In 2015, IWC Schaffhausen will embark on a concerted campaign to develop more of its own movements. In the years ahead, this will result in the launch of three new calibre families, all made in Schaffhausen. The new movements, developed and produced in-house, will feature numerous technical improvements. Apart from these new elements, IWC’s calibres will undergo a design overhaul to enhance their aesthetic appeal. First out of the blocks is the newly developed 52000-calibre family, which is found in four models in the new Portugieser collection.
Technical improvements for maximum precision
The IWC-manufactured movements in the new 52000-calibre family feature numerous technical upgrades. The indexless balance has an increased frequency of 4 hertz (28,800 beats per hour). Combined with a Breguet spring bent into shape using traditional methods, this guarantees maximum precision. The new family of movements is equipped with bidirectional Pellaton winding and two barrels. The latter supply the watches with a 7-day power reserve and drive energy-sapping complications such as the new annual calendar and the perpetual calendar.
Another innovation in this particular drive is the material. The winding pawls and the automatic wheel are made of black ceramic, and the rotor bearing of white ceramic; or to be more precise, zirconium oxide. The use of these extremely hard high-tech materials has made the automatic winding mechanism practically free of wear and tear. Nevertheless, ceramics are very difficult to process and machine, so using them to make parts is unusual in the watch industry and further consolidates IWC’s role as a pioneer and materials innovator.
Enhancing the movement design
The 52000-calibre family also sets new aesthetic standards. The design and finish of the movements in the new calibre family have undergone another significant enhancement. The proportions of the rotor and the inset gold “Probus Scafusia” medallion are significantly less dominant. This provides a generous view through the transparent sapphire-glass back and into the watches’ inner workings. The improved Pellaton winding system with practically wear-free components made of black and white ceramic can also be seen quite clearly.
The calibres from the 52000 family chosen for Portugieser models with a perpetual calendar feature an engraved rotor made of solid 18-carat 5N gold. These also have blued screws – for many watch connoisseurs a sine qua non in an exquisitely made in-house movement. Together, the decorative circular graining and Geneva stripes, the interplay of red jewels, blue screws and black ceramic elements, and the 5N gold of the rotor convey an overall impression of quality thoroughly in keeping with an in-house movement such as this.
Calibre production with a long tradition
The focus on greater autonomy in the manufacture of movements and pride in its own watchmaking capabilities are nothing new in Schaffhausen. In an IWC catalogue published as early as 1895, we read: “The production of original watch movements closely follows the rules of watchmaking and the laws of mathematics, systematically applied by the very best master watchmakers. With the exception of the dials, hands and springs, the vast majority of the parts are manufactured in our factory.”
The quest for independence and large-scale vertical integration has been deeply rooted at IWC since the company’s earliest years under F. A. Jones. Then, as now, the Schaffhausen-based company chose not to produce every single part down to the last cog, but focused especially on movements and complications. For many years now, some of haute horlogerie’s most outstanding achievements, such as perpetual calendars, tourbillons, minute repeaters and moon phase watches have been produced in the company’s own workshops.
The decoration of watch movements, too, has a long history in Schaffhausen. Even the first F. A. Jones calibres featured engravings and decorative elements. The reason for this lies in the then common practice among American watchmakers of making uncased movements the focus of their window displays. By doing so, they gave buyers a chance to familiarize themselves with the watch’s complex internal workings, even if they never actually saw the movement in the finished product.
Despite elaborate decorative elements, the movements in the new 52000-calibre family retain their technical character. IWC Schaffhausen thus remains true to the engineering ethos for which company founder F. A. Jones laid the cornerstone with production methods that, even back then, represented the state of the art.
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