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“September 17, 1835. As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of which must have weighed at least 200 pounds. One was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly stalked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in its head."

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IWC Schaffhausen cordially invites you and guest to WATCHES&WONDERS, the first Asian Haute Horlogerie exhibition at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre from September 25th-28th, 2013. To mark this event, IWC Schaffhausen will offer a chance to win an exclusive trip for two people to visit IWC’s manufacture in Schaffhausen, the home of IWC and will be whisked away to Portofino in Italy, where they will experience the inspiration behind one of IWC’s most famous collections.

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Experiences

Six hours for all eternity

Inside IWC

Text — Medard Meier Photos — David Willen Date — 1 October, 2009

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Experience - Perpetual Calendar - Article Hero Vertical

Any watchmaker who is allowed to work at one of the benches in the “Complications” department at IWC in Schaffhausen has definitely made it to the top of his trade. Because this is where the company makes the intricate mechanisms on which its fame rests. Leading the way is the perpetual calendar, invented in 1985 by Kurt Klaus, which goes from one success to the next. The displays for the weekday, month and year, not to mention moon phase, are ingeniously simple and will go doing their job for centuries without any external interference. All the owner – or more precisely, owners, because there are likely to be several – has to do is look after it and have it regularly serviced.

At IWC, eternity, so to speak, is all in the hands of Patricia May, 25. She’s been making the “Perpetual”, as she and her colleagues in the workshops call it, for six years. But one thing at a time. She first assembles the calendar module, which consists of 30 minuscule wheels, arbours and screws, together with three discs, each with a circle of numerals, that display all the combinations required by the calendar. When finished, the complication is just 2 millimetres high and has a diameter of 30 millimetres in the Da Vinci and 37.8 millimetres in the Portuguese. Next, the mechanism is screwed firmly into position on the movement and, finally, equipped with the moon disc and century slide, which, as its name suggests, only moves once every 100 years.

After about six hours, the display is up for the big test. “Will it switch, or won’t it?” The atmosphere is one of tense concentration. The numerals slot into place, and a look of relieved satisfaction crosses Patricia May’s face. Things don’t always go quite so smoothly: a wheel can easily jam, or the discs may not run absolutely true. If this happens, she has to readjust the mechanism until a quick run-through of the calendar functions indicates that it is now ready to do its job of displaying the correct date for all eternity.

For the young watchmaker, this is always a special moment. She first hit upon the idea of her vocation in a newspaper article. “I had no great expectations when I came for the taster,” she recalls. But it all worked out, and shortly afterwards she embarked on a four-year apprenticeship. Since then, watchmaking has won a place in her heart. Filing, grinding, chamfering, polishing and adjusting parts until they fit smoothly together is all part of her day’s work, which starts at 6.30 in the morning and ends at 4.

“I really love working with delicate things,” she says, and you take her at her word when you see her working on a part: her long, slender, elegant fingers seem made for the job. Which is why it is all the more surprising to learn that she has another passion that involves radically different qualities: climbing, on indoor walls and outdoors. For Patricia May, alpine climbing is all about guts and adrenalin: the perfect balance to watchmaking, which calls for peace, quiet and unwavering concentration. Even here, though, she could well imagine taking on a major new challenge: in this case, the Aquatimer Deep Two.

When finished, the complication is just 2 millimetres high and has a diameter of 30 millimetres in the Da Vinci

Explore More Articles
IWC Kurt Klaus
On the 80th birthday of Kurt Klaus

An old hand at IWC.

IWC Portofino Midsize Automatic Moon Phase
The New Midsize Portofinos:
A Collector's Impression

The new Portofinos are art, in the highest and best sense of the word. They will always be in style and they will always reflect time-tested fine taste.

IWC Watches&Wonders
Watches&Wonders 2014

Order your invitation to the first unique Asian Haute Horlogerie exhibition, Watches&Wonders 2014.

GIVING A FUTURE TO THE GALAPAGOS

“September 17, 1835. As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of which must have weighed at least 200 pounds. One was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly stalked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in its head."

Aquatimer
DISCOVER THE NEW AQUATIMER COLLECTION

Christian Knoop, Creative Director at IWC, explains the design of the new Aquatimer watches.

SIHH 2014 Booth
BEHIND THE SCENES AT IWC'S SIHH 2014 BOOTH

Take the wave to Geneva. For the 24th edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), IWC invites visitors to take a plunge into deep water and discover the fascinating species that define the new Aquatimer collection.

Watches and Wonders
WATCHES&WONDERS

IWC Schaffhausen cordially invites you and guest to WATCHES&WONDERS, the first Asian Haute Horlogerie exhibition at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre from September 25th-28th, 2013. To mark this event, IWC Schaffhausen will offer a chance to win an exclusive trip for two people to visit IWC’s manufacture in Schaffhausen, the home of IWC and will be whisked away to Portofino in Italy, where they will experience the inspiration behind one of IWC’s most famous collections.

NYC Skyline
IWC Schaffhausen Makes a Home on Madison Avenue

An epicenter of business and culture, New York City is one of the world’s most iconic cities. Both locals and tourists take advantage of the arts and theatres, renowned chefs and restaurants, and the constant flux of activity that makes the city one of a kind. So it makes sense that it is also home to IWC Schaffhausen’s North American flagship boutique, opened in April 2012 on the famous luxury shopping destination of Madison Avenue.