IWC Da Vinci



Some 561 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 who followed him.

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 helical gears, bevel gears and complicated screw transmissions, 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.

Da Vinci - Perpetual Calendar - Mood
—The signature of Kurt Klaus, inventor of the perpetual calendar
Da Vinci Automatic
The Da Vinci Family — always a little ahead of its time

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 armour-plated vehicle, a three-barrelled cannon, the bicycle, the parachute and even a diving apparatus. None of these items could be built with the technologies and production methods available at that time. 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 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 the 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 of 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 completely mechanically programmed perpetual calendar and a display that shows the year in four digits.

Never before in an IWC wristwatch had a gear train converted the enormous distance travelled by the escape wheel into a single movement of the century slide: between two of these movements, a point on the outer rim of the balance covers a distance equal to 40 times of that around the earth.

Its intricate mechanism comprises just 83 components and is extremely simple to use. For the first time in IWC’s history of portable time, the displays for the date, day, month, year, decade, century, millennium and phase of the moon can all be set synchronously, a day at a time, via the crown.

Da Vinci Chronograph

—Reference 3764

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Da Vinci Klaus Sketch - Mood Interior
—A sketch by Kurt Klaus for the Da Vinci's perpetual calendar mechanism
Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

—Reference 3761

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Just one year later, in 1986, IWC presented a Da Vinci in a high-tech case of coloured ceramic: a world first. To mark the tenth birthday of the automatic Da Vinci Chronograph with a perpetual calendar, 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 hand. For the millennium, IWC excelled itself once 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-within-a-watch principle: in other words, a chronograph that could be read off directly and whose stopped minutes and hours appeared on a display similar to a normal watch. Other highlights in 2007 were the limited 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 has since been extremely popular with IWC devotees.


Inside Da Vinci

Celebrating Leonardo da Vinci’s Genius

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. This development was a watchmaking tour de force that has been genuinely worth the effort. Finally, 2010 saw the arrival of the Da Vinci Chronograph Ceramic, with a surprising combination of high-tech ceramic (material: zirconium oxide) and titanium which is polished or satin-finished.

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