IWC celebrates 80 years of a famous line
The “Year of the Portuguese” at IWC has begun. It is not only an appreciation of exquisite watches but, above all, the eternal idea behind them: namely that man, driven by the spirit of discovery, explored methods for finding his bearings in order to achieve his ambitious targets. And that he ultimately mustered up the courage and placed himself in the greatest danger, in order to fulfil his desires and ambitions.
The Portuguese watches from IWC are a symbol and a distant echo of those epic deeds, which took place 500 years ago. They still embody the spirit of discovery of bygone days. Most of all, though, IWC’s Portuguese watches are instruments of the modern age – as an aid to our own navigation through time.
IWC’s Portuguese watches have remained entirely faithful to their historical heritage: clarity, size, accuracy and exquisite mechanics. Most of the complications from the Haute Horlogerie of IWC are present in this family of watches today. And there will be a few more in the “Year of the Portuguese”, which the manufacturer is dedicating to its classic model. The horological inventiveness – which finds stylish expression in case diameters from more than 40 to 45 millimetres – is impressive to say the least.
The new flagship: Portuguese Grande Complication
After 30 years as an exclusive solitaire in the manufacturer’s range, the Grande Complication now makes its debut in the red gold Portuguese case – as the Portuguese Grande Complication (Ref. 3774). With more room inside the 45mm case – and for the first time water-resistant to 3 bar – the beautiful sound from its minute repeating mechanism nevertheless remains unchanged. A discreetly engraved globe and gold appliqués decorate the silver-plated dial. True to the tradition of the Grande Complication, a limited edition of 50 watches per year is retained. A new engraving on the case back depicts a sextant and makes the affiliation with the Portuguese family obvious.
The Grande Complication from IWC Schaffhausen – which brought the highest horological complications together in a wristwatch as a world-first precisely 20 years ago – now appears for the first time in a Portuguese case. It also retains its impressive technical inventory: perpetual calendar, minute repeater and chronograph with automatic movement.
Vasco da Gama’s flagship, on which he sailed around the Cape of Good Hope more than 500 years ago and discovered the sea route to India, was the caravel Nau São Gabriel. The new flagship of the most celebrated family of watches from IWC is the Portuguese Grande Complication. This is the superlative watch from IWC, which in 1990 was the first manufacturer to bring together the highest horological complications and to make them “wearable” as a wristwatch. This masterpiece now has a new home inside the Portuguese case – and a new face.
An ancient dream realized
Grande Complication – lying behind this title of distinction in the world of Haute Horlogerie is the ancient dream of making the most significant discoveries of the watchmaker’s craft oscillate, run and even chime together. Precisely 20 years ago, the engineers at IWC realized this dream, a feat that brought worldwide acclaim to the manufacturer. It took more than seven years of intensive development work in Schaffhausen before 657 individual parts could be assembled together in the smallest possible space in order to bring to fruition a perfectly functioning whole, which, in spite of its complexity, is characterized by its ingeniously simple operation and total suitability for everyday use. Only the most talented designers and master watchmakers can accomplish this. And that is why the range of such exceptional achievements has been very limited to this day.
The Portuguese Grande Complication, for which a new case with a diameter of 45 millimetres has been created, inherits an extraordinarily well-proven technical inventory: the 79091 calibre chronograph movement with automatic winding and aggregate time recording up to 12 hours, the minute repeater – a complication specially constructed at the time – which belongs to the most modern and reliable mechanisms of its kind and, last but not least, the autonomous perpetual calendar. It also shows the wearer the year, decade, century and millennium in a four-digit display, as well as the day, date and month, in a way that is unsurpassed to this day.
A perpetual moon phase display, with a deviation of only a single day in 122 years from the actual cycle of the moon, is connected to the calendar, which requires no adjustments or interventions on the part of the wearer until the year 2100 and advances all the calendar indications in a mechanically programmed and synchronous manner.
The previous Grande Complication, which will continue to be built in parallel, already possessed water resistance to 1 bar thanks to the patented slide mechanism; in the case of a minute repeater, this is almost equivalent to squaring the circle.
In the new Portuguese Grande Complication, the water resistance has been increased to an impressive 3 bar. The new flagship of this watch family is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the Portuguese seafarers, and this can also be seen in engraving on the back of the red gold case. A sextant, which is an indispensable instrument of nautical navigation alongside the watch, is a reference here to this spiritual affinity. The substantially larger silver-plated dial provides a perfect setting for the calendar indications of such a complex watch. Against the background of a discreetly engraved globe with its degrees of longitude and latitude – positioned, incidentally, in the correct 23.4-degree angle of inclination of the terrestrial axis – the counters for the chronograph and the calendar indications are accommodated in addition to the small seconds and the moon phase display. A shaped sapphire glass that has antireflective coating on both sides arches over the dial with its solid red gold appliqués, Arabic numerals for the hours and railway track-style chapter ring.
The rectangular, lightly bevelled operating buttons of the chronograph capture the understated style of the Portuguese case. Only the slide on the left side of the case – which “makes the music” – reveals to an expert the nature of the precision mechanical refinement that is concealed inside this watch with its minute repeater.
Speaking of which, in spite of the increased water resistance of the case, the loudness and the balanced sound quality have not been impaired. This is assured not least by the larger sound chamber and a cleverly engineered solution, which utilizes the sapphire glass for transmission of the sound to the outside.
For you, all that remains is to cast off – for the new flagship of the Portuguese fleet!
IWC Portuguese Grande Complication – Ref. IW3774
Grande Complication with 657 mechanical components, automatic chronograph
movement, perpetual calendar with display of the day, date, month and the complete
year in four digits, perpetual moon phase, minute repeater, small hacking seconds,
engraving of a sextant on the case back
Beats – 28,800/h
Jewels – 75
Power reserve – 44 h
Winding – automatic
Materials – watch and folding clasp in 18 ct red gold, silver-plated dial, dark brown alligator leather strap with 18 ct red gold stitching
Glass – sapphire, arched edge, antireflective coating on both sides
Water-resistant – 3 bar
Diameter – 45mm / Height – 16.5mm
Article by Jules Landon