every aspect of it practically barks power, but at the same time had no gimmicks.”
BUILDING A BRIDGE For 2007, the Da Vinci will be made in three different versions: the smaller sized Da Vinci automatic, the larger perpetual calendar model and the groundbreaking chronograph model. Interestingly, the perpetual calendar Da Vinci marries the highly innovative new case design with the familiar face of the outgoing Da Vinci perpetual calendar chronograph. The reason for this, according to Kern, is to create a bridge between the new case design and the outgoing model. Says Kern, “You have to understand that in many of the European markets, this watch has come as something of a shock because this has been an all-new beginning in terms of design.”
To further strengthen this bridge is a special Kurt Klaus limited edition perpetual calendar. Says Kern of Klaus’s reaction to the news of a watch created in his name, “Kurt Klaus is a very modest man. He has done so much for the brand, but he never really talks about it. He generally shies away from recognition, but we are going to give him the number watch in platinum.” Says Klaus of the honor, “It is beyond anything I could expect.” At the same time, Klaus explains that IWC is already at work on reworking his famous perpetual calendar mechanism to function with the manufacture’s all-new in-house chronograph movement for 2008.
A NEW IN-HOUSE CHRONOGRAPH CALIBER On the subject of chronographs, much of the buzz surrounding the new Da Vinci is related to the manufacture’s new in-house chronograph caliber. This movement, created by IWC movement designer, Stefan Ihnen, is truly one of the most functionally innovative calibers to have emerged in the last few years. The base caliber features a flattened version of the super efficient Pellaton winding mechanism that features no dead angles. The chronograph also features a double counter to show elapsed minutes and hours as you would civil time, which is similar to the monocounter created by Patek Philippe that was unveiled last year. The counter is located at 12 o’clock. Rather than a vertical clutch, the movement utilizes a simpler sliding pinion mechanism.
But it is the way in which Ihnen uses the double counter mechanism and the sliding pinion chronograph mechanism to offset each other’s power consumption to maintain constant amplitude, whether the chronograph is switched on or off, that is truly brilliant! For the interview with Ihnen and the full story on how this caliber has revolutionized chronograph performance, please check out www.horomundi.com
WAITING IN THE WINGS As impressed as we are with the design and technical power of the all-new Da Vinci, we are even more captivated by the watch waiting in the wings. This timepiece, an all-ceramic version of the Da Vinci, is destined to explode forcefully onto the scene next year. Says Kern, “This would definitely be a showcase for some of the materials that we have great legitimacy in using. We pioneered the use of ceramic in high watchmaking, so it would make total sense for us to create a ceramic Da Vinci.” When asked, Bove nods enthusiastically, a small smile playing on his lips. “Hypothetically, if we were to make a ceramic Da Vinci, it would be a crushing knock-out hit. It would take the strength of this design to an all-new level.” And suddenly, the Da Vinci makes even more sense. Cloaked in black ceramic armor, its flared case and bezel takes on the hyper-aggressive stance of a mako shark, while the muscular lugs take on the amped predatory menace of the shark’s dorsal fins. Sheathed in fathomless, ninja-like black ops noir, the Da Vinci is transformed into a high luxury weapon replete with one of the world’s most functionally intelligent chronograph movements.
But a full ceramic version of the Da Vinci is only one facet of Kern’s plans for the Da Vinci. As more and more of his long-term vision is unveiled, it suddenly hits you like a cross-hatched .45 caliber slug and you reel in his commercial smartness because the multi-part case construction of the new Da Vinci with a movement riding in a titanium casing ring reveals a Walt Whitman-like multitude of manifestations through the combination of materials, textures and surfaces. Playing it cool, Kern cagily agrees that the case’s multi-part construction makes it the perfect showcase for mixed-material watches that have captured the younger market’s fascination, as evidenced by the success of AP’s Alinghi Team carbon fiber and rose gold watch, and Hublot’s combination of tantalum and ceramic. Kern states, “If you take a look at the construction of the watch, the case is multi-part and incredibly complex. But this multi-part construction also gives us the liberty to do combinations of materials that we think will be well received.” We’re inclined to agree because the future of this super power structure seems truly limitless. H
This simple automatic version features a smaller case size
This limited edition perpetual calendar chronograph version is named for IWC’s former technical director, Kurt Klaus
The men behind the impressive new Da Vinci: design director, Guy Bove (right) and chronograph movement designer, Stefan Ihnen at the launch of the watch in Florence’s Uffizi museum
The case is multi-part and incredibly complex. But this multi-part construction also gives us the liberty to do combinations of materials that we think will be well received. IWC CEO, Georges Kern
Da Vinci Chronograph
Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph