IWC Portugieser Grande Complication
The legacy of the Destriero Scafusia
There are few times in life in which it is possible to see a “Grande Complication” watch: for example if you are a collector like David Lee, you take part to a press conference at SIHH, or you're lucky enough to visit the factory that realized it. Among the sports brands, there’s only one which has in catalog two watches with a Grande Complication and that brand is IWC. if you take the word’s historical meaning very seriously, IWC is also the brand which proposes the most radical version of a “Grande Complication” watch.
The Grande Complication, this stranger.
In the age where prestige rhymes with Tourbillon and Minute Repeater, I think that IWC chose an original way in interpreting a watch that includes a perpetual calendar, a chronograph, and a minute repeater. The illustrious ancestor of the IWC Portugieser Grande Complication is the Destriero Scafusia, realized in 1993 for celebrating the brand’s 125th Anniversary and born from Gunter Blumlein’s passion, Kurt Klaus’ mind and Richard Habring who later founded, with his wife, the brand Habring2.
The result was a perpetual calendar with a split-seconds chronograph, a minute repeater, and a flying tourbillon: this product put IWC in direct competition with a giant of the industry like Patek Philippe. The modern version of the Destriero Scafusa is part of the Portugieser collection and joins the perpetual calendar with phases of the moon, a chronograph, and a minute repeater.
It is not fully brand new, but it’s the Kurt Klaus’ legacy, updated and improved.
If the Destriero Scafusa represented a flagship watch, but despite everything a lonely exercise (125 copies), intended to show off the ability of IWC’s engineers, the Portugieser Grande Complication is part of the Portugieser’s collection. The case, in red gold (it is also available in platinum), is 45mm wide and is similar to the one of a Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month.
They are divided by the price which has a one-to-four ratio and the complications’ number. The case thickness is 16,5mm so it is 0,5mm bigger in the Grande Complication. For the rest, the Arabic numerals applied on the dial are those familiar to all the Portugieser, the collection that is the most suitable to include a Grande Complication.
The caliber IWC 79091.
Abbreviations are meaningless if they are not detailed and, if you consider the increasing number of mechanical movements produced in-house by IWC, this number looks aseptic. This movement completely realized in-house joins the brilliant technical interpretation of perpetual calendar developed by Kurt Klaus, a chronograph with hours, minutes and seconds and a minute repeater with hours, quarters and minutes. Putting temporary aside the minute repeater and the chronograph, the most exciting part is, in my opinion, the complication with perpetual calendar because it proves out, not for its size but rather for its technical prowess.
IWC’s perpetual calendars are set only through the crown, and they include the phases of moon and the digital display with four digits of the year. Klaus’ brilliant mind left to the new IWC’s manufacture a priceless legacy and a complication which the brand is naturally associated with. For digits lovers, the caliber 79091 is made of 657 parts, which ensure 21 total functions.
As a reporter, evaluating a watch like that is ridiculous. It’s like assessing the Project-One by AMG-Mercedes without having driven and owned it. What can be done is to share the feeling that you have when you wear it for a short time, having on your other hand the watch’s specs, precisely what I have done when I saw it in Schaffhausen.
The only judge is the collector who owns this and similar watches. Aesthetically it represents one of the IWC’s most successful complicated timepieces and also one of the most balanced. It is massive and rich of information but they are all organized, and the functions are easy to use.
It is “delicious” if you are passionate of fine watchmaking and it also has a vague reminder to the ‘80s dial of the brand (e.g. the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar). More than the individual complications, because IWC is perhaps not your first choice if you're looking for a minute repeater, it fascinates for the sum of its mechanical complications, in which the one with the perpetual calendar clearly stands out.
(Photo credit: photo-shooting by Marco Scarpa for IWC Watches)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®