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THE HISTORY BEHIND IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN’S REVOLUTIONARY PERPETUAL CALENDAR 

 

Since its founding in 1868, IWC Schaffhausen has been world-renowned for being a leader in Haute Horlogerie, producing timepieces with innovative technology and exclusive design. This reputation has been well earned, in part due to the brand’s head watchmaker Kurt Klaus who developed IWC’s famous mechanical perpetual calendar.     

Growing up near Schaffhausen in Switzerland with an interest in technology and mechanics, Kurt Klaus naturally directed this passion into watchmaking. After starting his career at IWC in 1957, Klaus quickly became a pioneer and would come to revolutionise the watchmaking industry.

During the early 1980s, interest in quality mechanical timepieces had been limited due to the high price of gold, a strong Swiss franc and the emergence of low-priced quartz watches. The Swiss watch industry was under enormous pressure and needed a revival in the craft of watchmaking.  At this time, Kurt Klaus set to work creating a perpetual calendar combined with a chronograph movement that could be miniaturized into a wristwatch both user-friendly and pleasing in design.

The result of more than five years of work on his own, without any computer assistance, was nothing short of revolutionary. This movement, for which the calendar module is still used today on all IWC’s perpetual calendars, would form the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref 3750, a self-contained work of art.

At the Basel show in February 1985, the watch industry witnessed the unveiling of an incredible timepiece: the first perpetual calendar with a chronograph, a moonphase to be adjusted by one day every 577.5 years and a year display in all four full digits. Taking into consideration the length of each month including leap years, this masterpiece was also mechanically programmed to the year 2499. All its displays were perfectly synchronised and could be adjusted simply by turning the crown with no pushers needed.  A milestone in the history of fine watchmaking.

As inventor and design engineer of IWC’s perpetual calendar, Kurt Klaus wrote watchmaking history. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, a universal symbol of immortality and renewal, the Da Vinci appeared at a time when the mechanical watch had virtually sunk into oblivion. Its launch was not only a success for IWC, but also symbolised the renaissance of complicated mechanical watches.

Shop IWC Schaffhausen perpetual calendar watches below.