Back in 1991, if you wanted to time two concurrent events with the same chronograph, you needed a pair of column wheels and a lot of money. But the following year, a young watchmaker named Richard Habring devised a deceptively simple solution for his employer, IWC Schaffhausen. Habring’s Doppelchronograph (German for “double chronograph”) suddenly made this complication easier to build and more accessible to watch buyers by making use of the ubiquitous and inexpensive Valjoux 7750 as its base. IWC filed for the patent on this invention and enjoyed liberal use of it for the past twenty years.
Last month, when the patent on IWC’s simplified Doppelchronograph finally expired, Richard (no longer with IWC) and Maria Habring were free to release their own fresh take on the Doppelchronograph. The watch actually improves upon the original version. How is this possible? To understand this, let’s take a look at how the Doppel works.
The integration of the split function inside the Valjoux 7750 was not easy due to the fact that the movement comes pre-built with automatic winding which denies access to the central chronograph seconds wheel. Habring’s solution was simple and effective. As he explains, “we got a hamburger, took off the upper bun, laid a slice of cheese inside and closed it again.”
Of course this analogy is an oversimplification, since the new split-seconds mechanism contains levers, springs, a cam and a pincer. Actually the cam-layout was what deserved the patent since previously, split second mechanisms were operated by a separate column wheel. Maria Habring explains: “The column wheel looks nice – no doubt about that – but technically it represents watchmaking technology of the 19th century. It’s difficult to produce and quite expensive as well when adjusting the movement and all its functions. Column wheel operated splits if not adjusted perfectly can be misoperated if the pusher does not get pushed in fully. Before shifting, the pincer may open or close already, the column wheel may be stuck intermediately for example.”
The cam-operated split mechanism does not have these problems at all. Richard Habring adds that, “finally the 7750-based chrono is a cam-operated modern design. Adding a column wheel disrespects Edmond Capt’s (Ed: father of the Valjoux 7750) genius take on this design!”
Probably the most difficult detail in the original IWC Doppelchronograph was the redesign of the split shaft. In order to allow the 10.5mm-long split axle to go through the central chrono seconds axle, it had to be enlarged in diameter and drilled through. The final version has a diameter of 0.5mm and a length of about 9mm and features a hole of 0.34mm. Drilling such a hole with conventional methods is almost impossible so the first prototypes made use of parts from syringe needles.
The Habring2 Doppel 2.0 is a logical next generation double chronograph. Even aesthetically, the watch is a departure from the first version. It does away with the traditional tri-compax layout so familiar to Valjoux-based chronographs, instead opting for a simpler, more classic dual-register dial, with running seconds on the left and elapsed minutes on the right and overlaid center seconds hands. The distinctive third chronograph pusher at 10:00 is the giveaway that this is a double chronograph. The dial can be had in galvanized blue, brown or slate gray and has radial minute markers and an outer demarcated second’s track. The overall effect is a blend of modern and classic, a stark contrast to the more sober IWC Doppelchronographs, which are clearly designed to be tool watches. While the original Doppel found its roots in aviation where the use of a split-function is not that important, the Habring²-Doppel is reminiscent to the time when sports timekeeping was done with mechanical stopwatches.
The Habring2 calibre A08MR, while still based on a Valjoux 7750 introduces several key improvements over Habring’s first, twenty-year old, iteration. Aside from the dial layout, the main differences are inside the split-seconds function. While the original Doppel movement was – due to the necessary integration of the split module inside the existing movement – rather complex, the second generation has a simplified bridge-layout which improves accessibility for service purposes.
With an annual producion of about 80 watches, you can be assured if you own a Habring2 you’re not likely to see one on anyone else’s wrist and that’s part of the appeal.
The Habring2 Doppel 2.0 is expected to sell for 6,000 euros. For more information on the Doppel 2.0 and Habring2 in general, click here.