During the 2020 online edition of Watches & Wonders, IWC unveiled this complicated Portugieser flying tourbillon, retrograde date and flyback chronograph model. Marking the top-end releases in the new Portugieser collection, along with an equally impressive Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, the tourbillon chronograph watch was presented in precious metal cases of gold or platinum. If you think this combination of complications already existed, you’d be right since they made their debut in the IWC Da Vinci Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph of 2017 and later that year in the one-off Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph for Laureus Charity Night 2017. The gold model with blue dial ref. IW394005, which is also a Boutique Edition, was our candidate for today’s hands-on session. Boutique editions refer to IWC models that combine gold cases and blue dials, very fitting given the maritime theme of the Portugieser.
The Portugieser is one of IWC’s oldest ambassadors and is home to more haute horlogerie models than any other IWC family. Beyond the classic time-only models, annual calendars and chronographs, the Portugieser appears with more elaborate complications like sophisticated rattrapante chronographs, monopusher chronographs, perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, perpetual calendars and tourbillons, constant force tourbillons, grande complications and even models to gauge the tides, like this Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide. This last Moon & Tide model was unveiled alongside the two tourbillon complications at Watches & Wonders earlier this year.
What unites all these manifestations, from the simplest to the most complex, is the distinctive look of the Portugieser with its clean, well-organised, legible dials and large dimensions. The original Portugieser was created at the behest of two Portuguese businessmen who wanted the precision of a marine chronometer in a wristwatch format. And in 1939, the 43mm Portugieser wristwatch (ref.325) was born, its huge dimensions for the day attesting to the fact that it was equipped with a hand-wound pocket watch movement, calibre 74. In addition to the large case sizes and simple dials, certain elements like the Arabic numerals, the railway minutes track and the slim feuille hands have withstood the test of time and are hallmark features of all Portugiesers today.
The combination of a flying hacking minute tourbillon with a flyback chronograph and retrograde date could make for a very busy dial. Luckily, the sober genetics of the Portugieser lineage have made their way to this complicated watch and kept the scenery on deck shipshape. As a representative of the upper echelons of the Portugieser family, the case exchanges the sporty vintage-style piston pushers found on other chronographs for more refined rectangular pushers but retains the ingenious, space-saving display of combining the elapsed hours and minutes in one counter, just below the 12 o’clock marker.
With the large tourbillon aperture at 6 o’clock, the horizontal axis of these two elements gives the watch a satisfying visual balance. Another elegant solution to displaying the date (avoiding the controversial date window) is solved by placing the 1-31 track along a subtle arc on the left side of the dial. Every 31st day of the month the retrograde date hand performs its reverse jump from 31 to 1. This occurs when the spring is no longer under tension and the hand can jump back to the start. One thing to remember, though, is that when months have fewer than 31 days (five times a year) the watch will need adjusting and the date display can be advanced rapidly using the crown without resetting the time.
An Officer and a Gentleman
Blue dials and gold cases work extremely well together and this boutique edition watch evokes the handsome attire of naval officers (service dress blue) with gold stripes and buttons. The watch comes in an Armor Gold case, a proprietary alloy developed by IWC with 5N red gold that is meant to be harder and more wear-resistant than traditional 5N gold alloys. With a content of 75% gold, equivalent to 18k, the production process transforms the microstructure of the alloy to make it harder. The case displays refined polished areas (lugs, stepped bezel and pushers) and brushed finishes on the casebands.
The intense blue dial recalls the colour of the deepest parts of the ocean. Its sunray pattern on the dial emanates from the centre and gives the dial a lovely sheen. All the hallmark traits of the Portugieser have reported for duty: the railway track minutes on the periphery; the elegant applied Arabic numerals; the slim feuille hands; and the clean, amenable layout of the elements. To match the luxurious gold case, the numerals are made from 18k gold and the hands are gold-plated.
A distinctive feature of all Portugiesers is their size – their large size. This complicated model does not shy away from the family trait and has a diameter of 43.5mm and a thickness of 16mm.
Flyback chronograph and flying tourbillon
This haute horlogerie edition ref. IW394005 combines the efficiency of a flyback chronograph with the spectacle of a flying tourbillon and a graceful retrograde date. As a flyback chronograph, you can time consecutive events without having to sacrifice valuable seconds and can stop, reset and start the chrono functions with one button. This complication relies on a sophisticated flyback chronograph movement based on the first manufacture chronograph movement (83960) to be developed in its entirety in Schaffhausen in 2007. The particularity of this flyback chronograph, as we mentioned, is the display: instead of two individual counters for the elapsed hours and minutes, these are housed in one single sub-dial at 12 o’clock.
Further developments to the 2007 chronograph calibre have resulted in the Calibre 89900 used to power the tourbillon, chronograph and retrograde date functions of this fascinating watch. Apart from the hypnotic spectacle of the tourbillon framed by a gold aperture at 6 o’clock, the tourbillon is a hacking tourbillon meaning that when the crown is pulled out, the balance (and entire gear train, including all the hands) is stopped allowing for precision to-the-second time settings.
This high-end in-house automatic movement pairing a flyback chronograph and retrograde date by pointer with a tourbillon escapement was introduced in 2017 in the Da Vinci Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph model. This calibre was based on the sophisticated in-house flyback chronograph movement (calibre 89360) developed by Kurt Klaus in 2007, the same watchmaker who developed IWC’s innovative perpetual calendar module and who jumpstarted IWC’s manufacturing potential with the development of calibre 5000, a family of movements that reintroduced the Pellaton winding system.
Calibre 89900, which you can see through the sapphire crystal caseback, can store up to 68 hours of power reserve and runs at 4Hz/28,800vph. Thanks to its hacking tourbillon, the watch can be stopped completely, allowing the time to be set with down-to-the-second accuracy. The pallet lever and escape wheel are treated with Diamond Shell® technology, giving it an extremely hard surface that reduces friction and improves the flow of energy in the movement. The finishes are attractive and below the openworked 5N gold rotor, you can see the Côtes de Genève on the openworked bridges and perlage.
Availability and price
The IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Boutique Edition IW394005 is limited to 50 pieces and comes on a blue braided calfskin strap. The term ‘Boutique Edition’ refers to a specific red gold case and blue dial combination. This doesn’t mean that you have to trek out to an IWC Boutique to buy this particular model. You can view it online and then order it over the phone. The price is CHF 105,000.
For more information, please visit iwc.com.