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Though the International Watch Company is most often associated with aviation, the manufacturer from Schaffhausen made its reputation with the Portuguese line, now its flagship and an opportunity for the brand to showcase its expertise in manufacturing complicated watches.
The Portuguese line had its genesis in the 1930s, shortly before the Second World War. Two clients from Portugal tasked IWC's watchmakers with producing wristwatches that were as accurate as marine chronometers. In those days, the only way of achieving that goal was to take movements from pocket watches and put them in wristwatch cases. IWC used a 74 caliber movement from Hunter as the basis for the new line, christened Portuguese (or Portugieser) after the homeland of the clients who inspired it. Since the Hunter movement was a hefty 37mm alone, the Portuguese required a large case to match, a huge departure from the slim cases that typified wristwatches of the 1930s.
Though IWC continued to produce the Portuguese line throughout the 1970s, it never was IWC's most profitable or plentiful. But by the 1990s IWC was inspired to revitalize the failing collection. In 1993, the brand's 125th anniversary, IWC introduced the Portuguese Reference 5441.
Powered by the Calibre 9828 (itself based on the pocket watch movement that powered the early Portugiesers, the Calibre 982), the Reference 5441 was produced in only 1750 pieces. IWC followed up the Reference 5441 with the Reference 5240 (a minute repeater) and two variants of chronographs, a rattrapante (Reference 3712) and an automatic (Reference 3714), the latter of which would become one of IWC's best-selling models. The future of the Portuguese was secured, and would be followed in 2000 by IWC's greatest achievement: a fully in-house automatic movement.
The development of the Calibre 5000 took two years. It employed a bi-directional winding system that was masterminded in the 1940s by Albert Pellaton. The Calibre 5000 represented not only a rebirth of manufacturing expertise, but also continued growth for the Portuguese line.
IWC released the Calibre 5000 with several different modules, one of which featured a formidable 7-day power reserve.
The successor to that watch, the Reference 5001 (which we offer here), was introduced in 2005. In keeping with its predecessors, the Reference 5001 is imposing. Though the case is only 42.3mm in diameter the movement (the Calibre 50010, based on the legendary Calibre 5000) as well as the sapphire display case back make it thick.
Yet this watch is not without touches of elegance (a nod to the ornamentations found on pocket watches in the golden age of railroad chronometers). From the feuille hands to the running seconds at 9 o'clock (not to mention the 7 day power reserve indicator, artfully-arranged on the dial), this watch is meant to be worn and admired. No blushing beauty, it won't slip unobtrusively under a cuff--but would you really want it to?
Stainless steel case is approximately 42.3mm (excluding crown). IWC Reference 5001. IWC Caliber 50010 Self-Winding Movement with Power Reserve Indicator. Circa mid-2000s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with only the faintest signs of handling and light wear. Dial is in excellent, like-new condition. IWC crown. IWC sapphire case back is in likewise excellent, like-new condition.
Includes one 22mm black leather IWC-signed strap with deployant clasp.
Also includes box and papers and guarantee card dated 2009.