The new Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Squelette from IWC Schaffhausen is a generously dimensioned, precision mechanical masterpiece, whose origins can be traced back to centuries past. The movement combines the pinnacle of watchmaking, the tourbillon, with the traditional craftsman’s arts of skeletonising, engine- turning and engraving. It is housed in a classic Portuguese case. Watch lovers have the choice between platinum, rose gold and white gold, in each of which only 50 examples of this exclusive watch were manufactured.
The Portuguese not only discovered Madeira, the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands, but they also established where the best watches could be found: in Switzerland.This is what brought the two Portuguese businessmen Rodrigues and Teixeira to Schaffhausen in 1936 where they asked the International Watch Company to supply a timepiece to be worn on the wrist but with the qualities of a marine chronometer. It had to be a large watch, contrary to the contemporary trend, and it was also required to provide precise timekeeping.
Rodrigues and Teixeira also demanded optimal readability and the greatest accuracy from the watches ordered from IWC. With this in mind, the latest Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Squelette can be perceived entirely as a contemporary interpretation of the original Portuguese watch. However, it is much more than that. It combines the old craft skills of skeletonising, engraving and engine-turning with the tradition of watchmaking, all in perfect refinement.
An impressive example of the successful combination of the art of the watchmaker and the art of the finisher is the tourbillon, which rotates in a hand-engraved window in the dial of the new Portuguese watch. Making it true to its classic role model, IWC engineers have designed a cage that rotates about its own axis once every minute and accommodates the entire escapement with its Breguet balance spring and screw balance. This whirlwind, for that is the precise literal translation of the word tourbillon,sets the rhythm.
And in a quite eye-catching position: the tourbillon functions as an “animated twelve”. It is supported in a bearing only on its underside, which gives it the illusion of floating. This is a major technical achievement as is the fact that it weighs no more than 0.443 g despite having 81 individual parts. This filigree assembly leaves the observer in no doubt as to why the tourbillon is still regarded as the pinnacle of watchmaking.
The underlying movement is the IWC-manufactured 5000 calibre, which is characterised by its seven-day power reserve. The wearer can read the actual remaining power reserve on the indicator in the five o’clock position. The spring barrel takes its energy from the patented automatic Pellaton winding system. Although there is little scope for improving the design of the powerful, highly accurate movement, its appearance has been enhanced. And there are times when less can be more. All that now remains of the dial is a small ring with minute indices, while the plates, cocks and even the winding rotor have been reduced to their absolute essentials both mechanically and statically. Anything that is not necessary has been omitted in order to provide an unobstructed view of the refined mechanism.
The hand of a master – in the truest sense of the word, for not more than a handful remain in the whole of Europe – has been at work here. The master engraver and engine-turner Jochen Benzinger has held almost every part of the movement individually in his hand, not only to carve it out, but also to engrave it by hand. He also worked individual components on his engine-turning machines, which date from the 18th and 19th Centuries.
The sapphire glass and glass back permit an unobstructed view of the movement. This micromechanical masterpiece is housed in a classic, round Portuguese case. The watch lover has a choice between platinum, rose gold and white gold. Only 50 examples will be produced in each material, which further emphasises the exclusivity of this timepiece. All Portuguese watches have their classic, timeless style in common alongside their striving for horological perfection. In the masterly Tourbillon Mystère Squelette, watch enthusiasts can appreciate the full skill of the engineers, watchmakers and engravers, experience the long tradition of IWC as a manufactory and breathe in the history of a great seafaring nation. One thing is certain: Rodrigues and Teixeira would also have bought it.
Model: Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Squelette
Vibrations: 19,800/ h / 2.75 Hz
Power reserve: 7 days (168 h)
Material: Platinum, rose gold, white gold (each limited to 50 examples)
Glass: Sapphire, convex, anti-reflective
Water-resistant: 3 bar