One of the most famous early IWC pocket watches from the company’s late 19th century production, is the digital display pocket watch known as the Pallweber. The Pallweber pocket watches are named after the Austrian watchmaker Josef Pallweber, who patented his invention in 1883, and licensed it to IWC. (He licensed the design subsequently to other Swiss producers but the IWC Pallwebers are probably the most widely known). IWC produced Pallweber pocket watches for only a short period of time, starting in 1885. They were very popular at first but after only a few years the market seems to have tired of the novelty, and after 1887 production ceased. Because the period of production was so short, they’re also among the most collectible of early IWC pocket watches. Now, for the very first time, the Pallweber jumping hour and minutes display – revolutionary in its time – is being offered by IWC as a wristwatch.
The original Pallweber pocket watch used a movement with a distinctive forked cock for the third and fourth wheels – the base was one of IWC’s so-called "Elgin" movements. The name is a bit of a mystery; it apparently has nothing to do whatsoever with the American Elgin watch company but nothing in IWC’s records from the era shed any light on why the name was chosen.
The wristwatch version of the Pallweber which you see here is pretty true to its pocket watch lineage in terms of size; 45mm in diameter, although it’s also relatively thin at 12mm. The movement is, of course, manufactured by IWC; it’s the new IWC caliber 94200, running at 28,800 vph, with a quite good 60 hour power reserve (all the more impressive given the energy drain imposed by the jumping time indications). The case is red gold, and the dial is white lacquer; production is limited to 250 pieces world wide.
The action of the switchover at the top of the hour is quite entertaining.
The only other three-disk, jumping hours and minutes wristwatch I’m aware of is the Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk, which is a much more complex construction and which includes a remontoire d’égalité to help ensure unvarying torque to the balance. The Zeitwerk is also a smaller watch than the Pallweber, at 41.9mm in diameter (it’s slightly thicker than the Pallweber, however, at 12.6mm). Performance-wise, the biggest difference between the Pallweber and the Zeitwerk is the power reserve: 36 hours for the Zeitwerk vs. 60 hours for the Pallweber. Part of the reason for this is probably that a remonotoire d’égalité requires a certain minimum energy from the balance in order to wind the remontoire spring and the stop-works for the Zeitwerk cuts you off at 36, rather than let you get into that part of the mainspring’s power delivery curve where the remontoire spring is no longer being wound.
There is also a pretty significant price difference between the two: the Zeitwerk is currently $76,200, while the Pallweber reference IW505002 Tribute To Pallweber Edition "150 Years" in red gold, is $36,600. Keep your eyes peeled for more news from IWC’s 150th Anniversary Collection as we get closer to the SIHH, 2018 edition.
Please note that these are prototypes and that final details are subject to minor alteration for actual production pieces.