Explore More Articles
Haute_Horlogerie_quer
All wound up

Before a mechanical watch movement can start moving, it needs an energy source to drive it. That energy source is the mainspring. And while there are some who enjoy engaging with the machine, lovingly winding it by hand, others take pleasure in the automatic mechanism, which will keep the watch running indefinitely, simply from the movements of the wearer's arm.

IWC Oils
Time That Runs Like Clockwork

Depending on the stresses and strains to which they are exposed, around 50 points in the movement are treated with oils and greases developed especially for use in wristwatches.

Test Lab

At IWC Schaffhausen, new watch models are put through a gruelling test program involving up to 50 separate stages that include long-term immersion in warm salt water and being locked away in an environmental chamber. All this guarantees that they will be equipped for everyday use – and much more – when they finally reach their future owners.

Sound_check_engine_AMG_972x426
Sound Check

How the engineers at Mercedes AMG in Affalterbach, southern Germany, create the right engine sound.

HALF_WAY_TO_THE_MOON_Trucks_972x426
HALF WAY TO THE MOON

For the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team, following the Grand Prix circus means transporting 30 tons of material in 10,000 individual parts and at least 60 employees to venues on five continents. Of course, they have to ensure that everything arrives there on time what calls for a system and improvisation in equal measure.

Grande Complication Dial Explained
Small World

Time moves the world. The IWC Portuguese Grande Complication is an understated, beautifully designed way of summarizing time as the motor of all change: a time machine that shows a tilted globe on the dial.

89800 Calibre Movement
Eternity in Digits

The IWC-manufactured 89800 caliber, which made its debut in 2009, redefined the digital date display. The triple-disc mechanism in the perpetual calendar features large-format displays for the date and month and, slightly more discreetly, the leap year cycle. All are ingeniously synchronized.

Top Secret

In a small town in central England, over 500 specialists spend their time developing and building silver arrows for the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team. Almost every one of the 3,200 parts in each car is custom-made.

Experiences

Movements Come to Life

Text — Michael Friedberg Date — 13 September, 2012

Share:

All mechanical watches can be fascinating because of their intricate movements. Even simple watches, ones that only tell time, are extraordinarily complex mechanisms that have hundreds of miniscule parts that work harmoniously together. A complicated watch, one that performs additional functions, is by definition even more complicated.

But there are complications and, then again, complications. Simple complications can include straightforward calendar functions that tell the date or chronograph functions that measure elapsed time. At the other extreme, there are “high” complications – watches representing haute haute horlogerie. These high complications, which are assembled in a special atelier at IWC in Schaffhausen, represent some of the most complex and costly watches in the world, including repeaters, tourbillons and, now, IWC’s ne plus ultra, the Portuguese Sidérale Scafusia.

Portuguese Sidérale Scafusia

—Ref. 5041

View Details

Across the corridor from the haute horlogerie department, there is another special complications department producing other complicated watches. These include all rattrapantes, which essentially are two chronographs that can work consecutively and in German are called Doppelchronographen – double-chronographs. These also include IWC’s perpetual calendars and, surprisingly, an especially complex complication that isn’t only a movement – the Deep Two, with its complex case to measure underwater depth and which requires special state-of-the-art watchmaking expertise.

Christian Bresser, the department co-head for this section, is an especially experienced, although young, watchmaker. Having spent time in the United States as a child, over the last 15 years he has lived in Germany and, now, Switzerland. Chris revels in the assembly of these watches. One feels his enthusiasm and his earned delight in producing each rattrapante, Chris believes that he is bringing something to life every time he assembles a movement. He says with relish that he is able to “animate these pieces composed just of metals and springs”.

It is exciting work, which literally fell into his lap. As a child, Chris was thrilled when he assembled model airplanes, and he very much wanted to be a fighter pilot. He explained that his eyesight didn’t qualify him (although it is more than precise enough to look through a loupe and meticulously assemble parts almost too small to see). Chris initially was involved in the jewelry industry and applied for an apprenticeship as a goldsmith and a diamond cutter but finally, by coincidence, Chris started schooling in Germany and became a watchmaker.

There is a good chance that Chris or one of his colleagues will have assembled your IWC perpetual calendar, double-chronograph or Deep Two. The team consists primarily of five individuals producing the Deep Two models, six watchmakers mostly assembling rattrapantes and generally eight who concentrate on perpetual calendars. It’s a small and specialized group, and the type of complications they work on may vary based on production schedules.

Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph

—Ref. 3778

View Details

Movements are delivered to the department as basic movements, which are pre-regulated. In a sense, the department is a “module” department, since they specialize in assembling the additional parts of the complication, thereafter integrating those into the base movement. For rattrapantes, it is first determined that the base chronograph is working and then the rattrapante bridges are added, followed by the hands and, subsequently the rotor. The work is done on the movements in consecutive steps, placing the same parts on each movement.

But there is more than movement assembly done here. The watchmakers need to ascertain that the movement works together with all of the indicators. The department engages in what’s called “Posage”, a French word used in the world of watchmaking that doesn’t translate perfectly into English. Literally, it means “storage”, but here it involves adjustment or “making fit”. This includes setting the day and date, the dial and then the hands. For a complicated watch, the indicators need to work along with the movement parts.

At every step in the process, there are meticulous quality control procedures. Every part is tested as it is placed. For all the movements here, there are very minute adjustments, even including adjusting bridges ever so slightly. These modules are truly hand-fitted.

Portuguese Perpetual Calendar

View Details

It’s painstaking work, requiring years of training, focused concentration and uncanny precision. These skills cannot be completely learned, since each watchmaker must possess an innate aptitude. But to those fortunate enough to be endowed with the right mindset and ability, the details, the small parts and the minute adjustments are what it’s all about. Their patience literally brings those miniscule parts of a working watch to life. There is a contagion just experiencing the thrill of two chronograph hands first working independently or in sync. There is an undeniable satisfaction watching a small mechanical instrument, which they have produced, keep track of every day on the calendar, including months of differing days and even leap years. One watchmaker tests each Deep Two through a complicated pressure device, and delights when “their” watch accurately measures depth under water for the first time.

The end results are exciting to the watchmakers here, and likewise they thrill every person who buys, or wishes to buy, an IWC watch. Producing these watches, by this team of skilled watchmakers, involves metal parts suddenly coming alive. These special models are complicated, and that’s what makes them special.

Explore More Articles
Haute_Horlogerie_quer
All wound up

Before a mechanical watch movement can start moving, it needs an energy source to drive it. That energy source is the mainspring. And while there are some who enjoy engaging with the machine, lovingly winding it by hand, others take pleasure in the automatic mechanism, which will keep the watch running indefinitely, simply from the movements of the wearer's arm.

IWC Oils
Time That Runs Like Clockwork

Depending on the stresses and strains to which they are exposed, around 50 points in the movement are treated with oils and greases developed especially for use in wristwatches.

Test Lab

At IWC Schaffhausen, new watch models are put through a gruelling test program involving up to 50 separate stages that include long-term immersion in warm salt water and being locked away in an environmental chamber. All this guarantees that they will be equipped for everyday use – and much more – when they finally reach their future owners.

Sound_check_engine_AMG_972x426
Sound Check

How the engineers at Mercedes AMG in Affalterbach, southern Germany, create the right engine sound.

HALF_WAY_TO_THE_MOON_Trucks_972x426
HALF WAY TO THE MOON

For the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team, following the Grand Prix circus means transporting 30 tons of material in 10,000 individual parts and at least 60 employees to venues on five continents. Of course, they have to ensure that everything arrives there on time what calls for a system and improvisation in equal measure.

Grande Complication Dial Explained
Small World

Time moves the world. The IWC Portuguese Grande Complication is an understated, beautifully designed way of summarizing time as the motor of all change: a time machine that shows a tilted globe on the dial.

89800 Calibre Movement
Eternity in Digits

The IWC-manufactured 89800 caliber, which made its debut in 2009, redefined the digital date display. The triple-disc mechanism in the perpetual calendar features large-format displays for the date and month and, slightly more discreetly, the leap year cycle. All are ingeniously synchronized.

Top Secret

In a small town in central England, over 500 specialists spend their time developing and building silver arrows for the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team. Almost every one of the 3,200 parts in each car is custom-made.