Why I Bought It: Collector Koen Simon And His IWC Reference 504 ‘Türler’

by Elizabeth Doerr and Koen Simon

Koen Simon is a 26-year-old watch collector from The Netherlands. A regular reader of Quill & Pad, he is a fan of high-end watchmaking. He recently sent me this story to add to our “Why I Bought It” series about his vintage IWC Reference 504 with Türler dial.

IWC Reference 504 ‘Türler’ (photo courtesy Koen Simon)

Koen writes:

In my previous Why I Bought It article about my two-tone Christiaan van der Klaauw Orion, I stated that I focus primarily on vintage IWC and vintage Vacheron Constantin. Today I elaborate on a vintage IWC I recently purchased, a Reference 504 with “Türler” dial.

Why I love vintage IWC

My passion for watches started with an IWC. When I was a child, my family and I would go skiing in Switzerland. On our way home we would visit my Uncle Otto in Basel.

During one of these visits when I was 12 years old, I noticed his watch. I was very intrigued by the sweeping second hand as it was so different from the hacked movement of the second hand on my quartz (Disney) watch. Otto’s watch was an IWC Caliber 854, and it instantly piqued my interest in mechanical watches.

Koen Simon’s Uncle Otto and his IWC Caliber 854 (photo courtesy Koen Simon)

After my interest was sparked, I began to research watches, reading books, blogs, and forums, and went to several trade fairs.

Six years later, when I was 18, I purchased my first mechanical luxury watch: an IWC Vintage Collection Portofino in steel. I subsequently joined the IWC forum.

Through this forum I have made many friends with whom I have been in close contact for many years; pre-Covid, we met annually in Amsterdam. Aside from that, I also attended special collector events during SIHH and in Schaffhausen.

I was, and still am, the youngest member, but I have always been welcomed with open arms. The IWC collectors’ community has played a key role in my development as a collector and members have regularly helped me to research special pieces that I come across.

Because my passion for watches started with IWC and because of my supportive IWC friends, I have a weak spot for this brand’s vintage watches.

How I found the IWC Reference 504 Türler

Every day, I look for special watches, and a couple months ago I was browsing Chrono24 when I noticed a watch that looked rather odd because of three things: the shape of the case, the dial, and the Türler signature.

IWC Reference 504 ‘Türler’ (photo courtesy Koen Simon)

The watch was listed by a private seller from the United States. who told me that there must have been an interesting story as Türler is a famous retailer based in Zürich. Somehow the watch went from Zürich to the United States.

So it was time for me to investigate the history of this beautiful watch as far as possible.

Investigation mode activated: talking to IWC’s Dr. David Seyffer 

I started my research by asking the seller more questions about the history of the watch.

The seller told me he lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He found the watch at an estate sale and bought it from the grandson of the original owner, a successful businessman from New York who retired and moved to Phoenix. He had traveled a lot for his work, which I think is special given it was the 1940s. I cannot confirm if any of this story is true, but I tend to believe the seller. Worst case scenario is that it is just a nice story.

The next step in my research was to contact Dr. David Seyffer, curator of the IWC Museum. I wanted to know specifically if the case and movement numbers were matching.

The reply I received from him [lightly edited here for grammar and clarity –ed] proved to be much more detailed and interesting than I could have imagined.

“The watch is indeed a Caliber 88 watch that was originally sold on October 14, 1947, to Türler in Zurich. The reference was 504.

“But then something strange happened: the watch was sent back from Türler and then sold one year later to a wholesaler I do not know. Thanks to your watch we know that the ‘Türler’ dial was not exchanged. Very interesting story. But the most important thing is that the numbers are matching.

“From the records, the case maker was called ‘H. Jeanmeret’ [sic]. How many of Reference 504 were made in total unfortunately I can’t say.”

I was in the backseat of my brother’s car when I received this email and (as far as possible) I jumped for joy. I absolutely loved learning so many details about the watch. But one big mystery remains: why was the watch sent back after one year and why wasn’t the dial replaced for another when it was sold to another wholesaler? It still had “Türler” on it.

That will remain a mystery. A mystery that to me hugely contributes to the charm of the watch.

Now that I knew the exact reference, and considering that IWC could not tell me how many watches of that reference were made, I tried to find as many known examples as possible.

I found out that the case of this watch with its so-called “devil horn” lugs is something rare in vintage IWC. Over the years I have personally come across six pieces in total. I am not sure whether all these cases were made by the same maker, but I assume so.

I found out that these six watches are powered by three different movements, though: Caliber 88 (three), Caliber 89 (two), and Caliber 83 (one).

IWC Reference 504 ‘Türler’ (photo courtesy Koen Simon)

The dial is also special. First of all, “gilt” dials [by which Koen means the printed gold-colored elements and not the entire dial, which, as we can see, is black –ed] are not common with IWC. It’s always a rarity to see one. Some of the elements on this dial are rare too, in particular the dot markers marking the five-minute intervals in combination with the Arabic numerals at 12, 3, and 9 o’clock. I’ve seen that combination on a couple of Caliber 89s and Caliber 88s; however, it’s the first time I’ve seen it with a “gilt” dial.

The dial has two other rare features: the logo font and the Türler co-signature. This is the first time I have ever seen this combination in its entirety in an IWC. I have seen another Caliber 88 with the same dial layout (but with Roman numerals), the same signature, and almost the same logo font, but that example has a different case.

My personal link to Türler

Although I wasn’t especially hunting for a watch with a Türler signature, it does add an extra emotional dimension for me.

As briefly mentioned in the introduction, my passion for watches started when I was 12 years old. I rapidly became completely obsessed with watches.

After receiving my high school diploma at 15, I decided to go on a trip through Switzerland by train. I had an Interrail ticket, which means that within a certain number of days I could take a certain number of train trips. I planned to visit Basel, Schaffhausen, Zürich, Lausanne, and Geneva with the sole propose of visiting anything watch related. Mainly watch stores and museums.

I remember visiting the Türler store when I went to Zürich and in spite of my age I was welcomed with warm hospitality. I explained my love for watches to the staff and was shown the most spectacular watches while enjoying a nice coffee. Aside from this, I remember that in the middle of the store there was a very impressive clock with astronomical complications. Both the hospitality and this clock left deep impressions on me.

This remains a very cherished memory. It was the first time I went on a multiple-week trip without my parents. It taught me that having genuine passion is a fantastic tool and I enjoy meeting great people and remember with pleasure the joy it gave me to meet them.

Every time I see the Türler signature it reminds me of a young version of myself, ready to explore the world and go after my passion. It was a real adventure. This watch somehow feels like a belated souvenir of that adventure. A kind reminder to stay young and adventurous.

Quick Facts IWC Reference 504 “Türler”
Case: 36 mm, 18-karat yellow gold
Movement: hand-wound Caliber 88, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency, 36-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds

* This article was first published 18 February 2022 at Why I Bought It: Collector Koen Simon And His IWC Reference 504 ‘Türler’

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