In 2018 IWC celebrated the brand’s 150th anniversary. They rightfully went all out for the milestone and released a slew of special edition watches consisting of 27 new timepieces. The new models spanned across many familiar collections, but this one in particular stood out from the pack. This is the IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” IW505003.
The Pallweber design, though it may look modern, it’s actually over 100 years old. This wristwatch is based on a pocket watch that Josef Pallweber invented in the late 1800s. IWC loved the unique digital display and licensed it from Pallweber, creating the Pallweber pocket watch in 1884. These vintage pocket watches, though initially popular, were a bit of a fad and only produced for two years. Like most shortly-produced quirky timepieces, it has since become quite collectible. Also, like many shortly-produced quirky collectible vintage timepieces, it has become the inspiration for a recent release.
To celebrate IWC’s 150th anniversary in 2018, IWC released this Tribute to Pallweber Edition in three limited variants. IWC made a platinum model with a white dial in 25 pieces, a red gold model with a white dial in 250 pieces, and the model we have here in steel with a blue dial, which is one of 500 examples. This is the first time that the Pallweber jumping hour and minutes display has been put into a wristwatch, though variations can be found in other wristwatches. This original design still stands out over 100 years after its release and is far and away the most distinctive model in the anniversary lineup.
The original Pallweber predated wristwatches as we know them today, so the technology and design were applied to a pocket watch. Being that pocket watches are not nearly as popular as they were in the 1800’s IWC has converted the Pallweber’s unique design to a wristwatch. The case is 45mm in diameter and 12mm thick and is attached to thin wire lugs. It’s reminiscent of some of the early Officer and Trench watches that were converted from pocket watches for soldiers in the early 1900s. But the case isn’t what stands out most about this watch—it’s the dial.
The digital format allows the watch to be very minimal, even with some small embellishments. The hours and minutes are displayed via labeled cutouts on the dial while the seconds are displayed traditionally with a running seconds hand in a railroad track surrounded subdial. I love the typeface used for the numerals, and I’m a big fan of mechanical watches that display the time digitally, but my favorite feature on this watch is hands down, the painstakingly hand-finished deep ink blue lacquer dial. It’s so entrancing and deep it reminds me of space. That said, I’m not sure how I feel about the seemingly pointless two white rings at the dials’ center, but they remind me a bit of a Mini Cooper, so that gives them a pass. If anything the aforementioned rings help break up the vastness of it all, and trick the eye into believing that the watch isn’t quite as big as its specifications suggest.
The case and dial may come from the 1800s, but the movement is totally modern. Powering the Tribute to Pallweber is the manually wound in-house caliber 94200. Even with the power-intensive jumping hours and minutes complication, it still manages an impressive 60-hour power reserve. This is due to the implementation of a dual-barrel system. One barrel drives the balance and the second’s hand while the other powers the jumping hours and minutes. Part of the reason that we don’t see this type of digital jumping complication often is because if its significant power demands. While easier to manage when dealing with a large pocket watch caliber, scaling it down into a wristwatch is a much bigger challenge, and one that has only begun to become manageable (while maintaining proper accuracy) in recent years.
Additionally, the caliber 94200—which is only used in this watch model—possesses hacking second and quickset functionality. This allows you to accurately stop the second’s hand for synchronizing the time and lets one set the hours and minutes backward or forwards, much like a quick set date. Visually the movement is very large and fills the display caseback nicely, allowing you to appreciate the attractive Côtes de Geneve finishing.
Versus The Competition
The Tribute to Pallweber has a market value of around $30k and is a pretty distinct watch. Still, it has a surprising amount of comparable timepieces in terms of similar design and spirit. The A. Lange Söhne Zeitwerk is an obvious comparison as a fellow three-disk jumping hour and minute watch though it is much more expensive with a market value starting just above $60k. It’s a highly coveted modern classic. Its design, despite being digital, is very traditional, and its beautifully finished in-house movement is one of the best looking in the industry. This white gold, black dial variant offers the same classic digital vibe but in a more wearable 41mm size. However, its power reserve pales in comparison to the Pallweber at just 36 hours.
This Patek Philippe Calatrava Officer Watch is another alternative to consider, especially if you like the converted pocket watch aesthetic. Based on early 1900’s military watches worn in WWI, the Officer Watch has straight lugs affixed to a round pocket watch style case with a classic style onion crown. Ironically, like the Pallweber, this reference was also released as part of a limited series to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its brand. Unlike the Pallweber, this Calatrava is actually very petite, measuring only 33mm in diameter. This is a size that may be too small for some, so take that into consideration. The current market value of this reference is just over $20k. If you are interested in more information on this reference, we have a full write-up on it here.
Another option that’s more of a spiritual peer than a visual one is the Audemars Piguet Star Wheel. Like the Pallweber, the Star Wheel is a quirky design based on centuries-old technology. Rumor has it that the wandering hour complication used in this watch was invented to help make reading the time at night—by oil lamp—easier. The unique design and backstory make this watch the ultimate conversation starter. This yellow gold version is selling for $39,900, measures 36mm in diameter, and is, in my opinion, the best-sized timepiece of this group.
This IWC Tribute to Pallweber is for the quirky, rebellious, watch nerd. Its connection to watchmaking and IWC history, combined with its complex movement and unique design, makes it the ultimate dress watch for those who totally reject the status quo. This watch would serve well as the one “big box brand” piece in a collection full of boldly designed vintage watches from defunct brands and indie timepieces that most watch enthusiasts have never even heard of.
Despite how common new vintage watches are these days, it’s not very often you see a vintage re-issue paying tribute to a timepiece that is over 100 years old. That said, it’s also not often a design that old is this attractive. Well done, Josef Pallweber.