The Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “IWC Racing” by IWC Schaffhausen takes inspiration from the technical world of motorsport. The timepiece features IWC’s patented constant-force mechanism, which transmits even impulses of force to the escapement, ensuring a highly exact rate. The matte black Ceratanium® case of this futuristic timepiece houses the fully blacked-out 94800 mechanical hand-wound calibre.
The dynamic world of motorsport and the beauty of advanced racing machines have inspired the Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “IWC Racing” (Ref. IW590501). Limited to 15 pieces, this unique timepiece combines IWC’s complex constant-force tourbillon with a matte black Ceratanium® case and the iconic Big Pilot’s Watch design.
The 94800 calibre is one of the most complicated mechanical movements ever designed in Schaffhausen. The patented constant-force mechanism disengages the escapement from the direct flow of power through the wheel train and transmits completely even impulses of energy to the escape wheel.
In conjunction with the tourbillon, which compensates for the negative influences of gravity on the oscillating system, this ensures a highly accurate rate. The plates and bridges are fully blackened having undergone an elaborate rhodium-plating process to match the colour of the case. The movement, which is reminiscent of an engine block, can be viewed through the sapphire glass back.
The 46.2-millimetre case, striking conical crown and pin buckle are all made of Ceratanium®. This IWC-developed material is light and robust like titanium but also similarly hard and scratch-resistant like ceramic. Other characteristics of Ceratanium® are its skin-friendliness and unique matte black finish.
The dial side offers the dazzling views of the constant-force tourbillon at 9 o’clock. The watch also incorporates a double moon phase display at 2 o’ clock for the northern and southern hemispheres. White numerals and yellow-coloured accents imitate a dashboard, while the power reserve display at 4 o’clock is reminiscent of a tachometer.
The louvred, ring-shaped structure of the outer dial ring takes inspiration from the cold air intakes of a high-performance engine. The black rubber strap incorporates a detail from the world of racing. It features an inlay made of Alcantara®, a synthetic and durable micro-fibre with superb grip, which is often used for the seats and steering wheel covers of performance cars.
Model: Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “IWC Racing” Ref. IW590501
Power reserve display
Tourbillon with integrated constant-force mechanism
Perpetual moon phase display for both northern and southern hemispheres
IWC manufacture calibre 94800
Frequency: 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz
Power reserve: 4 days (96h)
Ceratanium® case and crown
Glass: Sapphire, arched edge, antireflective coating on both sides
Glass secured against displacement caused by drops in air pressure
See-through sapphire glass back
Water-resistant: 6 bar
Diameter: 46.2 mm
Height: 13.5 mm
Black dial, black hands
Rubber strap with Alcantara® inlay
Limited to 15 watches
About Constant Force Mechanism
As the tension in the mainspring of a mechanical watch decreases, so too does the balance amplitude, which can negatively impact the watch’s accuracy. IWC’s patented constant-force mechanism ensures an absolutely even supply of power to the escapement and delivers unprecedented precision.
The movement of a mechanical watch consists of a driving force and a brake: at one end, the mainspring feeds energy into the system, while at the other end; the escapement divides this energy into evenly distributed small portions. The balance wheel sets the pace in which the anchor stops and releases the wheel train. This way, the escapement ensures that the hands of the watch will move forward in simultaneous steps.
One specific challenge, however, has faced inventors and watchmakers for centuries. When a watch is fully wound, the mainspring generates its maximum torque, and that results in maximum amplitude. As the tension in the barrel decreases, less power is delivered through the wheel train to the escapement, and the oscillations of the balance become smaller. This phenomenon, a drop in amplitude, can harm the accuracy of the watch.
For the balance oscillations to remain even at all times, the power transmitted through the wheel train and the escapement must likewise always be consistent. However, as long as the flow of power to the balance is continuous, decreasing tension in the mainspring inevitably influences the amplitude. Various solutions have been designed to convert diminished energy from the mainspring into constant momentum with the help of an additional mechanism.
IWC’s patented constant force mechanism integrates an additional escapement between the escape wheel and the fourth wheel. Every second, this winds a balance spring that serves as a temporary storage space and keeps the escape wheel supplied with sufficient energy to keep the balance moving. The trick is simple: the angle by which the additional balance spring is wound every second remains the same, which in turn means that the energy supplied to the escapement also remains constant. Even when the tension in the mainspring decreases, the balance continues to oscillate with virtually the same amplitude.
Integrated into a tourbillon, the innovative constant force mechanisms were first used in the Portugieser Sidérale Scafusia and later the Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon. The frequency of the constant-force tourbillon has purposely been set at 2.5 Hz to enable the system to wind the balance spring once every second. Most recently, the constant-force tourbillon also appeared in the Portugieser and Pilot’s Watches collections.
At the heart of the constant-force mechanism is a form of Swiss club-tooth lever escapement. A triangular cam is mounted on the escape wheel pinion. The cam engages with the fork-shaped constant-force lever, which grips the so-called stop wheel with its two pallets at the other end.
When the escape wheel has advanced five steps, it releases the stop wheel. It revolves through 30 degrees before being locked again. The process is repeated after five beats of the balance. At 18,000 beats per hour, this sequence also determines the progress of the second hand mounted on the tourbillon cage.
Every rotation of the cage also turns a pinion on the escape wheel staff, which meshes with the fixed fourth wheel. It winds the balance spring (situated below the escape wheel), which supplies a constant impulse of force to the balance.
The IWC-manufactured 94800 calibre with twin barrels drives the tourbillon and the constant-force mechanism. The two barrels supply enough power to keep the mechanism running reliably for about 48 hours. After two days, the available torque is no longer sufficient. At this point, the tourbillon automatically reverts to normal mode and advances at the rate of five steps a second, at the same speed as the beats in the balance.
Assembling a constant-force tourbillon is a severe test of patience for even the most experienced speciality watchmaker. It takes them a full two weeks to assemble the mechanism that weighs in at just 0.7 grams and consists of 104 individual parts. Exceptionally high demands are also placed on the manufacturing of the components.
For example, the constant force lever and cam are manufactured using the LIGA process combined with X-ray exposure. This method allows the production of remarkably homogenous microstructures with a degree of precision of which conventional manufacturing technologies would not be even remotely capable.
Timepieces with the Constant-Force Tourbillon Complication
- IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Sidérale Scafusia (Ref. 504101)
- IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon (Ref. 590001)
- IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “150 Years” (Ref. 590203/02)
- IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” (Ref. 590303)
- IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Constant-Force Tourbillon (Ref. 590110)
- IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “IWC Racing” (Ref. 590501)