At SIHH 2007, IWC has shown an entire new family range for the Da Vinci watch collection, which transform these iconic timepieces into something quite different than what we’ve become familiar with. The distinctive Da Vinci form with its rounded case contours, articulated bracelet attachment, and the cabochon-shaped chronograph pushpieces has given way to a tonneau look.
I’ve caught discussions on several of the watch forums and agree with the general vibe that many have expressed. The design, while attractive and well-executed, lacks the characteristic unique appearance that defined the Da Vinci watches, particularly the Large DaVinci watch, whose perpetual calendar mechanism represented one of the first really serious mechanical timepiece to challenge the supremacy of quartz back in the 1980’s. In short, I agree with those who find the new design attractive, but mourn the passing of the older Da Vinci watch, which was unmistakably IWC . This new tonneau form reminded one watch fan of designs already on the market from Ulysse Nardin or Maurice Lacroix. Yet another opined that it resembled some of the tonneau watches from Oris.
Oh well, enough complaining. I won’t say anything else with a disparaging tone, since I haven’t yet had a chance to see any of the new Da Vinci watches and take a close look at them. From the press and enthusiast photos, the fit and finish do look absolutely outstanding, and offer considerably more complexity (i.e. brushed and polished surfaces) than did the round Da Vinci watch case. IWC will offer the newly redesigned Da Vinci watch in three versions: A perpetual calendar/chronograph model that features the same movement we’ve all come to know from the classic IWC Large Da Vinci watch, a basic automatic with a big date, and finally, a chronograph which incorporates an in-house IWC movement with some exciting mechanical technology. For the sake of nostalgia, the new Da Vinci perpetual calendar would certainly be the one to choose; IWC has limited it to 30 pieces each in white gold and platinum, and another 500 in rose gold. A portrait on the caseback of this model pays tribute to the brilliant Kurt Klaus, who among many other things, designed the perpetual calendar/chronograph movement for the original Da Vinci watch. While at a hasty glance this watch might not seem to share much with the familiar Da Vinci timepiece of old, a look at its dial readily confirms that it makes use of the same movement and complicated displays which characterized its predecessor.
Movement snob that I am, however, the Da Vinci Chronograph watch has to be the most interesting. Utilizing the unique IWC pawl-based Pellaton selfwinding system, the new IWC Caliber 89360 combines both the 12 hour, and 30 minute totalizers within a single subdial at the top of the watch dial; mirrored below by the subsidiary seconds, this watch gives the elegant appearance of a bi-compax display with the unimpeded functionality of a three-counter chronograph. Nicely done, IWC! Furthermore, this new IWC caliber has a column-wheel controlled chronograph mechanism, a flyback function for the chronograph central second hand, and a freely sprung balance with 4 inertial weights. Also new to this movement is a elaboration of the already very sophisticated Pellaton pawl-winding system; the IWC 89360 Caliber movement increases the pawl count to 4 (from the usual 2), which improves the efficiency of the winding motion by approximately 30 percent. IWC boasts a power-reserve of 68 hours for the Da Vinci chronograph watch, which it draws from a single mainspring barrel. Needless to say, this is a technically impressive movement, which should be a continued source of fascination to gear-heads, or anyone who really appreciates mechanical integrity in a fine watch. The dial of this IWC timepiece is really beautiful as well with its elegant vertical layout, and silvery surface. Be aware, however, that the IWC Da Vinci Chronograph watch is not for those who don’t adore super-sized horology–the expansive tonneau case, in combination with the large IWC Pellaton movement ensures that this timepiece will completely cover all but the most Brobdingnagian of wrists.
The IWC Da Vinci watch collection has always had a sentimental place amongst watch collectors. That said, I don’t think the new model will take take long to find plenty of enthusiastic fans, since it possesses many fine qualities of its own. I don’t know how long IWC will continue to produce the original Da Vinci design, in light of the new model being introduced. However, it would be nice if IWC could somehow retain it, as this watch has a very symbolic significance to the modern history and innovative spirit of the company.