We’ve said it over the past already, but 1980s and 1990s IWC watches are on the rise. This era, that of the resurgence of the brand, gave birth to superb watches, such as the Doppelchronograph or the Deep One. But instrument watches are not the only topic of discussion… That was the time for the comeback of the Portuguese too. Among multiple variations around the concept, the IWC Portuguese Jubilee 5441 is one of the most desirable models. Produced in limited editions only, it is a rare and collectable watch already. And then enters the IWC Portuguese Pisa Limited Edition 5441-07, issued in 50 pieces only in 1997 and sold exclusively through Pisa Orologi of Milan, Italy. Today, Mister @Minutemachines, an IWC-oriented collector talks about his passion for the Schaffhausen-based brand and, specifically, this superb edition of the brand’s emblematic nautical watch.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – How bad is your passion for IWC?
Minutemachines – IWC was my first love! My passion for watches started in the late 1990s with three watch models I could by no means afford but dreamed of owning one day – which we would now refer to as grail watches – the IWC Portuguese Chronograph IW3714, which was introduced in 1998, the Rolex Explorer 1 reference 14270, and the Chopard LUC 16/1860… the catalogues of these three were my most prized possessions and about as close as I could afford to come to the watches themselves. I remember dressing up as best I could to go to the dealership… try the watches on and score my catalogue!
What is it you admire in this brand especially?
Its ingenuity in novel materials and de-complicating complications… I love the IWC of the 1990s with the legends Kurt Klaus and Richard Habring reinventing the rattrapante, the perpetual calendar, introducing ceramics and more…
Which is your favourite model in the vast array of watches this brand has made?
The design of the Portuguese Chronograph is just amazing… so clean, so timeless… large but very elegant and wearable. I studied architecture and industrial design and this watch is an instant classic in design, the type of design that simply never gets old… like a Porsche 911.
And why is the Portuguese Jubilee IW5441 your favourite?
The Jubilee IW5441, to me, is the perfect alternative or modern equivalent of the original reference 325, but with an open caseback showing the exquisite pocket watch movement that is so important in the history of the Portuguese.
Since when has this Pisa Portuguese Limited Edition been a watch you desired to possess?
It was around 2015. When I bought this one, I already had an IW3712-07, the open case back Japan limited edition version of the Chrono-Rattrapante, the IW3532-02, the platinum limited edition version of the small Portuguese and the IW5445-01, the steel 140th-anniversary Vintage collection Portuguese, in the collection. However, this last one just didn’t really cut it for me.
I prefer the Calibre 9820’s architecture over the Jones Calibre 98290… and so swapping it for a Jubilee IW5441 was the logical next step in my collection.
And then you found it!
At the time, they hovered around the $10k and so I was ready to sell my IW5445-01 and was saving up to add one… I had known about the Pisa version (IW5441-07), however, IWC made only 50 pieces of this specific model. And so these never came on the market… they only traded within the collector’s community directly and easily went for $20k.
As I was about to close a deal for a regular Jubilee IW5441-01 but then I did a quick search on the internet and to my astonishment, Tourneau had just added a Pisa example on their Certified Pre-Owned section… in New York, 30 minutes from where I lived! For a ridiculous price! I immediately gave them a call… took my day off from work and drove down to New York the same day with my wife.
I couldn’t hide my excitement. I looked at the watch and immediately knew which collector it came from… I had a hard time hiding my excitement. Chatted a bit with the salesmen, negotiated the price (not enough according to my wife!) and closed the deal right there!
And fun story, I recently was on a business trip to Milan, and took the watch “back home” at the Pisa Orologi store, the dealer that first sold this watch.
Can you describe the features of the watch that make your heart beat? The Pisa?
The dial of the IWC Portuguese Pisa Limited Edition is stunning, with its beautiful blue Breguet numerals… However, if I could, I would wear it upside down, with the movement on full display. The movement is just pure art, it’s just the perfect hand-wound calibre to me! Made on the original tooling from the early 20th century.
Does your watch get a lot of wrist time?
It’s a dressy watch with a Plexiglass. So I keep it for special occasions however, it is one I actually simply like to pick up and look at. And especially that movement, it is just so beautiful.
And what reactions did you get?
Other collectors for sure spot the watch quite easily. And dealers… they’d love to get their hands on this one!
Do you know the current market value of the watch?
I got the watch for $15k and I would estimate the current value about double that amount.
Was this acquisition the prelude to obtaining other magnificent watches?
For sure! This is the watch that made me discover the wonderful work of Richard Habring, who I have since seen speaking at the Horological Society in New York. I started collecting pieces of his in 2019, including the Monochrome X Habring² Montre de Souscription 1!
How would you describe your watch collection so far?
My collection – and I have seen the same with many collector friends – goes through phases, from rationally targeted and concentrated on a limited amount of brands, models, complications, sizes, to a more agnostic bunch. For example, at some point, I only owned only two watch models, the Rolex Explorer and the IWC Portuguese. But I had a whole host of versions of them. However, at the moment it’s going more and more agnostic again.
My collection is focused on Rolex Explorer’s, IWC Portuguese and Flieger LE’s, on Habring² and I now finally started adding Nomos to the mix. I focus on special versions of watches. Limited editions and short production runs from the 90s, and (truly) limited editions of modern watches. I focus on LE because I am not interested in owning 50 watches… I would rather focus on hunting for 20 very special ones.
I have a strong preference for steel. I bought too many gold watches to sell them again shortly thereafter. I prefer no date watches as I am a sucker for symmetry. And I want my watches with open casebacks whenever possible, and preferably hand-wound movements or micro-rotor movements, because being able to see and enjoy the movement is an important part of the pleasure of owning a watch for me. Wow… all that sounds pretty obsessed…
Are there any more watches you would like to buy? Which ones, and when?
Oh yes, a Portuguese 325, whenever I can afford one! And a Habring² Doppel Felix Limited Edition – as soon as someone creates the right one!
Do you have general tips for people who want to start collecting watches?
I would advise everyone who starts collecting to:
- Buy what you love/buy for yourself… not what is hot at the moment. For me, it’s more important that a watch gives you an exhilarating feeling every time you look at your wrist, than the number of likes it generates on Instagram.
- Wear them before you buy them… Make sure you try a watch on your wrist. There is so much talk about watches being either too big or too small. From my experience, you cannot judge a watch without having strapped it to your wrist. So take the time and effort to go try it on.
- Get knowledgeable!
- Buy the best possible quality you can afford and buy from a trusted source (dealer or fellow collector). Long after you’ll have forgotten about the extra few dollars you save, you will still regret the over-polished case, the incorrect hands or other compromises.
- Wear your watches… you won’t enjoy them when they are in a safe. indeed, if you are lucky, your collection will maintain its value or even increase in value, however, what is so great about watches is that you can wear them and create memories that are tied to your collection.
Are you in touch with other collectors? What do these relationships mean to you?
Yes, I am a member of a number of collectors communities, which to me makes this passion even more enjoyable. To me, watches are wearable marvels of ingenuity, engineering, design and passion. There is nothing greater than sharing this passion with others.
With the general conversation about watches focusing more and more on price and investment value, I love how these small collector communities can be equally blown away by a $1k vintage or independent watch or by a mindboggling $200k complication watch… Call me sentimental but it feels like the watch community from 20 years ago still exists if you look for it…
The opening image has been sourced from mrwatchley.com.