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Review: IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

The Da Vinci series gets a new breath of life. New ultra accurate moonphase.
by Peter Chong on February 8, 2017
Positives

The new design carries on with the dial layout of the original 1985 design of the Ref. 3750, but not that of the case and lugs.

Beautiful watch, now with a ultra precise moonphase and in-house column wheel chronograph.

Negatives

Finishing is not at the highest levels, but neither is the price.

Review of the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

“With the new Da Vinci collection, IWC Schaffhausen has returned to the round case that was so successfully establishedvby the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar in 1985. It meansvwe are bidding farewell to the tonneau case and reaffirmingvour commitment to the classic proportions the brandvstands for,”

explains Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen

 

The IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph has come a long way. First introduced in 1985, the Da Vinci series is a kind of a step child of the IWC family. In Part 2 of our one-on-one interview with Georges Kern in 2015, he touched on positioning of the various collections in the IWC family of watches. We paraphrase, and add our own view: In in a nutshell, the Portofino is the entry level refined sister, the bon vivant of the family. The Portugese collection is the beauty of the family.  The Fleiger collection is the successful, famous. The Ingeneur the techie, also one who is often misunderstood. The Aquatimer the adventurous, perhaps boisterous son. And the Da Vinci seems to be the odd child out. Till, perhaps now.

 

The IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in red gold. The round case returns to the Da Vinci.

 

A personal anecdote

The Da Vinci is probably the least commercially successful in the family. The case designed in 1985 was round, had some funky lugs. It had chronograph pushers which are so stiff that they make a little dent on one’s finger with each actuation. And in 1985 I had just begun collecting watches. And IWC caught my eye. Perhaps not little to do with the great magazine IWC used to publish: the very well written and illustrated tabloid sized magazine called Watch International, which later evolved to the A4 magazine size, and now defunct.

By 1995, the internet was gaining popularity, and at the popular website www.timezone.com IWC was one of the brands greatly admired. Most of the attention on the web then (back then timezone.com was the only game in town), was on the IWC MkXII, but also the Fliegerchronograph, and the Portugese. But for me, 1995 was the 10th Anniversary of the Da Vinci. And a special rattrapante function was added to the watch. This rang a special tune to me. The split seconds mechanism originally designed for the Il Destriero Scafusia (in 1992) was added to the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph. The poetic tenth hand on its tenth anniversary. My admiration for IWC and the Da Vinci grew.

 

The IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in 1985, Ref. 3750 in yellow gold. The same dial layout is kept in the new Da Vinci.

 

Although I never added the Da Vinci to my collection, the Ref. 3750 shown above (the rattrapante version was approximately S$19,000 in 1995 and too expensive for me to consider in those days. I don’t remember the price of the 3750, but it was probably about S$12,000). For one reason or another it eluded ownership and remained in the periphery of the watches I wanted.

It was an important watch in several respects. The visual language as expressed by Hano Burtscher’s design is strong. The round case, with articulating lugs, which were separate but part of the case was inspired in part by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus. The circle, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s favourite geometrical figures, determined the round shape of the watch case with its four inner sub-dials and two semicircular push-buttons.

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The dial design was mandated by the Kurt Klaus design of the perpetual calendar plate which went over the Valjoux 7750 base chronograph movement. The Klaus design was ground breaking for it was one of the first to dispense with the use of pin pushers to adjust the perpetual calendar display. The entire calendar can be set by using only the crown. However, the adjustments can only be made for the calendar going forward, and the watch came with a warning that the mechanism will break if the user adjusted the calendar backwards.

Further, the perpetual calendar was a modular design, meaning that it could be fixed on any movement as a base, from time only to the chronograph. It also showed the year in four digits, a special gear reduction is needed as the first digit of the display only moves about 1.5 mm every 1000 years. Impressive!

The collection was revised in 2007, and while some of my collecting friends were rather excited with the tonneau shape of the Da Vinci, I found them to be too large, too bulky and unattractive.

According to Walter Volpers, Head of Product Management at IWC, the Da Vinci design always played with the spirit of the age. The 80s had a dignified air. Quiet. And the Ref.3750 reflected that mood. And by 2007, IWC was experimenting with case forms – octagonal, tonneau, and mix of the traditional case shapes. And for 2017, the look that IWC was going for was a discrete cool, less shiny bits, no bling.

It seems to me that they have finally nailed it. After all these years, the aesthetics are magnificent.

End of personal anecdote.

 

IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

The Case, Dial, Hands

As mentioned, the 2017 Da vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph returns to the round case. Round cased watches are more popular and outsell other case shapes by many magnitudes. The basic round shape of the watch case of the 1985 watch returns, with its four inner subdials and two semicircular push-buttons.

 

IWC Ref. 392101 in 18k reg gold. The dial layout remains the same as with the Ref. 3750 launched in 1985.

 

The new watch uses a new in-house movement – the in-house, manufactured C. 89630 Flyback Chronograph Perpetual Calendar. The movement is not derived from the Valjoux 7750 base, but based on C.89000 Chronograph family. The C.8900 Chronograph displays the hour and minute counter on the sub-dial at 12. To evoke the visual feel of the Ref. 3750 will require a moon phase display to share the same sub-dial. In the 2017 edition, the moon and the shadow of the earth on a single disc and rotate beneath an aperture in the lower part of the sub-dial.

Although the technical layout on dial of the Ref. 392101 is different from the Ref. 3750, it looks similar, as the eye is drawn to the moon phase at 12. The Klaus designed layout on the Ref. 3750 was based on the traditional 7750 30 minute counter at 12 sharing the moon phase, the continuous sub-seconds at 9 sharing with the Day, and the 12 hour counter at 6 sharing with the Month. The new perpetual calendar displays the moon phase and hour and minute counters at the sub-dial at 12, leaving the sub-counters at 9, 6 and 3 for the perpetual calendar display. The continuous, hacking seconds hand shares the sub-dial at 6 with the month display.

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The pushers are still have a rounded look, though the visual is assisted by the round screw down part of the pushers, and the actual pushers which is moves is now made with flat surfaces. So that during the activation of the chronograph, instead of the rounded ball which threatens to pierce the fingers on the original, it feels comfortable. Activation strength is typical of a chronograph with a column wheel. Smooth, and even pressure. Which is great.

 

The new Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph has a modern case shape, much sleeker and svelte than the Ref. 3750 of 1985.
The curved sapphire glass protecting the dial adds a dimension to the watch.

 

The round case is now modernised with flat sides. One of the early criticisms on the Ref. 3750 was the rounded case sides on a round case measuring 39mm diameter and 14.3mm thick makes it look somewhat like a fat boy. The Ref 392101’s round case with flat sides measure a thicker 15.5 mm thick, but on a 43mm case diameter, it looks elegant and svelte. Small changes, but huge effects.

The articulated lugs remain, but somewhat more aerodynamic. The Ref. 3750 had no traditional lugs to speak of, but a set of plates, rounded on the top and slightly curved at the bottom. The plates hold the strap on one side and attached to the case on the other. The Ref. 392101 have more classical lugs, with long sweeping horns. The articulating feature is still present, to afford the large watch some measure of comfort for the smaller wrists. A central rounded cover for the pin makes the visual link to the original plates. We much prefer the look of the 2017 edition’s lugs.

 

The Movement

The movement is a modern IWC designed and manufactured C. 89630 featuring a column wheel and flyback. A new perpetual calendar plate is used to keep with the dial layout of the 1985 variant.

 

The C. 89630.

 

The hour and minute counters are combined in a totalizer at “12 o’clock”, which enables stopped times to be read off as if they were the time of day. The IWC Press material claims that this is a significantly more elegant form of aggregate timing than two separate counters. And we agree.

According to IWC, the movement itself is designed in such a way that the stopwatch can run continuously without diminishing the 68-hour power reserve.

Also of interest is the perpetual calendar works. The moon phase display is particularly accurate, deviating by one day every 577.5 years. The standard moon phase display in a perpetual calendar watch (including the Ref. 3750) is one day in 122 years. Though this is not the longest we have encountered, as Lange had made the 1815 Moonphase in 1999 with an accuracy of one day in 1058 years, the IWC’s moon phase display is still noteworthy.

Movement finishing was hard to judge under SIHH show conditions when we examined the watch. As can be seen in the photograph above, the case back had a sticker on it which prevented detailed perusal. But at a glance, the movement looks to be finished to a good engineering level, and in line with most IWCs we have examined. It is finished without the levels of decorative finishing lavished on other  haute horlogerie watches. We see the finishing as adequate, and will do its job properly. And looks rather nice too. But, being the finishing nerds we are, we might perhaps have wished for a finer finishing.

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Competitive Landscape

The competitive landscape for a complicated watch with a perpetual calendar and chronograph is lightly peppered. Most inhabitants are very high end haute horlogerie watches with an equally high end price tag. At the market where the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph is aimed at – the mid level collector watch market, there are precious few competitors. Perhaps even none. The Retail price is S$ 43,500 for the stainless steel edition (Ref. 392103) and S$ 60,900 for the red gold (Ref. 390101), it is a good value for the level of complication it brings to the table.

None of the competition offer a watch in stainless steel. And all are considerably more expensive. Here is a short list. Perhaps the best in the field:

Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref.5270  (S$ 216,500 inclusive of GST) is one example. About 4 times more expensive. Granted it is a Patek Philippe, with the usual inferences that it will eventually be able to fetch a good resale price at the secondary market. And of course, the legendary Patek finishing is without a doubt one of the finest in the business.

Lange Datograph Perpetual  (€ 119,000, approximately S$ 179,000 inclusive of German VAT) is another. Like the Patek above, it is quite a bit more expensive. but finishing on the Lange is legendary, and a much higher level than the IWC.

Chopard Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (S$ 121,890 inclusive of GST) is perhaps closer in price range to the IWC. But it too is more than double the asking price of the IWC. The finishing is also markedly better than the IWC, though below those offered by Patek and Lange.

Design of the dial of all the three potential members in the competitive landscape all look very similar to the IWC Da Vinci’s. In fact, at a cursory glance, most non WIS will think they are the same watch. But the devil is in the detail. And when it comes to the details on a complicated watch like a perpetual calendar with chronograph, the rank order dictated by the pricing seems to be rather logical.

 

Concluding Thoughts

On conclusion, the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph remains one which offers a good value proposition for the complicated watch. The design aesthetics are right, correcting the sins of its forebears. This is a beautiful timepiece.

The look of the watch is in line with the more expensive competitors, though commensurate with the lower price IWC asks for, the level of finishing is appropriate.

 

On the wrist, the 43mm case feels very comfortable, and correct. The articulating lugs doing their magic to ensure a good wrap and feel on the wrist.

 

We find the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph to be good enough for it to be part of the Chief Editor’s list for SIHH 2017. And represents the brave new world of watches – more complications for less money.

 

IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Technical Specifications

 

Features
Mechanical chronograph movement – Perpetual calendar with displays for the date, day, month, four- digit year and perpetual moon phase – Stopwatch function with hours, minutes and seconds – Hour and minute counters combined in a single counter at “12 o’clock” – Flyback function – Small hacking seconds – Glucydur®* beryllium alloy indexless balance with high-precision adjustment screws on balance rim – 18-carat red gold rotor – See-through sapphire-glass back.
Movement
IWC-manufactured calibre 89630
Frequency 28,800 A/h | 4 Hz
Jewels 51
Power reserve 68 h
Winding Automatic
Watch
Ref. IW392101: 18-carat red gold case, silver-plated dial, dark brown alligator leather strap by Santoni, 18-carat red gold folding clasp
Ref. IW392103: Stainless-steel case, slate-coloured dial, black alligator leather strap by Santoni, stainless-steel folding clasp
Glass Sapphire, arched edge, antireflective coating on both sides
Water-resistant 3 bar
Diameter 43 mm
Height 15.5 mm


Also published on Medium.

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