Five hundred years ago, time was still an imprecise quantity. The first portable watches, which
had just been invented, made do with a single
hour hand. This would be joined only much later
by a minutes hand and a seconds hand. Variations in accuracy of up to half an hour per day
were the rule in early pocket watches. Eventually, however, after John Harrison had invented
the first practical marine chronometer in 1759,
with which an exact determination of longitude
was possible for the first time at sea, accurate
time became a valuable commodity with the
ability to decide political power and the fate of
ship’s crews. The astronomical observatories
blossomed into suppliers of precision time
accurate to the second. Customers included the
maritime sector and scientific institutes, watch
manufactories and later also the railways.
The so-called regulator – the mother of all watches – came into existence in this age of awakening and invention. Only the stars were able to perform more accurately. For the most part, these were intricate precision pendulum clocks with a spatially separated display of the three conventional units of time: hour, minute and second. Spring-operated marine chronometers were also provided with this configuration.
The reason for the decentral layout of the dial is surprisingly simple: The argument was that the “slow” hour hand must not, when it is present in the lower part of the dial, impair the readability of the small, but important seconds display for a prolonged time. It was thus banished to an inner dial of its own, where it could no longer obstruct the other hands. The minutes hand rotates by itself from the centre of the dial for the same reason.
The regulator became a symbol for the most accurate time measured by man. It goes without saying that watch manufactories such as IWC were consumers of the precise observatory time on the one hand, but that they also maintained it in their proprietary precision pendulum clocks for as long as possible, in order to be able to time all their new watches according to it.
With the Regulateur in wristwatch format, the Schaffhausen manufactory pays tribute to this significant piece of horological history. In spite of the fact that this horological speciality had scarcely been known previously in the private sector, its following is increasing steadily today. For it distinguishes its wearer as a connoisseur, who is able to appreciate this rather different way of displaying the time.
The fact that the first regulator from IWC is housed in the 43.1 mm diameter case of the Portuguese watch is explained by a number of sound reasons. The first pocket watches for the wrist from Schaffhausen, which today give their name to an entire family of watches, were also supplied to the Portuguese markets 70 years ago as particularly accurate timepieces and were essentially the first observer’s watches for the wrist. This was assured not least by their unsurpassed mechanical internal workings – the original IWC pocket watch movement with its legendary accuracy values.
The Portuguese Regulateur also remains true to this company tradition. With the 98245 calibre IWC manufactory movement, it possesses as its drive mechanism a pocket watch movement which counts not only among the most beautiful, but without doubt also among the most authentic movements that are still in production tothis day anywhere in the world.
As the calibre designation already reveals, the actual design of the movement is based on the 98 calibre that has been the subject of constant development and improvement by IWC for more than 70 years and is a true milestone of movement technology. It has been combined with various quality features of the earliest IWC pocket watch calibres, which can be traced back to the founder of the company, F. A. Jones, and the year1868. These include the distortion-resistant three-quarter plate made of nickel silver and, as a particularly typical feature, the elongated index for the precision adjustment of the accuracy, also known as the “Jones arrow”.
All of the technical advances in the detail that have been made since the days of F. A.Jones, have been integrated into this high-end movement with its classic balance frequency of 2.5 Hz– for example the resistance to shocks, the seconds stop function or the adjusting cams on the bars of the Glucydur screw balance. A glance through the sapphire glass back distinguishes this from the movement that also drives the Portuguese Special Edition Jones solely through the difference in movement decoration. Internally, however, the dial train beneath the dial has been modified for the Portuguese Regulateur to allow the separate hour display to be accommodated at “12 o’clock”.
This new scion of the Portuguese watch family, which has long been regarded as one of the few “enduring” design classics, displays the strong points of its large format to their best advantage on the silvered dial. All indications underline the true purpose of this type of watch: to display the time precisely and unambiguously. The dominant, lancet hand from the centre plays its part together with a classic minutes dial in the “chemin de fer” style, which takes its name from theform of railway rails. The hour hand moves overthe small dial with four Arabic hour indices beneath the “12”. At the furthest point from this, the seconds are displayed on the inner dial at “6 o’clock”.
The new, exclusive edition of the Portuguese Regulateur is limited to 500 watches in the platinum variant. The versions in rose gold and stainless steel are unlimited. All three watches are equipped with crocodile leather straps and clasps in the same material as the case.