For the model year of 2010, IWC has refreshed its last year’s Portuguese Minute Repeater timepiece. Just like the original model, it is available both in red gold (Ref. IW544907) and in platinum (Ref. IW544906.)
From the point of view of, um, hardware, this timepiece is the same model that was issued last year. For a phone maker it could be disastrous, but, when it comes to classic timekeepers, it is a good thing. I mean, the exterior is nothing but stunning in its understated elegance, subtlety, and attention to detail. As you can see, the mildly oversized case still offers that classic shape with flowing curves, short lugs and simple, but easy to grab and pleasant to look at the winding crown. At 14 millimeters, the body looks a bit too thick on paper, but in reality, it doesn’t look as huge since at least a couple of millimeters of its thickness comes courtesy of the boxed sapphire crystal.
According to IWC, just like the rest of the current Portuguesers, the Minute Repeater (Ref. IW5449) will be powered by the same hand-wound Caliber 98950 that is now equipped with a minute repeater module.
Offering a minimum of 46 hours of power reserve, the large movement that draws its inspiration from the classic pocket watch mechanisms from the brand’s early history is flawlessly decorated and nicely fits into the oversized body (it is always a shame to see a watch the size of hamburger with a lonely tiny movement ticking inside.)
The movement’s nickel-silver plate with circular graining and bridge with the traditional Geneva stripes and gold-plated engraving is perfectly visible through a sapphire case back.
As I have already noted, the Cal. 98950 was initially designed to be as close to vintage pocket watch calibers as possible. Therefore, all of its elements are mildly oversized, including more massive bridges that offer more structural rigidity, larger balance wheel, and slightly longer mainspring that gives this version a more usable power reserve. The good old engine is built on 52 jewels and beats at a leisurely pace of just 18,000 vibrations per hour although its small second hand still moves in that flowing motion that we love so much in more modern watches.
Although considered slow by today’s standards when a 28,800 vph movement is nothing but “normal,” the caliber is also reliable like a Singer sewing machine: it simply doesn’t put excessive stress on its moving parts.
Its five-minute repeating complication is operated via a lever on the left side (at nine o’clock) of the 44 mm case.
Just as it was the case last year, the Minute Repeater will be available only in a limited lot of 500 individually numbered pieces. The price is predictably high: so far IWC plans to charge $86,000 for a version in rose gold and whole $106,000 for the one in platinum.
IWC Portuguese Minute Repeater (Ref. IW5449) specification
Price range: $86,000 (MSRP, ref. IW544907 in rose gold) / $106,000 (ref. IW544906 in platinum)
Movement: Caliber 98950, hand-wound, 52 jewels, 18,800 vph
Functions & Complications: Hours, minutes, small seconds, minute repeater
Power reserve: 46 hours
Case and Bezel: Red gold (Ref. IW544907) or Platinum (Ref. IW544906)
Transparent back: Yes, sapphire glass
Size: 44.00 mm
Thickness: 14.00 mm
Strap: Black alligator leather strap, pin buckle in stainless steel