Attending The IWC Watchmaking Class Is A Lesson In Patience And Precision

Some things are best left to the professionals. Nowhere was this more evident than at the recent IWC Watchmaking Class, where a select group of journalists were invited to partake in the finer points of the craft as well as view the latest models fresh off the recent Watches & Wonders showcase in Geneva. The level of complexity and expertise that went into these latest timepiece marvels could not, of course, be distilled to a mere hour at this session, which only served to amplify our appreciation of the craft.

On hand to guide us was International Service Watchmaker Thomas Zimmermann, whose youthful looks belie his years of experience with IWC. “We start young when we are in high school,” Zimmermann says. It is a decidedly modest answer—only five applicants are inducted into the prestigious IWC Apprentice Workshop or ‘Tourbillon School’ out of an average of 30 hopefuls at any given time. This elite group would then go on to spend the next four years in deep horological immersion. Even then, it would take years beyond the course for them to truly master the art of watchmaking at IWC.

No such finesse was palpable among the ‘students’ at our session despite being presented a working training model (or, in other words, larger components) of the Calibre 98200. The movement is part of the celebrated 98000 series, a hallmark of the Portugieser family of timepieces as well as the ticking heart of some of IWC’s watches featuring minute repeaters and tourbillons.

Our mission, as we chose to accept it, was to disassemble the movement and then reassemble it to its original state. To begin, the energy of the mainspring had to be released, and halting the active mechanism meant pushing back the click spring and inserting the stopper to prevent the ratchet wheel from rotating—a particularly delicate operation worthy of any Hollywood action thriller. 

Keeping track of the movement’s many components, 167 in all, was another daunting task. Thankfully, not all parts were removed, and we could also use a compartmentalised palette to help organise the gears, bridges and screws of each level of the movement. We then proceeded to gingerly remove the ratchet wheel, followed by the barrel bridge and barrel, trying to emulate the deftness of a professional.

Then there was the matter of reassembling the 98200, a much more Herculean task for this writer, whose pathetic lack of dexterity meant that it took a very long time to even pick up and position the miniscule screws, resulting in one pinging off at a tangent. “Here, it is,” Zimmermann pointed casually to the floor at a moment’s glance, clearly possessing the visual acuity of a hawk. 

Note to self? Stick to the day job.


Sign up for our Newsletters

Stay up to date with our latest series