October 4, 2015
by Ariel Adams
At least two things happened at Schaffhausen, Switzerland-based IWC watches this year. First, the Portuguese watch collection turned 75 years old. Second, the Portuguese watch collection decided that it wasn’t German sounding enough, so IWC changed the name of all Portuguese watches to the “Portugieser.” I’ve mentioned this before in past coverage of 2015 Portuguese watches – IWC itself is duly sympathetic to the confusion this name change and continues to remind people that these new watches are in fact the same old watches with helpful statements like “Portugieser (Portuguese)” on their website. The brand actually has a very nice website and their dedication to consumer education is truly laudable.
UPDATE: I am adding this to the article after its publication in regard to the “Portuguese vs. Portugieser” conversation. I spoke to IWC about this and while I still don’t believe I know all the details, the company apparently decided to change the name to the German spelling of Portuguese before potential legal issues trademarking the “Portuguese” might come up. Yes, from what I can determine no one actually went after IWC for using the Portuguese name but the brand’s attorney felt that Portuguese might not be protectable in at least some markets from a trademark perspective ans that is why the name was changed. With that information alone I agree the situation sounds confusing – but that is the latest… Back to the nice watch.
As part of the 75th Anniversary of the Portuguese, ahem, I mean “Portugieser” watch, IWC has added this Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month watch to the family of popular dressy, yet also casual, yet also retro-sporty timepieces. Available in three versions, each Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month model is part of a relatively small limited edition totaling just 175 for the entire set.
To create this watch, IWC once again sifted through their parts bin looking for a combination of elements that they haven’t yet tried. This time around, the Portuguese (my apologies to IWC, some invisible hand seems to be preventing me from using the watch’s proper “Portugieser” name) has been fitted with IWC’s in-house made caliber 89801 automatic movement that we’ve seen in other watches such as the Da Vinci, Spitfire, and Ingenieur. Mr. Portugieser (it sounds like a Mr. doesn’t it) was perhaps feeling left out so now one of IWC’s best selling watch collections gets the “Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month” treatment.
Despite adding a relatively inelegant addition to the title of any timepiece, the caliber 89801 remains one of the most interesting movements produced by the brand. What you essentially have is IWC’s in-house two-register 12-hour flyback chronograph movement with a special perpetual calendar module. Rather than dials to indicate the calendar information, IWC designed the 89801 to have discs which indicate the date, month, and leap year. I would have much rather IWC call this the “Big Perpetual Calendar Chronograph,” which is both true and plays on another popular IWC product which is the “Big Pilot’s Watch.”
What you have is a bi-laterally symmetrical dial with very easy-to-read windows for the calendar information that flank the chronograph subdial. That subdial contains two hands which register both the chronograph hours and minutes. IWC uses two discs for each of the two windows in order to make the information as easy to read as possible. When it comes down to it, what you really want to know is the date and month – which is right there for you to view. The leap year indicator is mostly only useful when initially setting the calendar information, and its indicator window is duly hidden in the subsidiary seconds dial over 6 o’clock.
Viewed through the rear of the reference 3972 Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month case, the manufacture caliber 89801 really looks great. Like a mini feat of modern industrial design, you really see what makes IWC distinctive in this movement. A power reserve of 68 hours is welcome for this level of complication – and it helps round out the assortment of complicated Portugieser watch models such as the more legacy reference 5034 Portugieser Perpetual Calendar which is impressive in its own right.
Unlike the classic and straightforward Portugieser Perpetual Calendar, the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month has a cleaner-looking dial. Even though I feel that simply taking an existing case design and adding an existing movement to it lacks a degree of originality that watch collectors expect, the resulting product makes a case for itself with a strong, handsome look. Hell, if IWC wants to put all of their movements into all of their case designs, then by all means. I am still waiting for my Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar watch…
IWC uses a 45mm wide Portugieser case for the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month and it is available in 18k red gold with a black dial, 18k red gold with a silver-plated dial, and in platinum with a silver-plated dial. Given the size and heft of the case that latter version is an impressively heavy watch. Attached to the cases are very nice Santoni alligator leather straps.
When you want a movement-lovers watch with something classic, and yet still distinctive to a brand, the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month is honestly the way to go. Just forgive IWC for the odd name game and the unoriginal premise of “if you love the Portugieser and the Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month movement, then we know you’ll love the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month.” Prices are $49,800 for the IW397203 (limited edition of 75 pieces) in 18k red gold with the silver-plated dial, $49,800 for the IW397202 in 18k red gold with the black dial (limited edition of 75 pieces), and $63,800 for the IW397201 in platinum (limited edition of 25 pieces). iwc.com