The big treat from IWC this year, for me at least, has to be the Vintage Collection. A tribute to the brand’s 140th birthday, the collection is a fine pictorial snap of significant milestones of IWC history. I appreciate the vintage-inspired nature of these designs, models which collectors hold in reverence. I’m not sure that choosing a favorite is possible, since all of these watches are so distinctive, but if pressed, I’d have to go with the Portofino Hand-Wound. While perhaps less distinctive than the iconic IWC Ref. 5251 which it is based upon, this is still an exceptionally beautiful timepiece, with a stunning moonphase indicator and a charming pocket watch-inspired aesthetic. Also striking to my eyes is the Da Vinci Automatic watch, whose striking six-sided case gives it very unique appearance that is unlike any other watch on the market. I am also drawn to the Portuguese Hand-Wound, because… well, any IWC Portuguese timepiece is bound to be nothing but beautiful.
Is the IWC Vintage Collection perfect? No. As some critics have pointed out, there’s the anti-magnetic issue with the Ingenieur. What’s that you say? Well, going back to 1955, the original Ingenieur watch was designed by IWC to resist magnetic fields, thus making it the ideal timepiece for engineers and such. Well, the new model has done away with the anti-mag properties, in favor of a sapphire back so that you can see the movement. The heart of the objection is that the new watch doesn’t live up to the raison d’être of the Ingenieur, which I can basically agree with (despite this watch’s very attractive vintage-inspired appearance). Other complaints have been leveled at the Aquatimer Automatic watch, which some feel isn’t water resistant enough to deserve the title of a dive watch. This doesn’t bother me as much, because 1) – this model is not likely to be used as a diver’s tool in the first place, and 2) – 120 meters is still technically “dive worthy” (for example, the regular IWC Aquatimer Chronograph is rated for 120 meters, an no one complains about that).
Other horological muckrakers have found issue with the large sizes of the Vintage collection watches as a whole, which somehow panders to the “bling mentality”. Whether this is true or not, many prospective buyers will be delighted that these models are well over the 40mm mark. The reality is, IWC is simply responding to the demand of the contemporary luxury buyers, who overwhelmingly favor large watches.
Overall, I think the IWC Vintage Collection is a winner; the watches are beautifully detailed, striking, and have superb movements. Is IWC “cashing in” on historical nostalgia to make a buck off of watch fans? If so, I’d say their scheme is no more sinister than what many of the greatest Swiss and German watch brands have done, and continue to do. Those who accept these models for their many fine qualities, will be able to enjoy some of the nicest IWC watches created in the last decade.