This week we received into stock the IWC Shaffhausen Portugieser Perpetual Calendar watch in 18ct red gold (ref #IW503302). This particular watch has struck me as being perhaps the most beautiful watch we stock. And we stock a lot of beautiful watches! Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, I would love to hear if you agree or not (you can comment below).
Date, Annual Calendar, Perpetual Calendar
Most people are familiar with the date function on their watch. That little window on your dial with a number on it that mysteriously changes at midnight, that's the date. This is also, in general terms, called a 'complication'. Anything that makes a watch more complicated than just telling time, like the date, or a chronograph, is called a complication. And there are a lot of different types of complications that watch brands have created including ones so complex they take into account the effects of gravity on the watch - called a tourbillon. In a mechanical watch (and also quartz watches), the date complication needs to be adjusted every month that doesn't have 31 days in it, so 5 times a year.
Something close to a perpetual calendar and is sometimes confused with it is what is called an 'annual calendar'. This particular complication now tracks the month as well as the date adding a new level of complexity versus just the date. Although very close to being a perpetual calendar, you will still need to set the date once a year at the end of February, beginning of March.
A perpetual calendar keeps track of all months and dates and in theory, you'll never have to set the date in your lifetime. Or at least, if you kept it on a watch winder or on your wrist, you would never need to set the date until you need a servicing. In order for a movement to be able to accomplish this, it needs to be able to keep track of the date, the month, the day of the week, as well as the years (to account for those pesky leap years). This is no small feat of engineering.
Mechanical watches are very hard to construct and a lot of time and labour goes into building these little works of art. I would probably guess that the average consumer doesn't know much about the steps that luxury watch brands take to perfect their watches. And the IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Perpetual Calendar certainly is no exception.
The complications in this particular watch are quite incredible. Very few brands will even attempt building a perpetual calendar into their mechanical watches simply due to the level of complexity versus demand for it. The list of complications in this watch are as follows:
- Perpetual calendar featuring displays for the date, day of the week, month, and a 4 digit year display.
- Moon phase indicator.
- 7 days power reserve with indicator.
The 7 days power reserve is also something that is impressive on its own. The vast majority of mechanical timepieces have a maximum power reserve of around 40-48 hours. Some brands today are taking it a step further and extending the power reserve to around 72 hours: the idea is you can put your watch down for the weekend and pick it up on Monday and it will still be running. The problem with extended power reserves is that mechanical watches tend to lose their accuracy as the power reserve runs down. As someone who owns an IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Automatic with a 7 days power reserve, I've never had any issues with accuracy yet. However, if you were hoping for COSC level of timing (-4 to +2 second per day) you will not get that in watches with lengthy power reserves.
The moon phase complication I believe is something of a "dark horse" amoung complications. Most people see it and think it is aesthetically pleasing but are probably not aware of how accurate this particular moon phase is. On this particular piece, the moon phase indicator is extremely accurate and according to IWC will only diverge from the actual moon phase 1 day in 577.5 years!
There are not a lot of good comparable options to this particular timepiece. When looking for solid gold mechanical perpetual calendar timepieces, there just wasn't a lot to choose from. In part, most brands either do not have the capability of creating such a complex mechanism or do not want to invest the money needed to create them. However, there are a couple good options if you were looking for something to compare the IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Perpetual Calendar against.
The best comparables that I could find were from two brands that unfortunately we do not carry but are very highly regarded in the luxury watch community. One from Vacheron Constantin called the Patrimony Perpetual Calendar Ultrathin (ref #43175/000R) and one from Patek Philippe that is part of their Grand Complication collection, ref #5327R. Certainly, there are pros and cons to these options over the IWC. These two pieces are much more slim and smaller than the IWC to start with, and will be a much more subtle wear on the wrist. The Patek measures 39mm in diameter and 9.71mm in thickness and the Vacheron 41mm in diamter and 8.96mm in thickness. Whereas the IWC measures 44.2mm in diameter and 14.9mm in thickness; substantially larger on the wrist. All three watches come in 18K rose gold on leather and each brand will offer different variations of the watch.
But when it comes to hitting the wallet, the IWC stands alone as the victor. The Vacheron and Patek watch's mentioned will be more than double the price of the IWC, both starting in the $100,000+ range. If you are looking for a solid gold watch and can appreciate the complexity and beauty put into perpetual calendar's, then this piece just might be for you.
CAD $43,900 plus taxes.