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Portuguese Regulateur Tourbillon - A regal symbiosis

The Portuguese Regulateur from IWC, which, with the distinctive arrangement of its hands, evokes the mother of all precision watches, is enhanced with a tourbillon. Two horological developments, which complement one another ideally, are combined here in the service of accuracy. Exclusivity is guaranteed with an edition of 100 examples each in platinum, white gold and rose gold.

IWC has previously released three tourbillons which have two features in common. They are all rare, being limited in number due to the enormous horological effort involved, and they are “floating”. By being mounted in bearings on one side only, the mechanical fascination of the escapement in its rotating carriage can delight the observer undisturbed in its full beauty. This was already the case with the “whirlwind”, as it literally translates, for the ultra-complicated Destriero Scafusia in 1993, which, with its titanium cage, also achieved a record light weight. For even with its 100 component parts, it weighed only 2.96 grams. To mark the millennium, a limited edition of the Da Vinci received a tourbillon. Like the tourbillon in the Destriero, this could be viewed through the glass back. In 2004, the watchmakers at IWC then positioned the whirlwind of the Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère directly in the display window, where the escapement rotating carriage appears to float freely in space in the midst of a decorated plate segment and forms an “animated twelve”.

The best things come in fours: the Portuguese Regulateur with manual winding, which, with the spatially separate indicators for the hours, minutes and seconds, evokes the mother of mechanical precision timepieces, is now taking a step up into the regal class, likewise in a limited series. Two horological developments, both previously in the service of accurate time recording, are now combined in a single watch. More than 200 years ago, balance errors in the balances of the time could be compensated for with the tourbillon. For it actually outsmarted the gravitational attraction of the earth, which only amplified such errors even more. Minimal slow running in the first half of the rotation of the cage, in which the balance pulsates “against the earth’s gravity”, was compensated for in the second half of the rotation by equally minimal fast running. This assumes that the watch was always worn in the same position, which was indeed the case for pocket watches at the time. This function no longer has any practical role to play now that the tourbillon is worn on the wrist. Yet this in no way detracts from this most beautiful of the complications, which can only be accomplished by master watchmakers.

The regulator with its unusual arrangement of the hands, albeit a good century later, was fully in the service of accurate time recording. This special clock, which could be found in observatories and physical laboratories, but also in watch manufactories, banished the “slow” hour hand to an inner dial of its own – usually at “12.00” – because it would otherwise have interfered considerably, and above all for too long, when reading or setting the time accurately to the second on the inner dial at “6.00”. Clocks of this kind, which are encountered mainly as wall clocks or long-case clocks with ingenious escapements and temperature compensation for their pendulums, were professional timepieces, with which the astronomically determined, splitsecond accurate time could be maintained for as long as possible or passed on to other users. The Portuguese Regulateur from IWC has now been a beautiful reminder of this Golden Age of the mechanical timepiece for two years.

The dial has been redesigned for the special limited edition of 300 examples – adding all the material variants together – of the Portuguese Regulateur Tourbillon in a 43 mm case made of platinum, white gold and rose gold. Unlike the “previous” regulateur, the separate counters for the hours and seconds are rhodium plated and are given discreet visual emphasis. The hours are indicated with Roman numerals. The minute tourbillon, which now occupies a position at “9.00”, forms a visual triad together with the two inner dials for the hours and seconds. The tourbillon escapement was redesigned for this watch and adapted to the dimensions of the two counters for the hours and seconds: its diameter measures exactly 9.2 mm – a little smaller than the tourbillon of the Portuguese Mystère. The dominant minute hand has been given a rather more substantial form, which harmonizes very pleasingly with the “classical” impression of the dial design. The colour of the dial differs in the three material variants: in the white gold model it is slate-grey ardoise, while the variants in rose gold (4N) and platinum have a silver-plated dial.

The basis of the drive mechanism for this manually wound watch with a power reserve of 52 hours is provided by the famous IWC pocket watch calibre 98 in its special 98845 version. And this is where it becomes truly exciting, both technically and visually, because the balance frequency in this movement has been increased from 18,000 to 28,800 beats/h (4 Hz). The balance thus oscillates eight times per second in its rotating cage. This is the fastestrunning pocket watch movement ever produced by IWC.

The modern balance is finely adjusted by an index-free system with four adjusting screws. This, and not least the higher frequency of the movement, assures an excellent escapement accuracy – the name regulateur says it all.

The nickel-plated movement is also a delight for the eyes when viewed through the sapphire glass back. The stripe decoration on the threequarter plate, which retains its semi-round form, guides the eye to the large, sweeping tourbillon bridge, which carries a small gold medallion with the IWC seal “Probus Scafusia” – good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen. Because of its appearance, the designers referred to this plate unofficially from the outset as the “Batman bridge”. The resemblance to the famous flying figure by Bob Kane could scarcely be described in more apt terms. We are not concerned here with the struggle of Good against Evil, however, but only with the finest possible setting for mechanical time recording.