“Design icon” is among the most abused bits of hyperbole in the Press Release Writer’s Guide, yet in a few rare instances, it actually applies. The IWC Portugieser is such an instance. Few can question that 1939 witnessed the birth of a bright horological light, and in just a few days, at SIHH, IWC will officially unveil the newest addition to this noble line, the Portugieser Annual Calendar.
Given the Portugieser’s popularity, it’s no surprise that the astute managers at IWC have launched several variations over the years. These include the minute repeater(1995), the 7-day power reserve (2000), the perpetual calendar(2003), the Tourbillon Mystère (2004), the constant-force tourbillon (2011), and the 8-day hand-wound movement (2013). As is IWC’s custom, each SIHH marks the opening of a new year dedicated to a particular family, and 2015 belongs of the Portugieser.
The Annual Calendar’s design is pure Portugieser pleasure. Keeping with the familial themes of simplicity and purity, the calendar is presented in three dial apertures arranged in a semi-circle at 12 o’clock. The “month-date-day” windows appear in the “American order”, and IWC says this is the result of both technical requirements and a desire to pay homage to the brand’s American founder, F.A. Jones. It’s probably no accident that this arrangement also produces a pleasing symmetry. The seven-day power reserve is displayed on a subdial at 3 o’clock, counterbalanced by a small seconds display at 9 o’clock. One small nit some may pick: the decision to include the words “Annual Calendar” below the date displays.
Inside the 44.2-mm case, IWC provides a treat in the form of the new 52850 manufacture caliber, which IWC tells us required almost five years to develop. The construction is modular, and IWC’s engineers have fashioned it such that the annual end-of-February correction is made with the crown, eliminating the need for a corrector.
For the technically-minded among you, IWC describes the annual calendar functions as follows: the hour wheel sets in motion the date advance wheel, which is equipped with two different advance fingers. One of the fingers is responsible for the date and month displays, the other for the weekday display. Every day, as midnight approaches, the upper advance finger moves the date forward. The month display and the program wheel, which defines the lengths of the various months, are controlled by two pins on the date disc. The first pin advances the program wheel by one division. A feeler on the advance lever recognizes months with 30 days by a deeper notch on the program wheel and provides more space for it to switch. The following day, the advance lever ensures that the date moves forward by two days. The second pin in the date disc sets the new month.
All of this mechanical activity requires substantial energy, so IWC has fitted the 52850 caliber with twin barrels that deliver sufficient power to advance three disks and to animate the movement for seven days on a single wind.
The sapphire display back provides an unimpeded view of the movement, and the rotor’s minimalist design further enhances the owner’s viewing pleasure, while the “Probus Scafusia” medallion stands as a testament to horological heritage. The view opens the way to appreciate the twin barrel design, and the improved Pellaton winding system, with virtually wear-free components fashioned from black and white ceramic, is also clearly visible.
The Portugieser Annual Calendar is available in 18k red gold (Ref. IW503504) with a silver-plated dial, and in stainless steel with a silver-plated (Ref. IW503501) or midnight blue (Ref. IW503502) dial. All versions of the watch are fitted with black Santoni alligator leather straps.
The Portugieser Annual Calendar will retail for $24,100 in steel. and $34,500 in rose gold.