In the late spring of 2021, an extraordinary and rare vintage timepiece reached the IWC headquarters in Schaffhausen: an original IWC digital pocket-watch from 1887, one of the first digital watches worldwide. The timepiece features the famous jumping hours movement patented by the legendary Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber in 1883, which was then licensed to IWC. Its owner, Dmitry Okruzhnov, who already had an IWC “Tribute to Pallweber Edition 150 Years” (Ref. IW505002) in his watch collection, asked IWC to conduct a full restoration service. He would be “very proud to unite the two generations” in his collection.
THE WATCH THAT FOUND HIM
The timepiece was handed to Jeroen van der Jagt. As a member of IWC Customer Service’s ‘Team Vintage’, he restores IWC watches manufactured before 1980. “I was so excited to be working on such a beautiful timepiece and I thought, ‘this is amazing!’ Nevertheless, I was very well aware of the challenges that I would have to face,” recounts Jeroen. Looking at the digital pocket-watch, he immediately noticed the Cyrillic inscription for minutes and hours on the dial. “It must have been made specifically for a client in Russia. And so, I wondered what this watch might have witnessed in Russia in these past 140 years.”
Dmitry is convinced that the watch found him — not the other way around. The digital pocket-watch must have been handed from generation to generation before it surfaced in the window of an antique shop in Riga, Latvia and was discovered by Dmitry’s friend Felix. It turned out that the owner of the store was also an old friend of Dmitry’s.
“We tried hard to speak to the older gentleman who brought the watch to the store, but we did not succeed. The digital pocket-watch must have been in his family for so many years.” Although the watch movement did not work, it was love at first sight, according to Dmitry. “I already have an IWC “Tribute to Pallweber” watch, so I was extremely excited to be able to hold an original digital watch in my hands that was built around the movement patented by Josef Pallweber.”
COMPONENTS FROM SCRATCH
To really see and experience the working of this original digital pocket-watch, Dmitry - who lives in the Gruyère District of the Swiss canton of Fribourg but is originally from Russia - sent it to IWC’s customer service. Consisting of eight experts with years of experience in watchmaking, IWC’s ‘Team Vintage’ focuses on restoring watches that were manufactured before 1980. While the restoration of a regular vintage watch can take up to eight weeks, watches manufactured in the first 100 years of the company’s history (1868-1968) may take even longer.
“We call these special watches ‘Super Vintage Watches’,” Elvira Judas, who works as department manager vintage, explains. “The restoration of this particular digital pocket-watch was extremely complex and time consuming since we had to manufacture many watch components from scratch. We had to be really creative and try out a lot of things in order to find the perfect solution.”
RESTORED TO ITS FORMER SPLENDOUR
Jeroen meticulously examined every single part of the watch and assessed which components had to be refurbished, replaced or even replicated. The condition of the movement was far from fine: among other things, Jeroen detected multiple poorly executed repairs on the movement and the use of non-authentic components, the bezel was amateurishly glued on, some jewels broken, and the dial displayed various cracks, some of which were filled with a poor filler.
After nearly ten weeks of cleaning, removing, turning, drilling and refurbishing, Jeroen finally finished his restoration project. Which part did he find most exciting? “For me, the setting of the jewels was a very important and exciting step. We still have old jewels in stock, so I used those. I try to keep everything as original as possible,” says Jeroen. “I very much enjoyed restoring this beautiful pocket watch. You don’t often have the chance to work on something like this.”
In July, Dmitry held his fully restored pocket-watch in his hands, inspecting it from every side and angle. He was overjoyed. “A beautiful watch and a truly impressive restoration,” he said with a content smile while skimming through the IWC certificate of authenticity and a detailed report documenting each restoration step with before and after images. “I never thought that the restoration of this rare pocket watch would be as impeccable as it is. Chapeau!”
For now, Dmitry plans to safely store his antique digital pocket-watch along with the other rare watches in his collection. When will he take it out next? “Whenever I have guests who have an appropriate appreciation of my digital watch from 1887 — and whenever I simply feel like enjoying its company.”
a. Dmitry Okruzhnov and Patrick Aeschbacher during the handover in Thun
b. Taking a closer look at the restored pocket-watch from 1887
Initial Condition - Case Details
Initial Condition - Enamel Dial Details
Initial Condition - Movement Details
Watch parts replaced with original
Replication Process - Bridges
Replication of barrel bridge
Replication of Wheel Train Bridge
Watch components – before and after
Restored movement components prior assembly
Restored 1887 Watch Case
Restored 1887 Pocket-Watch
Restored 1887 Movement
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