The IWC Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon is a timepiece which took 10 years to bring to fruition which includes a constant force-escapement. However, is it a podium winner?
Whilst winding a wristwatch, energy is imparted to the mainspring. As it becomes increasingly tensioned, greater energy is stored within the spring barrel.
Subsequently, the mainspring unwinds and transfers energy via the teeth on the barrel cover to the balance wheel.
Typically, a Swiss lever escapement is used. It portions the energy, releasing it in pulse-like form, using a pallet lever and escape wheel. The big problem is that as the mainspring becomes increasingly relaxed, less energy is imparted to the balance wheel, resulting in a loss of amplitude and, by default, accuracy. Moreover, a fully wound mainspring often delivers slightly too much energy and then, near the point of exhaustion not enough.
IWC are engineers at heart, exampled by their recent engineering partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. It was therefore inevitable that the most accomplished watchmakers, based at IWC Schaffhausen, would be tasked with addressing this age old problem.
The result is a timepiece which took 10 years to bring to fruition which includes a constant force-escapement. Furthermore, IWC chose to combine it with one of the most complex of horological complications, the tourbillon. The outcome is the IWC Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon. However, is it a podium winner?
The first thing to note is the unusual appearance of the dial. Three subdials impart information to the fortunate wearer.
At 1 o’clock, a moon-phase indicator is located. It does not resemble a typical moon-phase. It shows moon phases for both northern and southern hemispheres. Close examination reveals detail which quite simply is amazing. Look closely and you will see small craters represented on the moons displayed. This comely creation was the result of employing a “special 3-D laser technique”. The resultant presentation is stunningly sublime.
Framing this subdial is a scale showing the number of days remaining before the next full moon, shown for each of the respective hemispheres.
At 4 o’clock, a power indicator resides, however, this does not present information in the “normal” way. That would be too straightforward. This watch employs a retrograde display employing a triangular index. It shows the amount of stored energy held in the twin barrels, counting down and expressed in hours. Aesthetic considerations are never forgotten, hence the black connecting bridge ensures the central IWC nomenclature is perfectly horizontal and never obscured.
At 9 o’clock, the tourbillon cage is presented. Its frame is larger than the two aforementioned subdials, emphasising its greater importance. The edge of the toubillon bridge is marked with a combination of Arabic numerals and white strokes. Subsidiary seconds are displayed courtesy of a black seconds hand tipped with a white equilateral triangle. The tourbillon revolves around its axis every 60 seconds.
This watch will suit those with an inquiring mind for all things mechanical. As you look within the movement you will see the gold-coloured Glucydur beryllium balance with its high precision adjustment cam on the balance arms.
In the first 48 hours of the mainsprings being fully wound, the subsidiary seconds hand moves in distinct one-second steps, similar to a dead-beat seconds hand. After 48 hours has elapsed the second hand moves in integers of one-fifth of a second, typical of a watch with a frequency of 18,00 vph (2.5Hz). During the first 48 hours, the constant-force is provided and the amplitude of the balance is virtually constant.
The central area of the dial is decorated with a number of letter “I”s, representing the name of the watch, “Ingenieur”. The depiction in relief is wonderful and proffers much eye appeal.
Finally, the dial ensemble is successfully completed with black hour and minute hands. They are open-worked near their fulcrum and lined with white luminous centres. They pleasingly contrast with the Arabic numerals and simple batons used to impart the hours.
Formula One has become a haven of space-age technology, exampled with the innovative lightweight materials seen on the starting grid. Titanium and ceramic are two materials which will feature on the modern-day silver arrows cars driven by Rosberg and Hamilton in the pursuit of podium glory.
In the case of this model, the bezel, caseband and caseback are brought together in steadfast union with five titanium screws, each complemented with ceramic heads. The appearance, whilst utterly modern, does pays due reverence to the iconic Ingenieur SL conceived by the late design genius Gèrald Genta.
The 46mm diameter case brings together one of the most noblest of precious metals, platinum, combined with neoteric ceramic. Whilst platinum is not famed for being lightweight, quite the contrary, the resultant appearance is exceedingly handsome.
The use of platinum extends to the pin buckle adorning the black alligator strap. Every aspect of this timepiece is distilled to a matchless standard.
The reverse of the watch is equally attractive. A sapphire caseback reveals an awe-inspiring spectacle. The satin-brushed and sandblasted bridges provide a unique appearance. They titillate the wearer with a partial view of the snailed gear wheels and some of the 43 jewels employed. Indeed, the view of the movement acts as a metaphor for high performance engineering typically found powering the cars of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Much has already been said about the Calibre 94800 earlier in this article. However, an aspect which needs to be discussed is the investment and resources necessary to bring this watch to market.
Few companies will have the necessary means to develop and engineer a movement of this quality. It is a brave company who embarks on a ten year journey to create a unique movement such as the Calibre 94800.
In all honesty, there is a limited number of potential customers who have the necessary six-figure budget to secure this timepiece. Some may argue it is of little consequence to the typical purchaser of a two-handed IWC attracting a four-figure price tag. However, I would vehemently disagree.
If you appraise the cars which have graced the Formula One grid over the years, there has been much technology transfer from the race track to the road car. Cars have become more reliable, safer, comfortable and increasingly environmentally efficient. This “trickle-down” of knowledge into cars driven by the family man, has benefited the car-buying public and society at large.
By pushing the performance envelope of haute horology, much of the know-how acquired by IWC in producing this watch will improve their more accessible products. This is no bad thing for those of us, who choose to indulge our desire for new watches.
The very nature of this watch means it will prove financially elusive for many. Indeed, you are unlikely to see them adorning the wrist of everyone at your local golf club. However, this is not the point.
In creating Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon, IWC have showcased their watchmaking prowess and demonstrated that they are a front runner in the pursuit of championship winning glory.
The engineering partnership with the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team may well prove to be an inspired move, with much know-how being shared for the good of race-fans and watch lovers alike.
One thing is certain, this timepiece is a tour de force which certainly deserves much respect and praise.
Model: IWC Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon
Case: Platinum and ceramic; diameter 46.00 mm; height 14.00mm, water resistant to 12 bar (120 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.