IWC: Northern Lights call for tough watches


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23 February 2012

If you head north, a long way north, say to Edmonton, over the next few days, you can expect some spectacular shows of northern lights. The Edmonton Journal  reports that the green and red lightshow in the night sky were so intense on Valentine's night, they could be seen in downtown Edmonton. As sun storms increase, the phenomenon will become more intense, peaking at the March equinox. You can find out how the Northern Lights are shaping up at This is powered by a station 40 kilometres east of Edmonton that measures variations in the local magnetic field. When the variations are strong, it automatically triggers an email alert notifying subscribers about the lights two hours in advance.

The northern lights, also called the aurora borealis, are caused by electrons that rain down into Earth's upper atmosphere. The electrons are guided by the magnetic field lines of the Earth toward the north and south poles. They produce colours of light when the electrons hit different elements of the atmosphere. The glow of the lights in the sky is actually about 110 to 250 kilometres high. The intensity of the lights depends on sunspots. When many sun spots appear, more explosions occur on the sun, sending blasts of energy 150 million kilometres toward Earth. It's those weather storms that lead to spectacular displays of northern lights.

The IWC Ingenieur

The magnetic variations caused by these storms can cause problems for mechanical watches. IWC’s Ingenieur collection of watches was created to withstand them, when it was launched in 1955 with the company’s first bidirectional automatic movement. However the technical ingenuity of the Ingenieur has progressed so far as to provide a timepiece built to overcome conditions similar to the Northern Lights.

While the Ingenieur exudes an unrivaled technical prowess, it sprang from quiet beginnings. When launched in 1955 it was originally created with a soft-iron inner case (which provided the protection from magentic fields). Created for men braving the most dangerous conditions Earth has to offer, the Ingenieur was intended to be similarly humble yet hardy.

In 1976 the timepiece received a significant upgrade, when designer Gerald Genta created what became referred to as the Ingenieur SL (which stood for Safety and Longevity). The enhancements that came with the SL indeed provided both: while the standard for anti-magnetic watches is 4,800 amperes per meter, the SL delivered a watch that kept consistent time within 80,000 amperes per metre.

Today the Ingenieur family continues to expand, with additions such as the Automatic Mission Earth. With a black rubber strap or stainless steel bracelet, antireflective glass and a integrated shock absorber, this watch is suited for any adventure.

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