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SIHH 2017 IWC and the Legacy of Leonardo Da Vinci

by Jonathan Ho on January 16, 2017

SIHH 2017 is upon us and IWC has unveiled a host of exquisite heritage inspired timepieces from the lauded history of the Swiss Schaffhausen manufacture. For SIHH 2017 IWC pays homage to the iconic design of the 1980s  with their latest Da Vinci collection and with it, eschewing the tonneau case shape we’ve all become familiar with and a return to the classic round case with aggressive new lugs.

SIHH 2017 IWC Da Vinci Collection Overview

Two newly developed in-house IWC manufacture calibres join the collection with two IWC Da Vinci watch models catered specifically for women – the Da Vinci Automatic 36 and the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36; a unisex model

“With the new Da Vinci collection, IWC Schaffhausen has returned to the round case that was so successfully estab- lished by the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar in 1985. It means we are bidding farewell to the tonneau case and reaffirming our commitment to the classic proportions the brand stands for,” – Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen

Recalling the IWC icon of the 1980s, the return to the classic round case is the purest expression of respect for the watch which started it all – the much beloved IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph. While the harmonious round case and rounded crowns are all hallmarks of the early non-quartz based Da Vinci, the twin frame bezel has been slightly updated with newly designed movable horns with curved lugs to assure a more comfortable fit for straps and bracelets to taper around the wrists thus making the latest IWC Da Vinci collection from SIHH 2017 a more comfortable wear.

IWC 8031LZ IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

History of IWC Da Vinci

Yes, it is true that till recently, the modern IWC Da Vinci collection of the Swiss Schaffhausen was tonneau shaped much in part thanks to the original tour de force – the 1969 hexagonal Da Vinci (Ref. 3501, Ref. 9500) watch and a symbol of the manufacture’s (then) crowning achievement as the first wristwatch powered by a quartz movement completely and exclusively produced in Switzerland, the Beta 21. Da Vinci collection was so named for the legendary multi-hyphenate artist engineer Leonardo da Vinci as an allegory of IWC’s thirst for knowledge and innovation with the aesthetic trappings of classic elegance. Thus, the historical figure embodied what the Swiss Schaffhausen had envisioned for the collection.

Then at Basel Watch Fair 1985, IWC unveiled another inventive revolution in the form of the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 3750)  which unlike other perpetual calendars of the day, hardly required any adjustments for the next 514 years up till 2499 and even then, the high complication known for its myriad of pushers was simplified by the Swiss Schaffhausen for setting by crown only – a revolutionary mechanism developed by former master watchmaker Kurt Klaus which set the stage for IWC to become the latest newcomer into the highest ranks of haute horlogerie. The year after and almost 30 years before the trend for ceramic watches, IWC unveiled another first in 1986: the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 3755) – the world’s first wristwatch made of scratch-resistant and hard wearing black zirconium oxide ceramic.

vintage IWC Da Vinci watches including what looks like the foundational watch for the modern Ingeniuer.

For the last 10 years of the Swiss Schaffhausen’s modern history, the Da Vinci collection built a strong following for the signature tonneau case reminiscent of the hexagonal Quartz reference and relaunched the collection with the 89360 calibre, the first IWC-manufactured chronograph movement to be developed in-house. Eventually the 89360 made its way into the Da Vinci Chronograph (Ref. 3764), and as a world’s first, allowed the stopped minutes and hours to be read off a subdial on a display like that of a normal watch. This display of technical prowess was followed up by the contemporary Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month (Ref. 3761) in 2009, which while thoroughly futuristic for its “digital” date display, was itself inspired by a collection of the Schaffhausen’s 1884 pocket watches using the Pallweber system.

SIHH 2017 IWC Da Vinci Collection – renewed focus on women

There has been a long-standing tradition within the soon-to-be 150 year old IWC Schaffhausen to cater specifically for the fairer sex. Creating women’s watches since the 1870s, IWC’s women’s watches become recognised for their elegantly appointed watches with diamonds during the 1920s to 1950s. The Schaffhausen manufacture’s attention to women was further evident in 1988 when they launched the Da Vinci Lady Chronograph (Ref. 3735), the smallest chronograph movement of the era and a popular hit with the ladies. Thus, it is only fitting that SIHH 2017 follows the other years like that of the Portofino with a new 2017 Da Vinci collection for women.

“With the new Da Vinci collection, we are consciously trying to anchor the brand in the minds of women, who account for a signi cant proportion of watch lovers. Here in Schaffhausen, the company has been manufacturing watches for women since the very beginning. In that sense, we are remaining true to our heritage.” – Franziska Gsell, CMO of IWC Schaffhausen

The dedication to women has seen the Schaffhausen manufacture go beyond the mere “miniaturisation” of a men’s variant, instead the new Da Vinci Automatic 36 and the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 are not just smaller and slimmer than their equivalent male counterparts but also more feminine in terms of aesthetics. Following in the same dainty touches as the Portofino 37mm collection, the new IWC Da Vinci women’s watches have rounded crowns and a recessed inner circle on the dial.

A quick overview of the new IWC Da Vinci Automatic 36 and the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 watches from SIHH 2017

From gold cases to the diamond set bezels and Santoni alligator leather straps, no detail has been spared or overlooked; case in point, Santoni made available a wide variety of appealing, high fashion colours including raspberry, bronze, dark brown and dark blue specially developed for IWC’s fashionista fans and further enhancing the feminine appeal of the Da Vinci Automatic 36.

The moonphase complication, a hallmark complication for IWC Da Vinci collection since 1985, returns to the fore in dramatic flair as the centrepiece of the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36.

The gold- or silver- coloured moon moves clockwise against the dark blue night sky. Its aesthetic appeal is further accentuated by underscore the watch’s aesthetic appeal by the nuanced gradations of colour on the strap. The surface of the leather is polished with a variety of different pastes until it has the desired shading and a perfect sheen. As a result, every strap has an exclusive patina-like shimmer with its own individual nuances of colour.

IWC Shaffhausen ties the two women’s offerings together with poetic symbology on the case back, recalling the Grand Maestro Leonardo’s own obsession with geometry and symmetry. On both the case backs of the Da Vinci Automatic 36 and Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 models. sits the gure of the “Flower of Life” engraved and brought to life from one of Da Vinci’s many illustrations and a homage to his theories on mathematical rules for beauty and proportion.

the new IWC Da Vinci automatic in 40mm

Just because IWC is paying more attention to the women doesn’t mean that the Schaffhausen has forgotten it’s previous mantra “engineered for men” and it becomes readily apparent with the Da Vinci Automatic in 40mm – designed for men but equally wearable for women as well, the classic three hand watch with perfect round case and distinctive horns contrasts with the minimalist dial and head turning arabic numerals while lancet-shaped hands perfectly matches the purist design of the Da Vinci Automatic.

SIHH 2017 IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

The act of combining perpetual moonphase display on a subdial within a subdial elevates the SIHH 2017 IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph into something quintessentially haute horlogerie. Incidentally, it’s also the first time IWC has combined a mechanical chronograph with a perpetual moonphase and the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph acquits itself admirably amongst similar offerings. The moon phase is displayed by a disc, partly silver- or gold-plated, partly dark blue, which rotates to show the shadow of the earth and the waxing or waning moon below an aperture in the dial, all powered by the manufacture 89630 calibre which also drives the other calendar display indications.

Da Vinci Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph (Ref. IW393101)

Fnally, IWC SIHH 2017’s piece de resistance is the evocative Da Vinci Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph (Ref. IW393101) in 18-carat red gold – an uncommon combination of complications, an alchemical blend of classic tourbillon with a retrograde date and a sporty chronograph on a single dial; while its immediate brilliance is recognisable from an engineering perspective, the artistic prowess cannot be overstated on how IWC managed to keep the dial from excess clutter. That said, it’s a technical marvel – the Schaffhausen manufacture improved upon the 89360 chronograph calibre, birthing the new in-house 89900 calibre which allows for down-to-the-second setting via a newly designed system of levers, the result is a highly rare “hacking tourbillon” complication.

Here’s how the new Da Vinci Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph (Ref. IW393101) works

The wearer reads stopped hours and minutes off from a totalizer at the top of the dial, while a central seconds hand shows elapsed seconds. The ying tourbillon is positioned below at “6 o’clock” and, on the left-hand side, the gently curved arc of the retrograde date display almost visually connects one complication with the other. Apart from this, the pallet lever and escape wheel were manufactured with the use of diamond shell technology for the first time. This involves a diamond coating that reduces friction, thus generating a higher output of energy.

 

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