Kurt Klaus created over 20 years ago the genial perpetual calendar of Da Vinci. This brilliant watchmaker that works and carries out developments since 50 years ago for IWC, was interviewed by Amura.
Amura: Mr. Klaus you work for IWC for many years, how the company evolved from the “quartz disaster”, and all the changes in gold prizes and currency changes?
Klaus: Until 70’s IWC was producing only very normal watches, pocket watches, wrist watches nothing say especial except the best quality, the best accuracy always but not as additional mechanisms no calendar, date yes but nothing else . We worked with one question in mind, is it the time over for the mechanical watches or not? In that time I was working on a very important task and, to try to make our movements more and more accurate. But 5 seconds was too much in comparisson to the quartz watches.
So we have to do something else. So I came up with the idea to try to set a calendar on a pocket watch, a complete calendar with date, month, week, day and moon face. The company approved my idea and I had to present it in a watch fair. It was a success, so we saw this could be a way to save the mechanical watches we took much more interest in this movements.
This result in a big change: from normal watches to these specialties, IWC was the leader in this new watch making. Because we knew complications in watches a hundred years ago but not in wrist watches, it was a big risk to continue to produce mechanical watches, but now we know it was a success
A: When did you incorporated you’re perpetual calendar?
K: I made the first pocket watches with the moon face, then a few others indicating the 12 zodiacs around the year. Later I got the task to make the same but for a wrist watch and so there was the question, should I like make something more? So I start to create a perpetual calendar.
A: How was the confection of this wrist watch, how did you manage to fit all the machinery into a wrist watch?
It already existed other brand wrist watches with perpetual calendar, hand winding or other complications. This presented us with a problem because we didn’t want to follow them. “But there were older perpetual calendars”.
I wanted to make something better and for me the most important thing was to make a calendar system more easy to use, before in older pocket watches it was difficult to set all indications correctly. You had pushed many buttons. So with this on mind I started searching to make it much easier for the user, normally you don’t wear complicated watches every day and if you let them stand still the calendar has to be re re-adjusted. So, my idea was to adjust not one indication, but the complete calendar system all together with the push of a button.
A: How did you accomplish this task?
K: The secret is that I didn’t develop a movement with perpetual calendar; I set the calendar on top of the movement. this is how it was possible to set this module on top of the chronograph movement of course I had to test it correctly, that the positions of the calendar correspond with the positions of the chronograph
A: Did you use the 889 caliber of Jaeger LeCoultre as a model for your perpetual calendar?
K: no no, the other way around, IWC and Jaeger LeCoultre were owned by the same group, we bought movements from Jaeger LeCoultre for our products and then Jaeger LeCoultre bought our calendar to sit on the 889 caliber We made a very special thing, we turned the calendar 180 degrees so the moon phase was down at 6, the date on the left, and a two digits calendar. With these changes you could not recognize in a Jaeger LeCoultre that it was the IWC calendar
A: What does it make it so special this new Davinci collection?
K: After 22 years it was time to say goodbye to the old Davinci and make a new one. For this new Davinci our director of design made this new case and in our movement development department we created a new chronograph movement, an “in-house” movement. It was a real IWC product with some specialties and this chronograph. It took more than 4 years for the development and construction.
we have now a new Davinci family with new chronograph, but the Davinci family needs a leader, a leader is some complication, we choose to be it the perpetual calendar but we don’t have it ready yet, so our CEO that does the handles the product management decide it to make a small series of the new Davinci with a old movement limited to 600 pieces. So, we have the time finish our new perpetual calendar.
A: This great watch puts it most magnificent and useful indication the calendar in the top; do you think that this contribution was your best contributions to the watch making industry?
K: What I wanted was to make it easy for the user without all the pushing buttons, but there’s not only all the buttons. There were fewer parts in this movement; it is a simple perpetual calendar with the best indication function and the most accurate. It was not only easier for the user but also for our factory they had to assemble less parts, this made it cheaper than the other competitive products, and because it was easier to assemble we could made more.
Text: Enrique Rosas ± Photo: Cortesía de IWC