The news that IWC Ingenieur Constant Force Tourbillon watch replica had allied itself with the Mercedes Benz AMG Petronas Formula One Team came out late last year, and I was lucky enough to be one of the few journalists invited along for the opening event –a soup-to-nuts tour of the team’s headquarters in Brackley, UK, where drivers train, strategy’s formulated, and –most interestingly for newcomers to Formula One like myself –the cars are assembled.
Of all the IWC families the most natural partner for F1 and the best incarnation in wristwatch form of the F1 ethos is, of course, the Ingenieur. Originally created in the 1950s as a tough, highly anti-magnetic watch designed for, well, engineers (and those in allied professions who needed a watch resistant to magnetic fields) the Ingenieur today (with a designed that’s descended from one created in the 1970s by Gerald Genta, the Ingeniuer SL) is a platform for sports IWC tourbillon copy watches in which anti-magnetic properties are not necessarily the main attraction.
At the top of the heap, for instance, is the Ingenieur Constant Force Tourbillon.
This is essentially an Ingenieur version of the IWC Siderale Scafusia, though minus the star chart and calendar the latter sports on the back. Here the focus is front and center –the hour and minute hands have their hands full competing with the visuals of the enormous, constant force tourbillon. The tourbillon is fitted with the constant force mechanism known as a remontoir d’egalité, which is essentially a second spiral spring, mounted on the axis of a wheel on the tourbillon carriage (the escape wheel in this case, though a remontoire can theoretically be mounted on any train wheel) which is rewound once per second (and unlocks once per second) to provide an unvarying amount of torque to the escapement. The energy to rewind it comes from the mainspring. The spring remontoir was originally developed by John Harrison, for his H4 marine chronometer, and they’re extremely rare in any kind of watch and have been fitted to a tourbillon carriage only a few times in the history of watchmaking. Serious chronometry freaks take note.
At 2 per year at a cost of about $150,000,000 per year to run the operation, it seems outlandishly expensive for the results until you go in-depth on what it takes to make an F1 car competitive (and keep drivers, maintenance, and development teams competitive.) With a difference between a great car and a lemon in F1 consisting of just a couple of seconds’ time on the track, you can understand how a preoccupation with time forms a common bond between racing and chronometry, and of course watches –especially chronographs –and racing have been natural partners almost from the moment that Karl Benz created the Benz Patent Motorwagon in 1886.
Case, ceramic and platinum, 46mm x 14mm, with a 96 hour power reserve (48 or so under control of the constant force mechanism, for optimum chronometry.)
Just as interesting a surprise was the Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Date-Month. I was skeptical about the idea of a perpetual calendar in an Ingenieur case –the complication’s one I associate with exercises in elegance (like the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Chrono) not with a sports watch profile, but I think IWC watch replica’s got the combination nailed.