FROM VINCI TO SCHAFFHAUSEN – A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME
Some 558 years ago, a small village in Tuscany saw the birth of a man without whose genius today’s world would be a different place: Leonardo da Vinci. In the 67 years until his death on 2 May 1519, he dreamed up more inventions and machines, and discovered and documented more of the laws of nature than hundreds of his contemporaries and those after them put together.
His lifelong passion was the precise measurement of time. Countless sketches testify to his enthusiasm for the earliest clockworks of the Renaissance. All his groundbreaking inventions, such as gear drives, bevel gears and complicated screw transmission systems, can be found in many machines today, including watches. His work on space-saving spring drives and new escapements, in particular, was pivotal. Posterity is still in awe of the some 6,000 pages of manuscript which he left behind.
Leonardo da Vinci was much celebrated as an artist, scientist and builder of fortifications during his lifetime. But it was only in the 19th century that people slowly began to understand how far ahead of his time he was. For Leonardo da Vinci, the entire known world was a platform for his imagination and love of experimentation. The genius from the tiny village of Vinci invented objects such as the helicopter, the armor-plated vehicle, a three-barreled cannon, the bicycle, the parachute and even a diving apparatus. None of these items could be built with the technologies and production methods available back then. In the course of a Da Vinci exhibition initiated by IWC, a mechanism that was assumed to have been a form of propulsion for an aircraft turned out to be a precursor for a watch movement – a discovery that attracted worldwide attention.
In the late 1960s, Leonardo da Vinci’s revolutionary way of thinking inspired IWC to introduce a watch named after him. Even that very first Da Vinci model surprised watch lovers with a special quality that has remained typical of the family to this day: that of always being a little ahead of its time. Many trailblazing innovations from IWC have first been developed for use in a Da Vinci, including the revolutionary Beta 21 series quartz movement for wristwatches, unveiled in 1969 as a joint effort by the Swiss watchmaking industry: a quantum leap in IWC’s history of precision measurement. However, the massive influx of cheap quartz movements from the Far East, the oil crisis and the collapse in the price of the dollar against the Swiss franc precipitated the greatest crisis ever experienced by the Swiss watchmaking industry. Despite all this, the classical art of mechanical watchmaking, as found in complicated pocket watches, for instance, remained intact at IWC. So it was that, in 1985, IWC presented a masterpiece of Haute Horlogerie: the Da Vinci as a mechanical chronograph with a perpetual calendar and display showing the year in four digits. Never before in a wristwatch had a gear train converted the enormous distance travelled by the escape wheel into a single movement of the century slide. Its intricate mechanism comprises just 83 components and is extremely simple to use: the displays for the date, day, month, year, decade, century, millennium and phase of the moon can all be set synchronously via the crown.
Just one year later, in 1986, IWC presented a Da Vinci in a high-tech case of colored ceramic: a world first. To mark the tenth birthday of the Da Vinci Chronograph Automatic, the Da Vinci Rattrapante, Reference 3751, appeared in 1995: its split-seconds hand, which was used to record intermediate times, was also the watch’s tenth. For the millennium, IWC excelled itself yet again and, with the Da Vinci Tourbillon, Reference 3752, scaled new heights in mechanical timekeeping. In much the same way that Leonardo da Vinci had never ceased striving to make things better, IWC opened a new chapter in the history of the legendary watch family in 2007: after years of research, testing and improvement, all Da Vinci models were housed in a distinctive tonneau-shaped case. The IWC-manufactured 89360 calibre was built for the Da Vinci Chronograph from start to finish in Schaffhausen. For the first time ever at IWC, it integrated the “watch-in-watch” principle: in other words, a chronograph that could be read off directly and whose stopped minutes and hours appeared on a display like that of a normal watch. Other highlights in 2007 were the limited edition Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Edition Kurt Klaus – a tribute to the 50th full year of service for IWC by its spiritual father – and the Da Vinci Automatic, whose large date display was extremely well received by IWC devotees.
In 2009, the company’s engineers added yet another outstanding member to the watch family in the form of the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month: the first flyback chronograph with a perpetual calendar and digital leap year display as well as a digital display for the month and date with large numerals. 2010 saw the arrival of the Da Vinci Chronograph Ceramic, with a surprising combination of ultra-hard ceramic and titanium, both polished and satin-finished. Another eye-catching detail is the three-dimensional dial with its floating chapter ring.