By Eleanor Pryor
At the start of the year, prestigious watch brand IWC became the ‘Official Engineering Partner’ of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. The association is pleasingly natural; like its motor sport companion, IWC incorporates pioneering technologies and materials into its output, as illustrated by the newest Ingenieur model.
The cooperation between IWC and AMG, the sports customisation division of Mercedes, actually dates back to 2004 but the partnership had gone quiet. Now, IWC has decided on an F1 focus to its latest collection and, helpfully, Mercedes returned to the formula as a manufacturer in 2010.
The Ingenieur had humble beginnings. Created in 1955, it was less haute horlogerie, more tool watch, built to withstand all the everyday pressures on a timepiece and more. Equipped with a winding mechanism named after then technical director Albert Pellaton, the bi-directional movement was claimed to be a more efficient alternative to the standard options of the time, and is a system that can still be found in the line to this day. In 1976, the model underwent a complete revamp, courtesy of the legendary Gérald Genta, the man behind Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, who introduced one of the hallmarks of the collection: five exposed bores on the bezel.
Ever since, iterations of the timepiece have continued to push the boundaries of precision watchmaking. IWC has scooped up the defining features from the Ingenieur’s past and repackaged them into this diverse new collection, all while maintaining a firm eye on the future.
The piece de resistance from this year’s offering is the Constant-Force Tourbillon, the most complicated Ingenieur yet. While a tourbillon is a technical feat all of its own – and is exposed to full effect on the dial – the true star of the show is the patented constant-force mechanism integrated within. Ten years in the making, it is IWC’s solution to the age-old problem of regulating the supply of energy to a movement, thus improving the precision of timekeeping. In a conventional movement, the mainspring is under more tension when newly wound, therefore the energy coming from the spring can vary as it unwinds. In this watch, the Calibre 94800’s constant-force mechanism allows the escapement to be disconnected from the gear train, ensuring that the flow of power remains consistent.
‘While a tourbillon is a technical feat all of its own – and is exposed to full effect on the dial – the true star of the show is the patented constant-force mechanism integrated within.’
This system also has an interesting effect that carries through to the dial. While the watch is in constant-force mode, its hands move in one-second increments but, after 48 hours, it switches back to normal mode, with the hands advancing in the smooth, sweeping motion more typical of mechanical watches. Of course, the Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon is decked out with the high-tech look to match its precision mechanics. The case is constructed from platinum and ceramic, with three indications stylistically protruding into the bezel, inspired by the design of dashboard instruments found in F1 cars – the tourbillon, a 96-hour power reserve counter and a special, ultra-realistic northern and southern hemisphere moon phase complication that makes its debut in this timepiece. You can look under the bonnet via the sapphire glass caseback.
The watch, which retails for £205,000, is only available on special request from IWC retailers, meaning that this timepiece is sure to join the ranks as one of those ‘Holy Grail’ pieces.