July 13, 2024

This is not going to be one of those articles that is seeped in watch movement technicalities. This is going to be about the visual appreciation of thorough watch decoration. Sometime you want a watch that is just stunning to look at. You gaze deeply in its rich complexity noticing minute details bearing the attention of the engraving tools, and you consider again, that luxury has a face.

IWC and Patek Philippe are known for creating high quality, high desire watches. Though they are not known for highly decorated watches, at least on the face. Rather, most IWC and Patek Philippe watches are conservative and classic, but in a good way. These watches represent extremes for the brands, and as such are limited editions. I”d like for you to compare the different types of engraving that the watches have. The IWC is done by the wonderful Jochen Benzinger, while Patek Philippe uses another (perhaps internal) process that is more like arabesque.

Both watches are also skeletonized. This is an interesting process whereby decoration on the movement is complimented by an actually decorated movement. Almost all necessary metal is removed, and just the bare ‘skeleton’ of the movement is retained. This way you can seriously appreciate all aspects of the watch. Skeletonized watches make the dials less legible, but the trade off is having a beautiful machine to look at on your wrist.

The Patek Philippe 5180 and 5181 (two different metals used) are part of Patek Philippe’s Art Collection. Watches that are designed to be beautiful. This 39mm wide watch contains Patek Philippe’s own Caliber 240 automatic movement, that has a mini-rotor. Why a mini-rotor? because it allows for better view of the movement, that is why they were developed. The movement is pretty basic, just the time, but you’d never know it was simple based on how lovely it looks. Like the best skeletonized watches, you see right through the movement through the double sapphire crystal windows (with a slight blue tint). Really nice watch, and you can sure there there is mostly gold in this case and bracelet.

The IWC Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Squelette is a different type of skeletonized watch altogether. Rather than decorating a simple movement as with the Patek Philippe 5180, IWC decorated what is essentially a very complex movement; an IWC-manufactured 5000 calibre. Along with having the time and date, this watch includes a tourbillon escapement and a seven day power reserve, which is a lot for an automatic watch. There are further items of interest in the movement which represents a pinnacle of what IWC can achieve, but I will leave it at that.

You could argue that the level of detail in the IWC decoration is above that of the Patek Philippe. You’d be correct, but they repersent different styles. The 150 IWC Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Squelette watches (50 in Platinum, 50 in rose gold, 50 in white gold) will (or were) be given to Jochen Benzinger whose shop hand machines each watch meticulously with special “engine tuners.” While the 44mm Portuguese case remains clean and solid, Benzinger goes to work on every square millimeter of the movement with an impressive level of detail and attention. The decorations seems to frame the flying tourbillon, and the small subdials for the date and seconds. Turn the watch over, and you’ll notice a typical Benzinger style decorated rotor with the IWC logo painstakenly applied to the a gold section on the rotor.

These two watches are not cheap, with the IWC likely to be much more ($$$$$$). Regardless they are amazingly impressive, with my pick being the IWC Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Squelette, although the Patek Philippe is an amazing depiction of what a traditional skeletonized watch should be. Overall, these watches are something that you wear to look at, being distracted by the generous level of detail, only to forget to check what time it is, and back again for another look.

See IWC, Patek Philippe, and Benzinger watches on eBay here.

See IWC watches on Amazon here.

See Patek Philippe watches on Amazon here.

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Patek Philippe Hand Sewn Cousu Main Black Alligator Strap 100 Authentic 20 18
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