Kurt Klaus is the inventor of the innovative autonomous IWC perpetual calendar mechanism. He is best known for his Da Vinci wristwatch, which combines a perpetual calendar and chronograph movement
Brought to life by Kurt Klaus, the Da Vinci watch was derived from a sketch of a fortress by Leonardo Da Vinci. This creative contribution has made Klaus an immortal in the world of watches. Klaus, who grew up in the town of St. Gallen in Switzerland, wanted to be a good watchmaker more than anything else. He desired a place within the watch industry in Switzerland and to be amongst a distinct group of watchmakers who possessed infinite patience, composure and a willingness to learn.
Endowed with these qualities, Klaus enrolled at a watchmaking school in Solothum, and became a watchmaker at IWC in 1957. “I was born in the east part of Switzerland and wanted to spend my life in the west part more than anything, so the only solution was to work for IWC, which was the only watch manufacturer in this part,” he recalls.
His expertise was soon put to use in the design of a wristwatch with a perpetual calendar, and, following its success, Klaus was encouraged to combine his new innovation with a chronograph movement. The two had never before been united in a single watch. Without CAD or even a computer, Klaus perfected the details for four years, working on his vision day and night. Going on long walks in the woods and listening to classical music, Klaus was searching for the answer to the main problem: how to transmit the single date switch synchronously to all the other calendar displays and warrant that they all advance as dictated by the leap year cycle.
“It is impossible to overestimate the contribution Kurt Klaus has made towards the survival of the mechanical watch and to IWC. He perfectly combines his visionary gift and firm belief in the future of watchmaking with a natural human warmth and affability,” says legendary IWC watchmaker Hannes Pantli.
Klaus now travels around the world with IWC as an ambassador to tell his story. He uses his fascinating knowledge of classic watchmaking to promote this captivating profession. “Time is not important, I have never felt pressured by time,” he says.
Klaus is undoubtedly one of the most qualified people today to convey a genuine passion for this traditional craft to lovers of fine timepieces in new and distant markets.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One to Watch #40, page 126-127