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.

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.

Experiences

The Test of Time

by Michael Friedberg

Text — Michael Friedberg Date — 14 March, 2012

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A finely-made watch must excel in both everyday and adverse environments. To be assured of this, IWC has devoted a state-of-the-art laboratory in Schaffhausen so that its watches meet rigorous standards.

Inside, a skilled materials engineer, Dominic Forster, heads a team of seven who devise and then implement all sorts of challenging tests.

The idea is to ascertain that every part of each watch will work perfectly even when subjected to abuse. The components undergo intentional torture. They are heated, jarred, pushed and pulled. To accomplish this systematic stress, IWC’s extensive testing laboratory has ingenious equipment that stretches watch components to their limits. The lab is not simply a place where watches are measured to ensure that exacting tolerances are met. Instead, it is where every part is used, abused, inspected and then evaluated to extraordinary standards.

The watches here in many ways seem like dummies in simulated car accidents. Some survive, and some don’t. When they don’t survive, re-engineering occurs so that on the next collision, they will.

Upon entering the lab, there’s first a disarming array of lamps on stands. Dials and straps are placed under these lights, to ascertain that they can withstand sunlight and UV light. On the other side of this room, there are machines that simultaneously roast watch components with extreme heat or subject them to excess humidity.

Other machines, looking suspiciously like science fair contraptions, constantly move the watch components. For example, they test the wear of automatic rotors for sometimes as long as 3,000 hours at accelerated testing conditions. Still other devices produce impact tests, intended to simulate seven years of life. Since light, heat, impact and motion aren’t deemed sufficient, another machine subjects components to magnetic forces up to 600,000 A/m.

Every new watch model is tested to its limits. If it can survive Herr Forster’s planned threats, it should thrive well in the real world. All tests are “in the raw”, where whole movements are exposed and dismantled and then the myriad parts, after being subjected to abuse, are checked for corrosion, wear, oiling and precision timekeeping. To accomplish this, there are also four highly-experienced watchmakers on the staff of the testing laboratory.

Most watch companies check their cases for water resistance. But few, if any, check individual case parts beyond measurement. However, IWC checks repeatedly for tolerances in simulated use. There is even an elaborate machine which pushes in the pushers on chronographs, done 10,000 times for the reset pusher and 20,000 times for the start/stop pusher. If the pushers can withstand that abuse, they might easily survive on the wrist of the discerning watch collector. Even the screws for the crowns are subjected to tests.

Among the more interesting machines is a pendulum, which does look a bit like its ominous namesake in an Edgar Allan Poe short story. It tests the equivalent of a one meter drop of a watch on a wooden floor. Sports watches like Pilots, Aquatimers and Ingenieurs get tested up to 100,000 impacts which simulate sporty activities like playing tennis, golf or downhill biking. Watches as sophisticated as tourbillons are taken apart after testing to inspect the damage.

This laboratory develops and implements testing protocols for IWC’s cases and movements to a degree that is certainly unique within the industry. Herr Forster has essentially built his own science experiment laboratory. To document test results, a high-speed camera is utilized together with several microscopes, plus a digital light box. The budget for testing machinery can be large: the high-speed camera itself costs in excess of 100,000 CHF. Other machines need to be constructed by Herr Forster and his staff, because there are no industry methodologies for testing the vast array of necessary tests. However, all tests check that everything occurs within specified standards. To the extent that the industry standards are available, ISO, DIN or NIHS is used; if not, IWC develops its own standards or works within Richemont guidelines.

Producing a watch is not simply designing and making a movement, and placing it into a case. A company like IWC, which strives to attain the highest possible quality standards, relies on people like Herr Forster and his highly-mechanized testing laboratory. The machinery, tests and standards – in fact, the lab in and of itself – may well lead the industry.

This special laboratory is hidden away from the public, but it is reassuring that every watch has been exhaustively tested under tight controls and by gifted engineers. In fact, an IWC watch hasn’t simply been tested: it’s been well-cooked, boiled and kicked around. And that’s good news.

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.

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.