IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
Angus Davies reviews the new IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar Ref IW503502, the first watch from the brand to feature this complication. A recent trip to the IWC ‘Iconic’ Exhibition at Harrods showcased this handsome timepiece, along with other delights from this year’s Portugieser collection.
This detailed review of the IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar includes live images, specification details and price.
I am an only child. There has never been a time when I have been compared to an academic sister or a sporty brother. However, my two children have often been compared in this way. My eldest daughter, Isobel, is an avid fan of mathematics and aspires to be a university lecturer. Conversely, my son, Euan, enjoys sport and is passionate about photography.
Isobel is frequently irritated by her peers referring to her as ‘Euan Davies’s sister’, despite him being two years her junior. It seems Euan’s ability to win sporting trophies and accolades is a source of annoyance to Isobel. Moreover, Euan is a consummate raconteur, able to regale assembled groups with his witty anecdotes and appears to be the ‘must-have’ guest at many teenage parties in our native Lancashire.
By the same token, Euan is painfully aware that his sister has amassed hordes of certificates adorned with covetable A* grades. When it comes to the world of academia, Isobel has only ever known success and seldom struggles with even the most complex of topics. Such is her prowess at computing numbers with amazing alacrity that she has won plaudits and prizes for her mathematical proficiency.
My point is that sometimes one sibling is perceived as less meritorious than another. However, as my examples manifestly show, everyone has relative strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, virtue is often a function of the value placed on certain characteristics. The same could equally apply to watches. I am often perplexed when asked which is my favourite watch.
Each timepiece I have ever selected has proffered attributes that enticed me to pick them for my own collection. Indeed, it is often difficult to choose one watch in preference to another when both timepieces in question offer an abundance of differing qualities.
Recently, I had the good fortune to have an intimate liaison with the new IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar, launched earlier this year at SIHH 2015. The model is offered in three executions, including one variant presented in a sumptuous 18-carat red gold case. While I often favour watches presented in noble metals, it is the two stainless steel models which caught my eye. Both models share the same specification, save for the colour of their dials.
IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar with a silver-plated dial Ref IW503501
IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar with a midnight blue dial Ref IW503502
The steel IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar is available with a silver-plated or midnight blue dial. While the family resemblance is clear and the genetic make up of both watches is virtually identical, in my opinion, it is the acute visual charm of the midnight blue dial which places its sibling in the shade. In isolation, the silver-plated dial is a handsome devil with a notable degree of suaveness in evidence, but its bolder brother will always gain more attention owing to its darker, sultry looks. Moreover, with its deep blue dial, basking in ambient light, the appeal of this model variant is obvious and most profound.
The annual calendar – a new chapter
The IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar, released earlier this year at SIHH 2015, represents a new chapter in the long history of IWC. This is the first annual calendar offered by the Schaffhausen-based watch company.
IWC has offered some incredible perpetual calendars since 1985 and these watches display the day, date, month and year in the brand’s legendary legible style. These watches may not look very different from those watches which are equipped with a complete calendar. However, thanks to the incredible complexity of the movement housed within a perpetual calendar watch, the timepiece automatically presents the date at the start of each month, making suitable allowance for the differing number of days in each month, including February. Moreover, the movement takes into account the additional day experienced in a leap year, an aspect which the wearer is reminded of with the inclusion of a leap year display on some, but not all, of IWC’s perpetual calendars. A perpetual calendar will only require date adjustment in 2100, 2200, 2300 etc., The complexity of these models cannot be overstated. However, the price of these watches, by virtue of their complex creation, is much higher than simple watches, proving beyond the financial grasp of many watch admirers.
The annual calendar indicates the day, date and month and is able to distinguish between those months with 30 days and those with 31 days. The correct month is displayed without any intervention on the wearers part. The only exception to this is on the 1st of March, when the wearer has to manually adjust the date. The annual calendar complication is simpler to execute and, needless to say, is less costly. While I adore the notion of a perpetual calendar, the annual calendar is a more viable purchasing option for the majority of would-be buyers.
Where IWC has excelled with this particular new model is successfully pairing the elegant styling with the succinct presentation of various indications. Indeed, nothing overwhelms the wearer and everything remains simple to read.
Blue has been a popular dial colour with various brands in the last few years. At first I wondered whether it would be the darling of the season’s catwalk, only to fade away as a passé phase. However, blue has been popular for while now and there are no signs that its appeal is beginning to fade.
When it comes to this IWC watch with its striking blue dial, the sea of shimmering tones is a glorious spectacle. It is described as ‘midnight blue’ by the Swiss brand and features a sun-ray motif, with fine lines emanating from the centre, resplendently gleaming in ambient light.
The leaf-shaped hour and minute hands tastefully convey the prevailing time with appropriate volume and peerless diction. The hours are marked with applied Arabic numerals, except where other dial parts dictate deferential omission.
Occupying the upper portion of the dial are three apertures, each revealing a specific indication. The left hand aperture reveals the month, the central aperture displays the date and the right hand aperture shows the day. The three apertures form a graceful arc-like series of windows.
At 3 o’clock, a power reserve indicator displays the energy available to power the indications of the Portugieser, expressed in days. The prodigious 7-day power reserve, courtesy of twin barrels, is yet another highlight of this model’s specification.
At 9 o’clock, a small seconds display resides. It shares the same scale and snailed detail of the aforementioned power reserve indicator, according a welcome degree of symmetry to proceedings. Indeed, a key attribute to the design of this watch is the harmonious arrangement of each element, with all aspects synergistically coalescing to sublime affect.
The IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar measures 44.2mm in diameter and has a case height of 15.3mm. It is no shrinking violet but, conversely, it does not unduly crave attention with gauche excess. This is a timepiece which seems born to befit any social situation.
I personally found the watch very comfortable to wear and felt it always looked at ease on my arm. The quality of the case is excellent, a trait which is obvious with repeated stroking of the watch surface. IWC has made its own cases since the 1980s, again illustrating the company’s desire to be vertically integrated and as independent as possible.
The crown has crisp knurled detailing aiding adjustment. It does not unduly protrude or annoyingly rub against the back of the hand.
IWC has equipped this model with a large exhibition caseback, bestowing a widescreen view of the in-house movement housed within.
The watch is presented on a high quality black alligator leather strap, paired with a stainless steel folding clasp. While the black shade looks attractive, there is part of me which wonders how the watch would look with a blue alligator strap.
IWC continues to expand its in-house movement capability. The new IWC-manufactured calibre 52850 is a self-winding movement containing 36 jewels and featuring an impressive power reserve of seven days, or 168 hours to be precise.
The new in-house movement took five years to develop and is yet a further illustration of this high-end watch brands desire for greater self-reliance and independence.
A particular aspect of the watch which I like is the eye-catching architecture and finishing of the movement. The oscillating mass is open-worked, revealing much of the micromechanics below. The bridges incorporate circular Côtes de Genève motif and allow a partial glimpse of the superbly snailed wheels beneath.
The calibre 52850 includes pawls and an automatic wheel made of black ceramic that is abrasion free, mitigating servicing needs.
Another reason for the impressive power reserve of this watch is that the oscillating mass is highly efficient and uses the brand’s famous bidirectional Pellaton self-winding system.
The IWC Portugieser is a design icon and I was a little concerned when I heard, prior to SIHH 2015, that the Swiss maison was to revisit its legendary family of models. However, I had no cause to be concerned because the light touch approach to the 2015 Portugieser collection has been adeptly and sympathetically executed.
The impressive aspect of the new IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar is that it looks as though it has always a member of this longstanding IWC portfolio. Indeed, I suspect future iconic status is assured.
I am smitten with the blue dial version of the new IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar. Quite simply, this is a stunning watch which deserves to be admired and coveted. Its sibling with the silver-plated dial, is very handsome and in isolation justifies critical acclaim, however, on this occasion its allure is, in my opinion, usurped by the comely charms of its handsome brother.
Sibling rivalry? You decide.
IWC Exhibition at Harrods
Recently I attended a superb exhibition held in Harrods Fine Watch Room which celebrated 75 years of IWC Schaffhausen’s ‘most iconic collection’.
The legendary luxury emporium has become a ‘must-see’ retail experience for any self-respecting watch fanatic. While it houses a vast array of impressive watches from some of the world’s leading brands, it also holds events throughout the year which provide glimpses of very rare and unusual timepieces.
Hunter Pocket Watch Jones Calibre, 1875
The recent ‘Iconic’ exhibition held at Harrods displayed this year’s new Portugieser family as well as two ultra-rare timepieces from the brand’s Schaffhausen-based museum.
IWC Portugieser Anniversary Watch 1993 Ref. 5441
- Model: IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
- Reference: IW503502
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 44.2mm; height 15.3mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small hacking seconds; day; date; month; power-reserve indicator.
- Movement: Calibre 52850, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 36 jewels; Power reserve 168 hours.
- Strap: Black alligator leather strap presented on a stainless steel folding clasp.