IWC’s new Annual Calendar might be drop-dead gorgeous, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. We find out what lies beneath the surface.
BEFORE WE WAX LYRICAL about IWC’s ridiculously handsome Portugieser Annual Calendar, there are a few things we need to clarify first. We begin with the (new) name: Portugieser. Prior to this year, the collection had always been known as the Portuguese, but apparently, the house has switched to the German translation for trademarking purposes.
Next, IWC’s marketing campaign promotes 2015 as the Portugieser’s 75th anniversary, though the line did not exist 75 years ago, having only come into being in 1993. What did exist 75 years ago was Ref. 325, a 43mm ticker made for two Portuguese businessmen who wanted an accurate timekeeping wristwatch for their travels. Ref. 325 was presented to them in 1939, and IWC began commercial production of the model the following year. It was this watch that went on to inspire the Portugieser collection of later years.
As for the actual merits of the Annual Calendar, one of our favourite pieces this year, we must start by pointing out that this is IWC’s first annual calendar watch, offering an alternative to the house’s more exclusive perpetual calendar models. In terms of style, we love the well-balanced layout of the dial with counters that resemble dashboard gauges you might find on vintage yachts.
At 12 o’clock, the calendar indications appear in three separate windows, which read in the American style of month, date and day. This pays tribute to IWC’s American founder FA Jones and might take some getting used to for those of us more accustomed to the British styling, but we assure you the rest of the watch makes it well worth the effort. The calendar itself only needs to be corrected once a year, at the end of February. This, along with all other settings, is adjusted by the crown, and there are no push-pieces to fuss around with—an impressively efficient detail we might expect of IWC.
However, the simplest solutions often have complex backstories—it took IWC five years to engineer this sweet number. Much of that time was spent on the in-house development of the new Calibre 52850 alone, a 4hz (28,800vph) engine equipped with a two-barrel system that provides a seven-day power reserve, as indicated in the sub-dial at three o’clock.
Another of Calibre 52850’s major technical breakthroughs is its use of ceramic components, which makes the automatic winding system wear-free, and therefore, more efficient. As Thomas Gaumann, IWC’s head of R&D Movement, explains: “In older watches with the Pellaton winding system, there was some wear-and-tear on parts of the system. Then we produced some wheels in ceramic, tested them and found that they [didn’t exhibit signs of wear], so you don’t have to replace those parts.”
The skilled and precise workmanship of the Annual Calendar is especially showcased in the open caseback, where you can see that the movement fills up virtually every last millimetre of space. This lends a unique touch, demonstrating that IWC specially built the 44.2mm case around the calibre, instead of simply fitting in an existing calibre. The movement’s generous proportions also respect the legacy of the original source of inspiration, Ref. 325, which was fitted with a pocket watch calibre.
Unlike the other two anniversary models that IWC launched this year—the Hand-Wound Eight Days Edition “75th Anniversary” and the Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “75th Anniversary”—we like that the Annual Calendar is not issued in a limited edition. It is truly a watch for every man. There are even three strikingly different versions to choose from: an 18-carat red-gold case with a silvered dial, and a stainless steel case with a silvered or midnight blue dial. Our pick? The blue-dialled model, which seems to speak of the ocean, sea navigation and the Portuguese businessmen themselves, who desired a wristwatch as accurate as a marine chronometer. Which is precisely what they got.
Portugieser Annual Calendar.