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IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN PAYS TRIBUTE TO SAINT-EXUPÉRY’S LAST FLIGHT

70 years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took off on a reconnaissance flight over France and never returned. Now, IWC Schaffhausen commemorates the last flight of the celebrated pilot and author with three special limited editions, thereby strengthening its long-standing partnership with Saint-Exupéry’s descendants.

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Experiences

The Time is Right

Date — 24 May, 2013

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The parallels are endless: technology, innovation and cutting-edge design dominate both businesses, and they’re both defined by time. The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team tries to beat the clock in FORMULA 1 motor racing; at IWC Schaffhausen, we are the clock.

With shared ideologies and a long-standing relationship with AMG, the performance arm of Mercedes-Benz, a partnership between IWC Schaffhausen and the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team was almost inevitable. The Swiss watch manufacturer has been the team’s Official Engineering Partner since January 2013, and already there has been a cross-pollination of ideas.

“Every time I go to the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS factory in Brackley (UK) I learn something new,” says IWC’s Creative Director Christian Knoop. “IWC is recognized as a material innovator, and I’m very keen to continue that story. I seek design inspiration from everything, so when I see the gears coming off the CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled Machine) machine in Brackley, their surfaces immediately inspire me. I’m thinking of how we can introduce that effect on our watches.”

Among a long list of shared design influences, IWC and Mercedes-Benz both have a passion for metallurgy. Each pioneered the use of titanium in their respective fields, IWC on a Ferdinand Porsche design in 1980 (at a time when titanium was still on the index list) and Mercedes-Benz in its V10 FORMULA 1 engines of the late 1990s. While titanium is no longer used in FORMULA 1 racing, it continues to play a central role at IWC Schaffhausen and features in several models of its 2013 Ingenieur collection.
 

Ingenieur Double Chronograph Titanium
Ingenieur Double Chronograph Titanium

—Reference 3865

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As the partnership between IWC Schaffhausen and MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS evolves over the next three years, so too will their shared knowledge. The two companies face many of the same design challenges, particularly in the areas of size, packaging and aesthetics.

“I believe that things in life that are functionally good tend to be beautiful anyway,” says MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Technical Director Bob Bell. “Size is crucial in FORMULA 1 motorsport, and we’re on a constant drive to make things smaller, more compact and lighter – but with the same functionality. That allows us to lower the mass of the car and give the aerodynamicists more room in which to work. I’m sure IWC faces similar challenges.”

Packaging is indeed crucial on all IWC products, and that makes the accurate assembly of the watch absolutely essential. Take the new Ingenieur Double Chronograph Titanium (Ref. 3865): the face features five hands, layered one on top of the other in a demonstration of inconceivable creativity and complexity by the watchmaker. But painstaking attention to detail is the lifeblood of both companies.

I believe that things in life that are functionally good tend to be beautiful anyway

—Bob Bell, Technical Director at the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team

“My job is to outline the look and feel of all IWC products,” says Christian Knoop. “I manage a group of designers, and between us we draw up some new ideas and, ultimately, a new collection. We look at everything and try to push the boundaries, while always keeping in mind the brand values of IWC. Design is an ongoing process; if there’s no movement development, it takes about two years to design a new model.”

Much of the design process is the same in FORMULA 1 racing. Bob Bell manages a team of designers, engineers and aerodynamicists, who push the realms of what’s possible and what’s practical, within a given set of regulations specified by the sport’s governing body. What’s different to IWC Schaffhausen is the timescale. The development of a new car starts in April each year with some early wind-tunnel and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) studies, before the detailed design phase gets underway from June. The parts are then made, and the car starts to be bolted together from November onwards.

Bob Bell
—Bob Bell, Technical Director at the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team
Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month
Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

—Reference 3792

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“A lot of man hours and intellectual effort go into the design and build of each car,” says Bell. “There are about 7,000 drawn parts in each car – excluding the engine – so it’s a lot of work. Seeing the car complete for the first time, usually the night before the launch, is one of the highlights of the year for me. But it’s only the beginning because we’ll continue to develop that car throughout the year and even carry over the relevant ideas into the following design.”

At IWC Schaffhausen the scale of the project might not be as big, with only 150–300 drawn parts in each watch (depending on the model), but the passion and knowledge of the designers is no less impressive. IWC employs some 120 watchmakers and competition for jobs is fierce, starting with the graduate training schemes organized by the company. People have to work hard to gain access to the company’s temperature-controlled and dust-free workshops, and it’s the same at MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS, where the race bays are ‘clean enough to eat your dinner off’,” according to Bell.

Design is an ongoing process

—Christian Knoop, Creative Director at IWC Schaffhausen

The end results of these cocktails of design inspiration are two world-class products: a cutting-edge FORMULA 1 car and a collection of IWC watches that are more popular than ever. But there’s no time for either company to relax because the future holds fresh challenges: The FORMULA 1 championship is about to undergo a regulation upheaval that will see the introduction of turbo engines in 2014 for the first time in a quarter of a century, and the watch company could find itself heading back to the future too.

“I expect the technical evolution in watchmaking to accelerate over the next five years,” says Christian Knoop. “There will be more developments regarding energy storage and materials. In parallel with this development I foresee an increasing interest in very timeless product aesthetics matching with analogue technology. This will reflect the need of customers to see mechanical watches as a counterpoint to their daily lives, which will become even more digitized and abstract through technology. They will want products to compensate for this.”

Whatever the future holds, these two companies can face it together. They understand time; that’s why they are partners.

Christian Knoop
—Christian Knoop, Creative Director at IWC Schaffhausen
Explore More Articles
IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN PAYS TRIBUTE TO SAINT-EXUPÉRY’S LAST FLIGHT

70 years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took off on a reconnaissance flight over France and never returned. Now, IWC Schaffhausen commemorates the last flight of the celebrated pilot and author with three special limited editions, thereby strengthening its long-standing partnership with Saint-Exupéry’s descendants.

Kurt Klaus
The Art of Creating Stories and Dreams

Every watch tells a story – about its origin and age, personality and character, tradition and culture, and not least about its owner.

Aquatimer video Screenshot
IT'S AQUA TIME - The new aquatimer video

The evolution of the diver’s watches from IWC continues.

The Next Generation of IWC Engineers

For over 60 years, IWC has been training generations of watchmakers in its own workshops. Candidates need to be deft with their hands and have a flair for technology. After completing their training, most of them remain loyal to the company in northeastern Switzerland for many years.

Swiss National Day
Swiss National Day

Experience the secret talents of the IWC watchmakers.

Ingenieur Automatic
The Sculptor-Designer

The sculptor-designer is a phenomenon. Even if you are not at all design literate you will know him by reputation. His name has become a synonym for severity.

The Art of Being an Engineer

The engine faltered and cut out. Hunched over his metal baby, Benz wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

INGENIEUR - TAKING POLE POSITION

We are pleased to welcome you on IWC’s qualifying lap. View the video, and join us as we are about to start the race.