This year was the year of the Portuguese for IWC, as they introduced several novelties, starting from the Portuguese Annual Calendar to the superb Portuguese Hand-Wound 8 Days 75th Anniversary Edition. There was also one with quite a complicated movement (yes, that’s a bit of an understatement), the IWC Portuguese Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month. It’s this same movement and digital display that we found back in today’s novelty, the perpetual calendar Digital Day-Month Chronograph but in the context of another specialty from IWC, the pilot watches. Here is the IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month BUT in stainless steel.
The collection of pilot watches by IWC is clearly influenced by classical German B-Uhr watches. There are two main ranges that can be identify: the Big Pilot, with its massive case and diamond crown that is however more luxurious and that is available in dozens of editions (like a perpetual calendar or the flashy ceramic editions). The other part of the collection is a more toolish option, with watches that are inspired by the famous Mark Series. Simpler, smaller, available with useful complications like the chronograph, this is a proper aviation instrument. However, back in 2012, IWC decided to bring some more horological interest to this watch by featuring it with a very complicated movement, cased in precious metal housing, the IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month 18k red gold.
Together with being inspired by historical pilot watches and one of the most famous fighter planes ever created (the Spitfire), this IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month features 2 main complications. The first seems logical for such a watch: a chronograph, a feature extremely useful to calculate distances, consumptions or average speeds. The other one could seem odd in such a toolish timepiece but its integration and specific display remains modern and discreet enough to be perfectly integrated, a perpetual calendar – that is one of the most desirable complications possible.
The strength of this movement comes in its display. Usually, mixing a chronograph and a perpetual calendar means a very, very loaded dial, with at least 3 to 4 sub-dials that feature more than one indicator. IWC’s solution is based on only 2 sub-counters – and only one is linked to the chronograph, as the sub-dial at 6 is a running second. The chronograph is displayed by a single sub-counter at 12 that works like a classical watch and that can time intervals up to 12 hours. The perpetual calendar is based on 4 apertures (plus a small one for the leap year) that reveals 4 digits (displayed through 4 jumping discs). The two numerals on the left (at 9:30) are displaying the date and the two other (at 2:30) are indicating the month. That’s all. Because of this clever and modern approach, all the functions, including the most important one (the chronograph), are easily readable without any overlapping sub-counters or sub-counters integrated in another sub-dial.
The IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month comes in a robust 46mm case, with a typical pilot shape. The main novelty for this year is the introduction of stainless steel. Previously, this watch was only available in 18k red gold with a slate grey dial. The use of this material makes sense in the actual context for two reasons. First, the IWC Spitfire is a tool watch (even if it comes with haute horlogerie features like a QP) and the use of steel seems more appropriate. Then, in a market that is slowing down but where people are still demanding complicated watches, the use of steel allows to have access to the QP + Chrono for a more decent price.
The dial is classical for such an IWC pilot watch, with a sunburst slate grey plate, white inscriptions and the typically shaped and easily readable applied indexes filled with luminous material. The hands are also in the same vein, with their pilot-inspired shape.
The sapphire crystal case-back reveals the calibre 89801 (also shared in the IWC Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month and in the new IWC Portuguese Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month). This in-house movement features a chronograph actuated by a column wheel and a vertical clutch. It also has a flyback function. Of course, it features the perpetual calendar, displayed by 4 jumping discs and through 4 apertures on the dial. The perpetual calendar can be set easily using just the crown. No small push-pieces in the case-band, no tool is required (you can see more details about this movement here). The IWC-manufactured 89800 calibre comprises 474 individual parts and has a 68-hour power reserve when fully wound. Nice detail: the rotor which takes the form of a Spitfire plane.
Now comes the question of the price. The 18k red gold edition was priced at 52.000 Swiss Francs. This new stainless steel edition is priced way below that, at 32.000 Swiss Francs – which makes a huge 20.000 Swiss Francs difference. Usually, for a watch available in steel and in gold (with no other difference than the case material), the gap is more normally about 10.000 Swiss Francs. That said, the market is hard, and even if customers are still demanding complicated watches, they are also looking at the money they’re spending for timepieces. Thus, with the use of stainless steel, IWC will open the doors to new collectors with a lower budget.
More details on IWC.com.