As part of its new Portugieser collection unveiled on the Watches & Wonders 2020 platform today, IWC has introduced the IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph. Available in two versions, both limited to 50 watches only, this timepiece watch has a flyback chronograph, a retrograde date indicator, and a flying tourbillon.
If a strange sense of déjà vu has dawned you now, it’s because you are thinking of the IWC Da Vinci Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph unveiled during SIHH 2017. In fact, this new Portugieser shares the same movement as that particular Da Vinci model. As mentioned earlier, the timepiece unveiled today is available in two versions, both limited to 50 watches. The boutique edition (Ref. IW394005) is cased in 18K Armor Gold with a blue dial. Armor Gold is IWC’s proprietary version of 5N red gold.
To create Armor Gold, the microstructure of the gold alloy is altered during the manufacturing process which results in a material, which IWC claims, is significantly harder and five to ten times as wear-resistant as conventional 5N gold. The second version uses a platinum case (Ref. IW394006) and has a silvered dial.
Both cases (Armor Gold and platinum) have the same dimensions. The case is 43.5 mm wide and 16 mm thick, water-resistant to 30 meters, and fitted with a box-like sapphire crystal atop the dial and a sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is dominated by a flying tourbillon at 6 o’ clock and a retrograde date display at 9. The flyback chronograph can record elapsed-time intervals up to 11 hours and 59 minutes. These intervals are displayed on a single subdial at 12 o’clock, with hands and indices for both hours and minutes to ensure an easy and intuitive reading of the elapsed time.
As mentioned earlier, the watch is powered by the manufacture Caliber 89900, a self-winding movement with a power reserve of 68 hours thanks to an 18K gold rotor. The pallet and escape wheel are made of diamond-coated silicon, an extremely hard and friction-resistant surface treatment that is beneficial to maintaining the power reserve.
The boutique edition (Ref. IW394005 ) is paired with a blue braided calf leather strap and is priced at CHF105,000 (Approx. AED388,000 on current exchange rates, but this could vary) while the platinum version (Ref. IW394006) is paired with a Santoni blue alligator leather strap and is priced at CHF123,000 (Approx. AED454,000).
The IWC perpetual calendar mechanism was revolutionary when it first debuted in 1985. It was the world’s first so-called integrated perpetual calendar, in which all of the indications were mechanically linked to each other so that they could all be adjusted simultaneously, simply by turning the crown. At launch, in the Da Vinci ref. 3750, it was, as Walt Odets wrote in his in-depth analysis of the mechanism for Timezone, “about half the price of its nearest competitor,” and offered unprecedented ease of use. One of the signature features of the mechanism, designed by IWC’s Kurt Klaus, the legendary “Einstein of Schaffhausen,” was the four-digit indication for the year, which in the original version, would switch over from the 1900s to the 2000s at midnight on January 31, 1999, and then to the 2100s at midnight on January 31, 2099 – giving the watch a rather unique attraction as a legacy to be handed down from one generation to the next. IWC has just announced the debut of its latest version of its perpetual calendar mechanism, as part of its suite of new Portugieser timepieces, in a seven-day watch with tourbillon. The watch follows the basic design language of IWC perpetual calendars very closely, with a day, date, and month display, as well as the classic four-digit display of the year. The moon phase display is accurate to within one day’s error in 577.5 years.
The new IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon will be offered in two variations. The first is a boutique exclusive piece with a blue dial and a case in IWC’s proprietary Armor Gold. The Armor Gold alloy is a type of 5N red gold, but manufactured with a proprietary process that makes it, according to IWC, “significantly harder and five to ten times more wear resistant” than conventional 5N gold. The material debuted for the first time in the Big Pilot’s Watch Constant Force Tourbillon Edition Le Petit Prince.
The second version will be offered in a platinum case with a white dial and is in all other respects technically identical to the boutique exclusive piece, with both housing the self-winding IWC caliber 51950. Both are limited editions of 50 pieces in each case material, worldwide.
Complicated watchmaking at IWC has evolved considerably since the mid-20th century, when the company became best known for simple, robust, very well made and solidly constructed time-only and time-and-date watches such as the caliber 89, the Yacht Club, and, of course, the Ingenieur. The IWC perpetual calendar mechanism continues to be one of the most interesting and historically important innovations in perpetual calendar design, far outstripping in user-friendliness many of its more traditionally constructed brethren from other brands. (The only instance in which this is not the case is if the perpetual calendar has been allowed to run down and sit idle for a long period of time. I once had to correct the date on a Da Vinci which had not run for two and a half years, which involved turning the crown – well, I don’t remember, but it was hundreds of times. I would have given much for some old-fashioned pushers). The earliest use of the perpetual calendar mechanism in the Portugieser family that I can recall is the 2003 reference 5021. This watch featured the IWC double moon display, the space which in the new watches is taken up by the tourbillon. The tourbillon and perpetual calendar version in the Portugieser line has appeared previously, in the ref. IW5045 Portuguese Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Edition “150 Years.” That watch has a white dial and red-gold case; the gold, however, is standard red gold, not Armor Gold.
While no longer a novelty, the IWC perpetual calendar, as well as its in-house tourbillon, continue to make for fascinating and historically important watchmaking still relevant to anyone who is a lover of complicated watchmaking. The new IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Tourbillons look to be very much in line with the basic character of the firm – sober, intriguing mechanically, and a celebration of the joy of complex mechanics.