The first IWC watch to feature a digital display of the time was actually made in the late 19th century. In 1884, a deal between Johann Rauschenbach and Salzburg watchmaker Joseph Pallweber gave IWC rights to the Pallweber system. The Pallweber system is regarded as the first digital pocket watch movement. The brand’s first digital pocket watch, according to IWC’s archives, was the Savonnette pocket watch Pallweber of 1886. The new IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” is a pretty faithful recreation of that very same pocket watch.

Savonnette Pocket Watch Pallweber from 1886

Of course, it is a wristwatch, and it comes in a round 45mm wide 18k red gold case. A distinctive trait of the case is its wire lugs, which is something that you don’t see that often on modern watches. It also gives the watch a very vintage look and feel. Also notable is the large 18k red gold onion crown. Water resistance is rated at 30m and the watch comes with a black alligator strap made by longtime IWC partner Santoni.

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The expansive white lacquered dial is supremely minimalist. At 12 o’clock, you have an aperture for the digital display of the hours, which is clearly labeled in reference to the pocket watch’s design. Below it and nearer to the center of the dial is another aperture for the digital display of the minutes, again clearly labeled. Finally, at 6 o’clock you have a sub-dial that shows the running seconds, which helps the design’s symmetry while providing some movement on the otherwise stark face. There’s nothing superfluous about the dial and I think the choice of fonts and the two black rings that hold the various displays together create a very Art Deco vibe.

The digital display of the time jumps instantaneously and is quite clever. For the display of the minutes, one can clearly see that there are two discs – a 10-minute disc and one for the single minutes. The single minute disc advances precisely once every minute, and a release mechanism stores energy and advances the 10-minute disc accordingly. Up top, the hour disc jumps precisely on every 60th minute. This instantaneous jumping mechanism allows for a clear and accurate digital reading of the time. Getting all to jump simultaneously and smoothly is apparently quite challenging in watchmaking, and it will be cool to see all the digits change at the top of each hour.

The IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” is powered by the in-house IWC caliber 94200. It is a manually-wound movement that beats at 4Hz and offers 60 hours of power reserve. Curiously, IWC didn’t send us images of the movement, but we are told that it will be visible through a sapphire display caseback and will feature an inlaid 18k gold medallion that celebrates the 150th anniversary of IWC. One can also expect it to be decorated to IWC’s usual high standards.

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Of all the special commemorative watches released by IWC this year for their 150th anniversary, the IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” is my favorite because of its clean display of the time and its classic look and feel. It is also a rather faithful homage of the Savonnette pocket watch from 1886, which I’m sure is something IWC fans will appreciate. The IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” (Ref. IW505002) is limited to 250 pieces, and will have a price of $36,600.

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