Explore More Articles
IWC_customer_service_972x516
Craftsmanship that keeps watches running for generations

Given regular servicing, a quality timepiece will go on working reliably and precisely for many, many years.

IWC_Perfectionists
Perfectionists in their element

Every new in-house movement created by IWC in Schaffhausen involves around 20 specialists from various departments, sometimes working together intensively for years. With the help of state-of-the-art computer technology, the design engineers generate solutions whose elegance can be quite simply breathtaking.

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.

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.

Experiences

Test Lab

Text — Boris Schneider Photos — David Willen Date — 23 April, 2014

Share:
—At the crown push-button testing stand, pneumatic pins press on the crown 20,000 times (10,000 times to start and 10,000 times to reset) in order to simulate 10,000 stop-watch cycles.

Enter Dominic Forster’s domain and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in some mad professor’s laboratory. Here, in an organized chaos of cables, test gadgets and metering equipment, Forster and his team put every new watch model from IWC Schaffhausen through its paces. A wide range of tests are designed, for example, to establish whether moisture can penetrate the case, because it could lead to corrosion and reduce the watch’s accuracy.

Testing and inspection have always been Forster’s passion. A materials engineer by profession, he used to inspect gas turbines for material damage. Today, as head of the lab at IWC Schaffhausen, he finds himself dealing with considerably smaller objects. “The difficulty lies in designing tests which simulate anything that could happen to a watch in real life,” he explains. As early as the development phase, the testers have to take into account as many scenarios as possible to ensure that watches subsequently function even under adverse conditions and that the precision mechanics are not damaged. Depending on the design and the type of physical strain, problems can occur at many different points.

This explains why watches spend a week in the climatic chamber at 70 degrees Celsius and 90 percent humidity, or undergo temperature cycling tests, where they are heated several times to 70 degrees and then plunged into cold water at a temperature of just 10 degrees. Wearing the watch over a period of several years is simulated by placing it in a rotating plastic box, where it is tossed back and forth about 134,000 times in three days. In other experiments, timepieces are subject to momentary strains of up to a hundred times their weight, as can occur when the wearer is playing tennis or mountain biking. After each experiment, the watch’s accuracy and amplitude are measured using a timing machine, and the case’s water-resistance checked.

—Watch cases with moisture-detecting sensors inside are exposed to a 37-degree warm salt-chlorine solution for two weeks.

The demands on diver’s watches are particularly exacting. This explains why every model in the Aquatimer family completes the equivalent of 16,000 dives before it leaves the laboratory. To achieve this, varying high pressures are generated at regular intervals in a computerized pressure chamber. In addition, the cases are immersed in a salt/chlorine solution for two weeks at a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, while sensors inside the watch register even the slightest traces of moisture. Tests are also carried out in the pressure chamber to find out whether the crown can still be operated at a water pressure of 15 bar without allowing water to enter the case. The rotating dive ring used for setting dive time is turned 16,000 times in both directions under water.

Off-the-peg testing equipment rarely meets the demands of Forster and his team, so they are forced to develop and hand-make many of the devices – which sometimes recall medieval instruments of torture – themselves. This is very time-consuming. The crown push-button testing stand, where pneumatic pins press on the crown 20,000 times, is a typical example. Another eye-catching device is the traction-torsion testing machine: the watch is suspended between two plastic rollers to simulate its being worn on a wrist. The strap also has to survive 24,000 twisting and pulling movements, some of which include the addition of a salt solution on a fleece as artificial perspiration.

—A watch strap has to endure the pull of a 200 newton force for one minute. In another test, it is being pulled until it ruptures.

WE DESIGN TESTS WHICH SIMULATE ANYTHING THAT COULD HAPPEN TO A WATCH IN REAL LIFE.

—Dominic Forster

—The rotating dive ring used for setting dive time is turned 16,000 times in both directions under water.

Once all the tests for a new model have been completed, the case and movements are dismantled to their individual parts and examined for the slightest changes. To facilitate this, the team has a scanning electron microscope that makes it possible to see the surface structure with nanoscale precision. “Drawing the right conclusions from our experiments can help us to improve processes during assembly and to increase the ruggedness of the design,” explains Forster.

Apart from this, the test department serves another, totally different, purpose: No one in the entire world knows IWC watches as well as the experienced specialists in the laboratory, which means they often act as detectives, especially when called on to identify a particularly well-made fake.

Explore More Articles
IWC_customer_service_972x516
Craftsmanship that keeps watches running for generations

Given regular servicing, a quality timepiece will go on working reliably and precisely for many, many years.

IWC_Perfectionists
Perfectionists in their element

Every new in-house movement created by IWC in Schaffhausen involves around 20 specialists from various departments, sometimes working together intensively for years. With the help of state-of-the-art computer technology, the design engineers generate solutions whose elegance can be quite simply breathtaking.

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.

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.