The Ingenieur collection has traditionally been IWC’s answer to the tool watch. It shot to fame and became an icon during the Gerald Genta era. Together with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, the IWC Ingenieur was as its name suggests, a robust, non-cosmetic tool watch. It was well known for its anti-magnetic case and its utilitarian design.
The Ingenieur collection today, however, has been greatly influenced by industry developments and a market of watch buyers intrigued by the Audemar Piguet Royal Oak Offshore and its notion of multi material cases, large sized watches. This trend was exacerbated and popularized by Hublot with J.C Biver’s ‘Fusion’ concept. Ceramic was quickly popularized and the sports watch gained for itself a new theme. The popular luxury sports watch is now in titanium, tungsten, gold, ceramic and every other colorful alloy, with contrasting watch straps of leather and rubber. The boring bracelet watch could not keep up with the times.
In 2012, IWC announces a partnership with Mercedes AMG. This event is arguably the watershed that created a ‘new’ line within the Ingenieur family. The motorsports themed sports watch.
The IWC Ingenieur Constant Force Tourbillon
The Constant Force Tourbillon first appeared in the Portuguese Siderale Scafusia. I still remember how this very watch and the brand started my connection with the watch community in Singapore and remains a dear story to me. The ultra-complicated Siderale Scafusia was a million dollar watch with the Constant Force Tourbillon at its heart and an integrated star chart on the case back. It could be programmed to reflect the star constellations from a location of the owner’s choice.
The IWC Ingenieur Constant Force Tourbillon can be thought as a slightly more accessible although still highly priced product mix based off the first Constant Force Tourbillon caliber.
So what exactly is IWC’s Constant Force Tourbillon?
What problem does this complication seek to address? Mechanical watchmaking is to be put mildly, an obsession with making timekeeping increasingly accurate the ‘old fashioned’ way. This, despite the knowledge that there will always be a limitation to how accurate mechanical timekeeping can be. IWC’s Constant Force Tourbillon is built with this purpose in mind, to create a more accurate timekeeper. This can be achieved by solving one of the biggest challenges in mechanical timekeeping, the inconsistent release of power.
The hand-wound mechanism of a mechanical wristwatch should ideally supply energy at as constant a rate as possible. But because the mainspring in a conventional hand-wound movement is under more tension when freshly wound than when running down, the amount of power it generates varies constantly.
After 10 years of research, development and testing, IWC’s team of engineers, watchmakers and designers found the answer to the problem. The elegant solution was found from creating a complex constant-force mechanism integrated in a tourbillon.
The 46 mm case of the IWC Ingenieur Constant Force Tourbillon is made in platinum and ceramic. The black ceramic and polished platinum provides a discrete contrast to the otherwise large sized watch. Perhaps the most striking part of the design, apart from the fascinating mechanical display of the constant force tourbillon, is the layout of the dial. The 3 subdials positioning at 1, 4 and 9 is a good twist from the conventional 3, 6, 9 layout. Furthermore, note how the subdials protrude into the bezel, inspired by dash- board instruments and underscore the watch’s sporty character.
The other feature we were fascinated with is the moonphase. The moonphase display showcases 2 moons one representing the northern and the other the southern hemisphere. IWC’s tasteful depiction of the moon is both realistic and artful. The manufacture used a special 3-D laser technique to render the surface to replicate the physical surface of the Moon. Tiny craters and intentional blemishes pepper the gray surface disc; which is also the right color, to create a realistic representation of the moon. The countdown display on the outer ring of the totalizer shows the number of days remaining before the next full moon.
The constant force mechanism lies deep in the recesses of the tourbillon cage. Peering into the masterful complication reveals an assembly that makes use of an uncoupling of the escapement from the gear train which keeps the amplitude of the balance and the watch rate near constant.
After manually winding the watch, the energy is stored temporarily in a balance spring and dispensed to the escape wheel. This balance spring is put under tension once a second, as we can see from the one-second advances made by the tourbillon hand. After every five beats of the balance, the stop wheel and the tourbillon cage are also released. The stop wheel turns and causes the tourbillon cage to rotate with it, which puts the balance spring under tension again. After about 2 days, the watch moves from constant-force mode into normal mode. Now, the seconds hand advances smoothly every one-fifth of a second. The constant-force tourbillon guarantees a regular and precise rate over a period of at least 48 hours.
The 96 hour power reserve movement uses a double barrel storage which provides the necessary torque to drive the movement. The watch beats at 18,000 A/h and uses 43 jewels. It is priced at S$380,000 for the platinum model shown here and S$340,000 for the rose gold variant.