Remembering the Il Destriero Scafusia from IWC.....By: SJX (registered) Friday, August 14th, 2009 - Photo Nav: View All 1 photo(s)
At the time of its launch the IWC Il Destriero Scafusia was touted as the most complicated wristwatch in the world. It was one of several remarkable grand complication watches that emerged at the end of the eighties and early nineties, as the Swiss watch industry began its remarkable upward march after emerging battered from the quartz crisis.
It began in 1989 when Patek Philippe unveiled the Calibre 89 pocket watch – though it is sized like a portable clock – its 150th anniversary. Four of them were made, in three colours of gold and platinum, and all were reputedly sold to the Sultan of Brunei for the astounding sum of $24 million; at the time the Sultan was probably the largest individual buyer of luxury watches in the entire world. The set has since been sold and broken up with one changing hands a few years back for about $5 million.
Two years later Blancpain, a brand conjured up by Jean-Claude Biver, unveiled the 1735, an extremely ambitious watch that was six years in the making and one that never seems to have quite been finished – anecdotal evidence suggests the 1735 is an extremely unreliable timepiece, even compared to other grand complications. In 1992 Audemars Piguet unveiled the Triple Complication with its distinctive teardrop lug case, which later became the Grande Complication when a split seconds chronograph was added.
It is worth noting that around at the same time, Franck Muller, the pioneering independent watchmaker, was creating, on an annual basis, what he termed “World Premieres”, multi-complication wristwatches that included the world’s most complicated wristwatch of 1992 (profiled here ). And it was thanks to these World Premieres – most of which were amazing timepieces – that Mr Muller justified his self-bestowed “Master of Complications” title. Today that seems ludicrous considering the Colour Dreams and Transamerica, but back then Franck Muller was probably the most interesting watchmaker in the world.
The last of the grand complications of the period was the magnificent IWC Il Destriero Scafusia, presented In 1993 for its 125th anniversary. When IWC celebrated that event it was still International Watch Co. , rather than IWC .
The Il Destriero Scafusia combines a rattrapante chronograph, flying tourbillon, secular perpetual calendar with four digit year and minute repeater. But it is all the more incredible because it is based on a Valjoux 7750, using elements of the gear train and chronograph works of the Valjoux. The movement is decorated in a stunning relief and so is the caseback; the Lange Double Split features the same relief text on its caseback that is often referred to as having been inspired by the Il Destriero Scafusia.
Many of the people involved in its creation are rightly considered legends in the industry, Gunter Blumlein and Kurt Klaus being the best known, but their time, like that of the watch, is now past.
When the Il Destriero Scafusia was advertised as the most complicated watch in the world, the watch industry was a much simpler place. Today the Il Destriero Scafusia would look uncreative next to some of the ridiculous complications available, including watches containing vials of sickly green liquid.
Yet to me the Il Destriero Scafusia represents a golden age – I am wearing rose tinted glasses now – where grand complications could be contained in 42 mm cases. Both the Il Destriero Scafusia and Blancpain 1735 were 42 mm wide.
Innovation also seemed more practical. The Il Destriero Scafusia unites many of the complications that IWC continues to use today, including the simplified rattrapante, the perpetual calendar of the Da Vinci and the flying tourbillon with a titanium cage. All of those were created to make traditional watchmaking concepts simpler to execute, not more complicated.
125 examples of the Il Destriero Scafusia were made, mostly in yellow gold with silver dials and some in platinum, but several unique pieces with black dials or gem-set cases were also made. The last of them was delivered in 1999. It was around then that I saw the watch for the first time at a local retailer, sitting in the large wooden box that accompanies it, and I was completely amazed.
Over the years I’ve seen it fairly regularly at auctions, though I never looked at them closely. Recently I had the opportunity to examine the piece from the IWC museum collection, shown in the photographs, and despite the countless watches I’ve encountered over the years, I am still vastly and thoroughly impressed by the IWC. For those who are curious, the repeater of the Il Destriero Scafusia sounded excellent, loud, clear and well paced.
Over the years, like the Blancpain 1735, the Il Destriero Scafusia has maintained IWC’s reputation. It appears to be a fuss free watch, probably thanks to its combined Valjoux-IWC heritage. And for a time in the early 2000s the watch was available well below $100,000 at auction, which was an incredible bargain, though prices have now drifted upwards and it can go for over $200,000 now, which nonetheless is still below its original retail.
When historians write the history of watchmaking decades from now, the Il Destriero Scafusia, along with its fellow grand complications of the nineties, will surely and deservedly be looked upon as an important and significant watch.
Click here to see more photos of the Il Destriero Scafusia.