THE JOURNAL

Perfect, Perpetual and Portugieser

The Portugieser is synonymous with classic design and accuracy. One could even say it’s the “perfect wristwatch”. So how do you improve perfection? IWC showed how with the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar. 

When two forces combine, with good fortune the results can turn out to be spectacular. The IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar is a prime example of this, resulting from mating classic Portugieser watch design with IWC’s innovative perpetual calendar movement. The end result, informally called the “PPC”, is intriguingly both a simple and complex watch.

 

It all began with the original Portugieser wristwatch (reference 325), first introduced by IWC in 1939. A classic watch, it showed only time, but had an especially accurate pocket watch movement and a then over-sized 42 mm case. 

 

Although produced with several different dials, the iconic design is exemplary, often with simple Arabic numerals, slim feuille hands and a “railroad track” chapter ring. Over the following years, several new IWC’s Portugieser models evolved. 

 

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar - 2003 (IW502109)
— IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar - 2003 (IW502109)

A crowning achievement

In 2000, a new IWC seven-day automatic movement, calibre 5000, was introduced in an important new Portugieser model. In 2003, IWC then combined that movement with its special perpetual calendar module, producing the first PPC, reference IW5021.

 

Unlike the traditional Portugieser design, the heritage of IWC’s perpetual calendar module differed. While perpetual calendars – watches that show at least the day, date and month while accounting for different month lengths – have long been part of Swiss horology, IWC developed something more innovative and practical.

 

In 1985, IWC introduced an ingenious perpetual calendar module that only used the crown to reset all functions since the calendar indications were integrated. This complex mechanism, created by IWC’s renowned master watchmaker Kurt Klaus, was used initially in an Ingenieur model and, then, a few months later, as a Da Vinci model, reference 3570. Klaus realized that all day, date, month, year and even moon phase functions are related to each other, and all could be set simultaneously by the crown. The technical design was complex, but its use was simple and the result was simply brilliant.

 

 

It was no easy task, however, to transpose Klaus’ perpetual calendar module to the new IWC automatic base movement. It required a general redesign to combine IWC’s new in-house automatic movement. The end result from 2003, the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar, reference IW5021, was both traditional and contemporary. A new cutting-edge movement was used, with an entirely new moon phase display. By having a double moon phase, both the moon phase in the northern and southern hemispheres would be shown. This moon phase display was a world first, patented by IWC.  

 

Continuous innovation

In 2006 IWC introduced a new Portugieser Perpetual Calendar, reference IW5022. This watch had a single moon phase, and was slightly smaller at 42 mm in diameter.  It was produced in seven different variations, in varying metals and dials.

 

In 2015, IWC celebrated the 75th anniversary of the original Portugieser wristwatch with additional new models. Both prior PPC references were replaced by new references IW5033 and IW5034. The primary difference was that these new models contained a new movement, IWC calibre 52610. 

 

To achieve the seven-day power reserve, twin barrels were used for winding, producing even greater accuracy as the mainspring unwinds.

 

In addition to twin barrels, there were numerous other improvements. Technically, these included a new 18k gold rotor, black ceramic winding pawls, white ceramic bearings, and a “free-sprung” balance that operated at a higher frequency. Aesthetically, there were redesigned lugs, a different crystal and even a slightly thinner bezel. 

 

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar - 2018 (IW503406)
— IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar - 2018 (IW503406)

A blend of design and technology

In 2016, a new IWC reference IW5033 model was introduced, and also in 2018 a new IWC reference IW5034 Portugieser Perpetual Calendar model with a double moon phase was introduced.  Most noteworthy, in 2016 IWC also introduced a novel PPC, reference IW3972, with a digital display of the day and month.

 

In total, since its initial introduction over 15 years ago, the PPC calendar has been produced in 31 variations. There have been constant improvements in design and mechanics, and the sum total of variations serves as a testimony to these models’ success and importance.

 

Of the many special complications in the world of haute horology, IWC’s perpetual calendar may be the most practical. But more than being practical, and more than having engineering finesse, the IWC Portugieser perpetual calendars are beautiful. They are a synthesis of classic design and innovative technology.

 

Michael Friedberg has been collecting watches, especially IWCs, for more than three decades. From 2001 through 2015 he was moderator of the IWC Collectors’ Forum and has written extensively about IWC’s history and technical features.


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