It's been a long time since I felt that IWC was on target as far as makers of true worthwhile watches. I'd say it was roughly 2002 that things started to teeter. Right when they stopped making the classic dial on their Doppelchronograph and swapped it for the Spitfire variation.
To me, it felt like around that time all they've done is rest on their laurels and prostitute themselves for the sake of making money.
That's not to say there haven't been some good work along the way. Just think of the movement inside their Scafusia. One of only a couple companies that even attempted to solve constant force.
But outside of that, their watches continued to grow in size, continued to look gimmicky, and continued to move farther and farther away from what once made them great.
But after SIHH 2015, dare I say they are back!
Easily, and I mean easily, the Portugieser collection has to be one of the most beautiful collections ever made. The movements inside are absolute marvels, once again showing that form follows function and that IWC has serious serious chops.
Unfortunately, they still insist on making a lot of watches that are just too big, but there are plenty options at more reasonable sizes, and even I have to admit that IWC big seems to be far more balanced and elegant/wearable than other brand's big.
Put another way, nothing is perfect, and I prefer to focus on the beauty of their dials and on the technical attributes and overall substance of their movements.
A quick scan of the collection has the following options:
- 8-day (or nearly 3 times more than the latest Rolex cal.3255) power reserve hand-wound
- 7-day (or nearly 2.5 times more than the Rolex cal.3255) automatic
- Annual Calendar
- Perpetual (but the real kind of perpetual, not as a synonym for automatic) annual calendar digital date-month
- Perpetual Calendar non-digital date
- Perpetual Calendar with Moonphase
- Tourbillon Mystere Retrograde
- Tourbillon Hand-wound
- Grande Complication
- A slew of Chronographs and of course the Scafusia
Not all were released this year, but many of them were and that is just one single collection!
How many brands can you think of that offer that wide a range of movements, all in-house manufacture movements within just one collection?
Because then we have the latest Aquatimer collection. I have to admit, it's not my favorite collection from IWC, but maybe it's not supposed to be, because the only dive watches I like are vintage ones that no longer look like dive watches.
In other words, IWC's dive watch line, which has more pedigree than any other, including the Rolex dive watch pedigree, actually looks like a working tool, and if I was a diver that's what I'd want.
And of course lets not forget the Ingenieur collection either. Also featuring a Genta Icon, but unlike the Royal Oak collection of watches (excluding the 15400 or 15202 of course), most of the Ingenieur line is wearable and doesn't look like you're wearing a tuna can on your wrist.
Of course, the original ref.3244 is nearly impossible to beat as a sports luxury watch, because of its price. IWC had to use a base ETA movement to make it happen (and to fit), but again, given it's price compared to the least expensive Royal Oak, it was definitely the right move (you can buy two 3244 vs one 15400, or three 3244 vs one 15202).
The Portofino line as well as their Da Vinci line maintains an elegant approach with plenty watches available at correct sizes housing in-house movements.
And finally, with icons like the Big Pilot and Mark series of watches, including the fairly groundbreaking (enough to with a 25 year patent), Doppelchronograph, gives me hope they will clean up the mess that has become their Pilot Watch collection over the past decade.
Phew!... that's a lot of watch!
And I think it's worth keeping an eye on IWC and what may follow. They don't have to duplicate the brilliance of SIHH 2015 every year, but to even come close makes them a brand and company to be reckoned with.