IWC Buyer’s Guide

IWC is one of the oldest and most revered brands in the business with many legendary watches in its collections. It should be unsurprising, then, that IWCs can be so numerous as to be a bit overwhelming to people who are just now taking a deeper look into what they offer. Making matters more complex is that, unlike brands like Omega, for instance, IWC’s collection is very wide, but shallow. That is to say that they don’t make a wide variety of each individual model (for instance, the Omega Planet Ocean is offered in many sizes and colors), but they do make a very wide variety of unique models.

Thus, Timeless created the Buyer’s Guide to set about simplifying this process to make it easier to approach, and as a general introduction to our newest partnership. We won’t go in-depth into the movements, cases and so on, because if we did, this would be unacceptably long. To get more information on each watch, click the link, and we will be releasing thorough reviews over time that will cover every tiny detail of a model.

The way we intend this guide to be used is to simply scroll through it, stopping at images you find interesting. The brief synopsis will let you know if you should click on the link and get more in-depth knowledge and it will also let you see the different versions of that watch that are available.

 

 

IWC has many famous collections, from Pilots to Aquatimers, but there is no better place to start than what is often viewed as their defining collection, Portuguese. As IWC calls it, the Portugieser is one of two more classical, dressier collections from IWC. Specifically, it’s the one that focuses on Arabic numerals (as opposed to Portofino), but this isn’t a case of Nomos Ludwig versus Nomos Tangente. The models are so different between these two collections as to make them basically incomparable.

There’s no better place to start for the Portuguese, and for IWC in general, than my personal favorite IWC, and one of the greatest watches of all time, the Portuguese Automatic. With a generic-sounding name like that, your expectations might be low, but they should be anything but. Its iconic twin-register design is not for a chronograph, for sub-seconds and for a power reserve. And what a power reserve it is, showing off its amazing week long stamina. While IWC is indeed a Swiss brand, it was founded by an American and located near the border of Germany. Whenever I see the Portuguese Automatic, I feel some of that austere German heritage has crossed over into Schaffhausen. My favorite version is this white dial with blued hands, but they make four other versions of this watch, so make sure to check them all out.

The Portuguese collection is host to many of IWC’s most complex watches, like this insane Siderale Scafusia. This precious-metal only watch has a very unique tourbillon, namely a “constant force” tourbillon. It’s very difficult for me to understand, but it appears to have two different escapements, and they switch based on how much power is left in the mainspring. The goal is to create linear power delivery and ultimately to enhance accuracy. As if that isn’t enough, the dial has a power reserve (IWC’s favorite complication) and, more interestingly, a “sidereal time” complication at 12, which is, generally speaking, useful for astronomers.

That might seem pretty random, but when you view the back of the watch, you get a gorgeous celestial chart. Truly a jaw-dropping watch.

On a more conventional note, there is the rather elegant Portuguese Chronograph. This styling is much more in line with what Portuguese is known for with those beautiful applied numerals. Like the Portuguese Automatic, this is available with 5 options, so make sure to check them all out before you decide on one.

The next watch up, the Tourbillon Hand-Wound, is a bit subtler. This watch is deceptively simple, appearing to be a humble open heart with only a seconds subdial. In fact, however, this is a flying minute tourbillon and behind the watch is a gorgeous manual wind movement. It’s also available in a white dial and in two different special editions, so there’s a lot to choose from.

My favorite Portuguese Chronograph is actually this, the Chronograph Classic. I like that it doesn’t cut off any numerals, unlike the normal Chronograph, and I prefer its 89361 movement. This also has the advantage of letting it count both hours and minutes, all in one clean 12:00 subdial.

The most complex Portuguese model is the aptly-named Grande Complication. This insane watch combines a chronograph, a perpetual calendar, and a minute repeater, of all things. It’s hard to pack much more into a single watch.

The Yacht Club Worldtimer is a sportier interpretation of the Portuguese. As its name suggests, it’s a watch intended for world travelers who may need to keep track of many time zones. I really like this watch because, unlike many world timers, it doesn’t look obsessively busy, and it does it while retaining those gorgeous Portuguese applied Arabic numerals. If you’re not a fan of this black dial, they also make a gold/white dial combo.

The Yacht Club also comes in this sporty chronograph, basically an interpretation of the Chronograph Classic but with a slightly more aggressive case and strap. It comes in 4 different versions, as well as a fifth Ocean Racer limited edition, so there’s something for everyone.

My second favorite Portuguese is this one, the “simple” Hand-Wound Eight Days. It’s among the dressiest watches IWC makes, with a seconds subdial, date, and not much else.

And yet, it manages to keep the power reserve by hiding it on the movement. Thus, you get a very sophisticated movement and a power reserve yet an extremely versatile, classy look. Perfect.

It may just be me, but this Hand-Wound Eight Days 75th Anniversary always reminds me of H. Moser pieces, and I mean that as a compliment (to both). This is very similar to the preceding hand wound, and yet, it looks remarkably different, with an almost art deco look to it. It’s also available in red gold.

The Portuguese Minute Repeater is another amazingly complex watch in a very simple form. This “plain” three hander hides one of the most sophisticated complications in the world, the vaunted minute repeater. For those looking for something even more low profile, check out the all-platinum version.

Returning, for a moment, to the crazier IWCs, we have this Tourbillon Mystere Retrograde. In addition to that amazing tourbillon, which needs little introduction, you’ve also got a retrograde date, one of my favorite complications.

This model, the Annual Calendar, is a relatively recent take on the Portuguese Automatic. Obviously, it adds an annual calendar complication, which means its owner only has to change the date once per year. In service of that complication, it has three nicely balanced complications, the month, day and date. It’s available in three different versions, but I think this blue one is the most impressive. It’s also available in a Tribeca Film festival version for those looking for something more provocative, thanks to its bright red subdials.

Believe it or not, IWC has not one but three perpetual calendars left to go before I complete the Portuguese section. The first two, this 5033 and 5034, are similar enough that they can be grouped together. These are some of my favorite perpetual calendars, in part because they’re relatively “simple”. They don’t add a chronograph, a minute repeater etc. It has all of the appropriate subdials, of course, like leap year, month, day and date, and goes a bit farther and throws in a power reserve just to show off its week-long credentials.

The big difference between these two is really the in the moon phase complication, namely that the 5034 has a double moon phase. For myself, I prefer the more classical moon phase of the 5033, but in either case, you get two different versions of each to choose from.

Our last Portuguese is arguably one of the most impressive. This Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month cleans up the dial even while adding a chronograph complication, and it does so by using a big date and, in a very rare addition, a big month complication.

The Portofino collection is IWC’s second classic or dressy collection out of three if you count the Da Vinci. If you had to find a single distinguishing feature of Portofinos over Portugueses, it’d be that they tend to use Roman numerals over Arabic, but some of them have no numerals at all, so this is hardly the sine qua non of the collection (as opposed to a Nomos Ludwig, for example).

Chronographs are rare in the Portofino collection, but this Hand-Wound Monopusher is by far my favorite. In fact, it’s one of my favorite IWC chronographs period. If you guessed it was called the Monopusher because it has, well, only one pusher, you’d be right. In order to keep the case simple, the chronograph functions are entirely handled by a single pusher placed on the crown, making it appear that the watch has no pushers at all. Another reason I love this watch is because it’s hand wound, a rarity in general these days, but especially so among chronographs.

The other Portofino Chronograph is this one, which is a bit more conventional, but just as classic. Here we have a more typical dial layout and your standard twin pushers. The great asset of this watch is that it’s available in a wide variety of colors and metals, but also that it’s available in this terrific milanaise mesh bracelet.

Hand wound watches are quite common in the Portofino lineup, and this aptly-named Pure Classic is a great place to start. It’s about as simple as you can get. With no date complication to get in the way, this watch is all about a clean, modern appearance.

That simplicity hides the fact that, like a few other IWCs, it’s got a wonderful power reserve on the back.

My personal favorite Portofino, however, has the power reserve on the front, alongside a seconds subdial and date. The Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days’ dial is complicated, but it never feels cluttered or illegible. Although hand wound, it’s also got an 8 day power reserve, putting it in an elite class in terms of stamina. It’s also probably my second favorite IWC period.

The Portofino Hand-Wound comes in increasingly complex variations, like this one, the Big Date, which adds, you guessed it, a big date complication. It’s also available in a white gold case with a dark dial.

The most complication incarnation of it is the Hand-Wound Day & Date. It keeps the big date from the last model, but adds a pointer day. Thankfully, it’s also available in stainless steel, making it relatively affordable compared to the less complex Big Date.

But fear not, there are several ultra-simple Portofinos left, like this one, simply called the Automatic. It’s in a relatively versatile size at 40 millimeters, as many of the hand-wound Portofinos are surprisingly large, and it’s got a lot of diversity in its lineup with 10 versions to choose from. This black sunburst dial on bracelet has to be my favorite though.

Sticking to the simpler Portofinos, we now turn to two that are aimed at ladies, starting with this Automatic 37. As the name suggests, it’s a bit smaller than the normal Automatic, but it’s also available with diamond accents and more colorful straps. This subcollection has 12 different versions, so it’s definitely one to look through before making your choice.

The next most complex of the ladies Portofinos is this rather fetching Automatic Moon Phase, also at 37mm. It comes in 6 versions, plus a blue Laureus special edition.

The most complex form is this Automatic Day & Night 37, which adds a day/night complication to the dial.

The Ingenieur is another one of IWC’s most popular collections, up there with Portuguese and Pilot’s Watches. Ingenieurs are some of the most recognizable tool watches in the world, thanks in large part to their Genta heritage, and to their bold, yet simple, styling.

Like every collection at IWC, there’s a wide variety of Ingenieurs, but this, the Ingenieur Automatic, is really the core of the collection. It’s a very simple watch with only a date complication and three hands. This gives you room to appreciate the Genta design in the bezel and crown guards. The 40mm size, too, is just right and, of course, it has protection against magnetism in the form of a soft iron core. There are a wide variety of versions of this one as well, with three full production ones and a variety of special editions, some of which even have ceramic cases.

My second favorite Ingenieur is this, the Dual Time. It’s a little larger at 43mm, but I think it uses its size to its advantage, and the dual time complication adds a bit of color to the dial. It’s also available with a white dial.

Another of my favorites is the Ingeniuer Chronograph Racer, specifically this silver dial on rubber/leather, although there are quite a few other versions to choose from. This uses the twin register look from the Portuguese Chronograph Classic to keep the dial clean while being able to count up to 12 hours. If you look closely, you’ll also discern a date at 6:00 too. The highly angular pushers are also a real standout on this piece.

It’s not the only chronograph in the Ingenieur collection. This far more complex Double Chronograph Titanium features the rare rattrapante design, also known as the split-second chronograph. This means there are actually two chronograph seconds hands which run simultaneously. With a pusher you can freeze one seconds hand while the other keeps on moving, which allows you to record two different times on a single chronograph. The rattrapante complication isn’t the only reason to love this watch, however. It has an extremely bold 45mm titanium case with black accents that make it one of the toughest looking watches IWC produces. This white dial version is my favorite, but it’s also available in a black dial with blue accents.

The Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month movement/iteration doesn’t sound like it’d be a good fit in a tool watch, but the digital date/month and the transparent subdials somehow makes it work and gives it almost an industrial feel. It’s also available in red gold, but I feel the unusual “titanium aluminide” better fits the overall look of the watch.

The most complicated Ingenieur, and one of the most complex IWCs in general, has a constant-force tourbillon, for which it is named. This is the same escapement(s) that is featured on the equivalent Portuguese, which is incredibly complex and designed to stabilize power delivery to the balance wheel. In addition to its crazy tourbillon, it’s got a double moon phase and power reserve. It’s also available in platinum.

The last Ingenieur is a series of three chronographs known as the Vintage Chronograph. This titanium white one is the W 125 but it’s also got a steel cased grey dial (Rudolf Caracciola) and a red gold cased black dial (74th Members’ Meeting at Goodwood).

The Aquatimer is yet another of IWC’s very popular collections, this one aimed exclusively at watches for aquatic and diving use.

The Aquatimer is one of the great dive watches, and it all starts here, with the basic Aquatimer Automatic. It has a great angular case which allows you to access the very cool SafeDive internal bezel. At 42mm, it’s actually a pretty reasonable everyday size, and it’s also available in white and blue dials.

My favorite Aquatimer, however, is this Aquatimer 2000. The name comes from its 2000 meter water resistance, but I just think it looks cooler. It’s quite a bit larger at 46 millimeters, but it’s also titanium, offsetting any weight gain. It’s also available with yellow accents, but for me, I definitely want the green.

The Deep Three may tie the Aquatimer 2000 for my favorite. That’s partly because I think it looks awesome with these bright red accents, but also because it has one of the coolest complications of all time, a functional depth gauge. In a sense, it has two, one of which adjusts in real time as you move in the water, but the second sticks to the maximum depth you reached until you reset it. It’s actually the least water resistant Aquatimer, however, at 100 meters, but that’s more than enough for me.

The Aquatimer line has two basic chronograph options, busier ones with three registers like this one and two register models, more akin to the Portuguese Chronograph Classic. This particular one is the Jacques-Yves Cousteau model, which features a blue dial, but it’s also available in black and white dials.

I prefer simpler chronograph dials, however, so I like the twin register layout IWC uses. It doesn’t lose anything insofar as the chronograph is concerned, as one of the subdials is just added onto another (minutes and hours). You do lose the day complication, however. My favorite of these is this silver dial, called the “Sharks” edition, but it’s also got a wide variety of other special versions available, like the red and black La Cumbre Volcano.

IWC fits their crazy Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month into an Aquatimer as well, creating the most complex member of the collection. Like the other IWCs with this movement, it combines a perpetual calendar, a chronograph, and its coup de grâce, the digital date and month. It’s also available in black, but I think this blue looks great with the red gold.

The Da Vinci collection is IWC’s smallest, in terms of different models, and is identified by their tonneau-shaped cases and their dressy looks. Basically, if you want a non-round IWC, you’ll be looking at a Da Vinci.

My favorite Da Vinci is actually the simplest, the Da Vinci Automatic. It’s available in four different versions, but this black sunburst dial is the standout in my opinion. I’m also a big fan of big date complications, so that’s always nice to see.

The next Da Vinci is the Da Vinci Chronograph. There are five variations of it, but I like this silver/gray dial the most, and the black dial is a close runner up. Like other Da Vincis, it has a very elaborate textured dial, and it uses the twin register layout from the Portuguese Chronograph Classic to keep the dial clean.

Like all other IWC collections, there are models bestowed with super complicated movements. The first of these is the Perpetual Calendar, and specifically the Kurt Klaus edition, available in steel and a silver dial and a red gold and black dial. It’s extraordinarily complex, with not only a perpetual calendar, but also year and moon phase complications, in addition to a chronograph.

But the most complicated Da Vinci is the Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month, a movement that IWC seems to be enamored with. It has a cleaner dial than the previous Da Vinci perpetual calendar, thanks to using smaller, yet easier to read, big date and big month complications, and it manages to keep the chronograph complication in as well.

The Pilot collection is probably tied with Portuguese for the most famous group of IWC watches. I wanted to bookend the Buyer’s Guide with them so that more people were introduced to the Portofinos, Ingeniuers, Aquatimers and Da Vincis in between. At the same time, the Pilot line is also the most complex as it’s organized in four subcollections: Classic, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Top Gun and Spitfire. These subcollections do have stylistic differences between them, but the basic model is usually roughly the same. That said, as each has some of their own unique models, I’ll be going through all of them to make sure none are overlooked.

We’ll start, naturally, with the Classic subcollection. These are really your prototypical IWC pilot’s watches, and perhaps the best examples of flieger design in the world. They tend to use black or dark dials and uncoated cases, opting for the more traditional, ultra-utilitarian tool watch look than other subcollections. There’s no better place to start than the famous Big Pilot’s Watch, perhaps the finest example of a flieger watch made today. It is, as you might expect, literally very large, at 46mm, and it’s powered by a terrific Cal. 5111 automatic with an amazing 7 day power reserve, which you can see via the complication on the dial, as well as a date at 6:00. It’s clearly a traditional design with touches like that giant crown, intended for use while wearing gloves. It’s even anti-magnetic. The Big Pilot is also available in the Saint Exupery line, with a blue dial, the Top Gun line with a black ceramic case, and finally, the Spitfire line, with a silver dial and red gold case.

This 43mm Chronograph model is also a good choice for those who want a Classic Pilot’s Watch model but on a bracelet. It’s also available on leather, of course.

Like several other subcollections of the Pilot’s Watch, the Classic line has a Mark XVIII, in this instance with a 40mm steel case. It’s available in three different versions, including one with a bracelet, but it’s perhaps more notable for having a version with a light silver dial.

One model (actually two) that is unique to the Classic subcollection is the Big Pilot’s Heritage, available in a gigantic 48mm case, or like the one you see here, a colossally huge 55mm case. It’s not just an enlarged version of the other Big Pilot. This one is simpler, having only a seconds subdial at 6, forgoing the date and power reserve. It’s also made from titanium, so it shouldn’t be that heavy on the wrist.

Here’s a look at the similar 48mm model. Interestingly, the smaller one retains the date, and more significantly, it has a power reserve through a small window in the titanium case back.

Another unique Classic model is the Timezoner Chronograph. This 45mm watch, as you might expect, keeps track of a second time zone via a GMT bezel. What makes this watch so interesting is the fact that the hour hand and 24 hour hand are adjusted by rotating the bezel, so it’s very intuitive to use. In addition to its world time functions, it also has the chronograph functionality of the Portuguese Chronograph Classic.

For our last Classic Pilot, we take a look at a watch that comes a bit out of left field, the Automatic 36. I say out of left field because it really looks like it belongs in the Spitfire collection, which we’ll get to later. As for the watch, it’s 36mm, making it a great choice for those looking to avoid the massive watches that typify IWC’s Pilot’s Watch collections. It’s available in 5 versions as well, including one that would fit well in the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry collection.

Now we’re moving on to the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry subcollection, which is loosely divided into two smaller collections, the De Saint Exupery models and the Le Petit Prince models. This collection is most easily recognized by its colorful dials, either blue or brown, which are rare in other the other Pilot’s Watches subcollections. In order to approach that, we’ll start a little differently by looking at two very similar watches. This one is the Double Chronograph, a member of the Le Petit Prince collection. The Le Petit Prince watches are distinguished from their Antoine de Saint-Exupéry models by their blue dials.

Here’s the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry version of the same watch. There are numerous small differences between these 44mm chronographs, but the biggest one is their dial color, and like other Antoine de Saint-Exupéry models within the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry subcollection (complicated, I know), it’s brown. Whichever version of the Double Chronograph you pick, however, you’ll enjoy a rare rattranpante complication, which has two separate chronograph seconds hands. This allows it to perform the very impressive feat of stopping one seconds hand while the other continues on, in effect recording the time of two separate events (1st and 2nd place race winners, for instance).

The Antoine de Saint-Exupéry collection seems to emphasize chronographs, with four separate chronograph models, more than any other subcollection. Like the Spitfire and Classic collection, there’s a three register day-date chronograph, in this case without the Double Chronograph’s rattrapante complication.

Another unique Antoine de Saint-Exupéry model is the Chronograph limited edition “The Last Flight.” There are three versions of this watch, all with silicon nitride cases, and differing primarily in the color of their subdials and crowns/pushers.

As with all of the Pilot’s Watches subcollections, don’t forget that the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry contains many watches that can be found in other subcollections, albeit with a unique touch. This blue dial Big Pilot’s watch is a great example of this.

This collection also has a Le Petit Prince version of the Mark XVIII, which, of course, has a blue dial. It’s also available on bracelet.

An interesting ‘Le Petit Prince” model is the Annual Calendar model, and not just due to the relatively new annual calendar cal. 52850. It’s also because it’s available in a red or white gold case.

The Top Gun collection is identified by its black ceramic case and, while you can also find a perpetual calendar model in the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry subcollection with a brown dial, this totally blacked out one is my favorite. It’s quite large at 48 millimeters, but that gives the dial plenty of space to show off its incredible complications.

While almost all Top Gun models have black dials, there are two notable exceptions, namely the popular Miramar models. These use relatively bright, matte dials, which IWC calls anthracite and are inspired by observer watches. It’s available either in the three handed MK XVIII you see here as well as the very similar chronograph version below.

Here’s the chronograph version, also unique to the Top Gun subcollection, and slightly larger than the three hander, 44mm versus 41mm.

The Chronograph Classic design, with its vertically aligned subdials, makes another appearance in the Top Gun collection. This one has a 44mm ceramic case, with interesting metallic accents in its pushers and crown.

One of the best incarnations of the Big Pilot is found in the Top Gun collection. A black ceramic case is not especially traditional, but on a purely functional level, it’s very much in line with the goals of tool watch design.

The Spitfire collection is most recognizable by its slate-colored sunburst dials, a good example of which is this Chronograph.

The Spitfire also hosts another version of the Big Pilot’s watch, this time in red gold, making it, along with the Le Petit Prince model, the dressiest version available.

My favorite version of the Pilot’s Annual Calendar is the Spitfire model. I really like the blue dial in the Le Petit Prince version, but I prefer the steel case of the Spitfire.

The Spitfire Chronograph utilizes basically the same movement as many other IWC chronographs, derived from the Chronograph Classic, but it does have an interesting take on it. In addition to its rhodium-plated dial, giving it a white look, and it also has a unique date display, showing not only the current date, but yesterday’s and tomorrow’s as well.

The Spitfire does have one unique model to it, the Digital Date-Month Spitfire. As you might guess, it has a big date and big month display, which, while easy to read, also saves a lot of space on the dial giving it a surprisingly clean look for a perpetual calendar.

So that is, more or less, every IWC model available in the US as of 2016. We’ll be expanding this guide next year to include new models. Which models are your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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