The Meaning Of Digital And The IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month 75th Anniversary
Digital. What does the word even mean? Depending on your frame of reference, it can mean a lot of things.
One of the most common examples of a digital machine is a computer. Meaning that its is designed to be able to distinguish between two values: zero and one. These representations are more specifically called numerical digits – symbols used to represent numbers – and thus also represent the origin of the word digital.
A machine that understands only two things (the digits 1 and 0) is said to process digitally.
So in this sense, something is digital when it processes digits. All electronic devices containing a computer processor are digital machines: this includes phones, alarm clocks, refrigerators, and digital watches (not to be confused with quartz watches).
But that isn’t the only way the word is used. Something can be called digital if it comprises digits, such as a computer program or a fancy special effects sequence in the latest space odyssey movie. In this case, what you are seeing or interacting with is actually the result of data made up of billions and billions of digits, all of them either ones or zer0s.
And it doesn’t stop there: you can look at a physical printed image on paper and it can still be a digital image originating in digital data comprising ones and zeros created by a digital computer or a digital camera.
There’s another example: a digital camera can use all the same mechanical and optical equipment a traditional camera utilizes, such as lenses and shutters, but the settings are controlled by a microprocessor and the images it captures are stored digitally as strings of ones and zeros. So it creates images from digital information.
Definition of digital
So do we have a definition of digital? Not really, but we do have some great examples of digital technology. However, I think we can extrapolate the essence of digital into digits. Those simple glyphs represent numbers that are themselves just human constructs of agreed-upon amounts of content. That is what everything digital has in common: digits.
Really, information can be analog or digital, it just depends on how or what you are using to interact with it.
So what if you wanted to know the day and date, say, on your watch, but didn’t want to read the name of the month and didn’t have the space to write out twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth and so on for every day? What would your options be?
You would have to notate the months and days in numerical form for a more compact indication, using those handy-dandy glyphs called digits. And as such, these would be called digital day and digital date because they are represented with digits.
One timepiece incorporating such digits is the new IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month 75th Anniversary.
I like digits. I really do. Especially on a watch because digits condense information into smaller and more meaningful packages that you might describe as “information dense.” The concept of the number 13 is actually a very large and complex concept, but once it is understood, a simple two character symbol can encompass the entirety of the meaning. Stupendiful!
This is why when I saw the new Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month I was very happy. Being a huge fan of jump hour watches, absolutely loving the style of oversized digital displays on watches, and craving the clever mechanisms that go into jumping digits, the Digital Date-Month became an instant favorite.
While technically not a new movement or even idea for IWC (we’ll get to that in a bit), it is the first iteration in the Portugieser line that just happens to be my choice for IWC perfection.
Many may cry “Pilots Watch!” But to me that is such a watered-down category that where IWC really shines is with the Portugieser in its many incredible variations. Adding the perpetual calendar digital date-month to the line-up was a must.
IWC’s “digital” watches actually debuted in 1884 with a pocket watch featuring digital hours and minutes with analog seconds. Known as the Pallweber watch, it was extremely modern and clean, and I personally would love a version on my wrist. The modern interpretation for the digital date-month began in 2009 with the release of caliber 89800 in the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month.
Finding its way into the Aquatimer, Pilot, and Ingenieur lines over the ensuing few years within the 89801 and 89802 calibers, the digital display now finds a proper home in a Portugieser model.
But what makes this complication such a special one? It’s awesomeness. I understand that is a subjective statement, but in this case it is not really up for debate: it’s just awesome.
A diagram of the mechanism shows that while containing the appropriate components for the perpetual calendar, the complex date wheel, leap year wheel and others also illustrate the complexity required for a four-wheel jumping date-month to simply change the date and month at midnight. In some watches, the date change is accomplished using three parts with very little power required, but not so with this.
The power requirements might be very large if the date, month and leap year discs (five in all) need to change simultaneously. Because of this there is a quick action switch that is activated at the end of each month, powered via a cam and charged a little bit every day when the date display moves forward.
A lever riding on this cam lifts slowly throughout the month and releases to activate the month change. This is similar to how the date change is accomplished every day. This allows for a slow storage of spring energy to power the fast action required of such a mechanism.
In addition to the perpetual calendar’s digital date-month mechanism, there is a flyback chronograph humbly waiting in the background just in case you also want that function. And who doesn’t! Its hour and minute totalizer subdial at 12 o’clock helps balance the running seconds and leap year at 6 o’clock. Bonus!
The “little” addition of a chronograph to the perpetual calendar’s digital date-month takes this piece from incredible to knocking on the doors of grand complication territory. All they would need to do is add a mechanical alarm (a highly underrated function) and in my opinion you would have probably the most useful grand complication around.
I can’t say I know every watch made, but I know that is one I haven’t seen…and that would be the grand complication I want and could use the most, plus with the layout of this piece it is just begging for that little addition.
But if that never comes, we will always have the lovely new package that is the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month (with chronograph). The only problem I have with it is the use of exclusively precious metals for the case materials. Platinum and red gold are superb, no doubt, and red gold is actually my favorite choice of case material where color is concerned.
But such a functional watch in such a wearable style begs for the most noble of metals, stainless steel. Or possibly to offset the slightly largish 45 x 16.5 mm case dimensions, titanium could be another alternative, and this watch could become an icon of functionality and awesomitude. This could also make the piece even more affordable and competitive.
No matter what, I really enjoy this piece, and while some may lament current trends from IWC, I can happily support the creation of pieces I would love to wear and hope to see new ideas and clever designs down the road. That is the benefit of being the nerd writer and not the collector: my decisions can actually be based entirely on passion and never need be tinged by prudence, resale value, or position within a brand’s so-called DNA. I will nerd out over what I like and I wear a smile as I do so. This watch makes me smile, and that is authentic to this nerd writer.
That also means I have the energy left for a breakdown!
• Wowza Factor * 8.25 Oversized digital date and month with a clean chronograph and classic Portugieser case, very wow, much watch!
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 75.2 » 740.402m/s2 A lot of lust appeal when you consider the functions and the style of this piece, it definitely keeps me up!
• M.G.R. * 66.95 Very strong rating for a very strong movement, perpetual calendar with digital date and month PLUS a flyback chronograph?! Yes, please!
• Added-Functionitis * Severe This is a dangerous break from all the time-only watches because this thing is packed with added functions. You are probably going to need prescription strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream to manage the intense horological swelling from this piece.
• Ouch Outline * 9.4 – Three Slivers In Five Minutes Just handle a cut piece of plywood without gloves and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Ouch. Luckily I’m good with tweezers and I have a loupe lying around! But still, I would take a hundred more to get this watch on my wrist.
• Mermaid Moment * February 29th Once every four years is the happiest day for perpetual calendar owners. Now just imagine if that calendar has an even cooler display method like this! I would want to browse through cake toppers for the reception.
• Awesome Total * 649 Take the number of components in the movement (474) and add the number of pieces available (175 in three variations) and you have a very respectable Awesome Total!
For more information, please visit www.iwc.com.
Case: 45 x 16.5 mm, platinum or red gold
Movement: self-winding Caliber 89801
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with digital date, digital month, leap year; flyback chronograph
Limitation: 75 pieces each in red gold and 25 pieces in platinum
Price: $66,800 in platinum, $52,700 in red gold