February 28, 2017
by David Bredan
The perpetual calendar is matched with the 12-hour chronograph which also happens to feature a flyback function, just to further complicate the already highly impressive caliber. The 89630 runs at a frequency of 4Hz and its 68 hours of power reserve is recharged by a genuinely massive (typical-IWC) winding rotor in solid 18 red gold that winds in either direction. IWC claims the 68-hour-long reserve can be maintained while the chronograph is running.
All this impressive engineering and yet, for whatever reason, the ceramic “update” to some of the winding mechanism’s most prone-to-wear-out components has not been performed in this movement – while it is part of the considerably more affordable Portugieser reviewed here.
While at 43mm wide and 15.5mm thick (something IWC actually calls “a striking case height”), this new piece falls somewhere in the mid-field of today’s watch sizes – as much as that may pain purists. The thickness is considerable, but I am pretty sure that this is about as thin as you can expect when you stack automatic winding with a massive rotor, barrels to support a long power reserve, a flyback chronograph, and a perpetual calendar with every traditional indication possible. If 15.5mm is too thick for you, you would likely have to sacrifice some of the functionality in order to shave a few millimeters off the overall thickness.
Still, the swiveling lugs and the Santoni leather straps – some of the very best OEM straps out there – ensure excellent wearing comfort. Another bonus of the articulating lugs is that they don’t look as “long” as they otherwise would: falling off at a steeper angle from the plane of the case, the overall reach along the width of the wrist is decreased, making for a more sensible look. Last but not least, the domed sapphire crystal performs well in making the case appear thinner than it is, leaving room for the tall center pinion to reach high above the plane of the dial, but doing away with a clunky and thick bezel. These are all neat details, but how do they add up?
If you have read my review of the Omega Ploprof from not too long ago, you’ll know that I have an admitted tendency to compare some watch designs to architecture… and, yes, it’s happening again. There is something to the IWC Da Vinci that reminds me of cathedrals: there is this mix of a busy (but quite intelligent) array of extremely fine details and a sense of monumentality. Could I identify this exact reminiscence when going hands-on with this new Da Vinci? Nope, but something drew me to looking at the very image just above until I could figure out what this watch sort of reminded me of. If you think I’m going nuts and am totally alone with this idea, or if you agree with this comparison, drop a comment below.
From entirely subjective mind-games to objective history: IWC produced the first Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in 1985 with the Reference 3750. Fitted with the IWC 79060 caliber, a perpetual calendar chronograph movement that could be adjusted not through ungainly correctors set into the case but from the crown, it required a comparably complex and striking exterior.
To my surprise, I wasn’t too far off with the architecture reference: the story goes that IWC’s head designer at the time, Hano Burtscher, was a great admirer of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) who, in the Codex Atlanticus, worked on plans for harbor fortifications (among many other things). To cut a long story short, Burtscher’s design ultimately united calendar displays, four sub-dials, nine hands, a four-digit year display, a moon phase indication, as well as a complicated but very classical-looking case that combined clean lines with swiveling lugs. If you want to read the full story, IWC has in fact wrapped it up quite well here.
All in all, the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in red gold is a genuinely striking-looking watch that merges old-school design without looking like a fossil from another era or a fake-vintage from our present times. It carries its aesthetic and actual weight graciously, allowing it to make a powerful statement without looking like it’s trying too hard. I’m glad this wasn’t the year of the Pilot.
Price for the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph IW392101 in red gold is $40,200 and there’s a steel variant (IW392103) also coming soon at $29,900. iwc.com