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IWC Portuguese: A chronograph with a very Parisian split-seconds

Anna Wu-Chauvineau
Le 14 April 2017

You’ve probably noticed that we have a certain soft spot for chronographs with history, and movements and complications that go along with it. The “Portuguese” chronograph of the International Watch Company of Schaffhausen is obviously a part of this pretty picture, especially when we talk about it’s hand-wound split-seconds version.

IWC Portuguese - Split-Second Chronograph - Rue de la Paix Limited Edition

Ten years after its last release, IWC honours this legendary piece in 3 limited series of 250 pieces pour 3 great European cities: Milan, Munich, and Paris. Like true chauvinists, we are going to focus on the Parisian version: 40.9mm of a chronograph in steel with a slate dial, black sub-counters, and a back engraved with the famous Vendôme column, accompanied with the municipal motto of Paris.

IWC Portuguese: Split-Seconds Chronograph

A chronograph with the split-seconds movement created by IWC and launched for the first time in 1995 under the reference 3712. It’s not quite vintage yet, but it has been more than 20 years nonetheless.

Typical classic codes from a famous chronograph that we all love, with its leaf hands, the same generous dial size and layout…more or less. We can easily identify the split-seconds chronograph by its additional pusher at 10 o’clock. For those who aren’t familiar with this complication, we introduce it here (currently available only in French). We’ll only say in this article that the split-seconds chronograph is used to time different events that begin but do not end together. The additional pusher frees the chronograph’s split-seconds hand so that it may time a second event, then catch up to the first seconds hand before timing the next set of events. Obviously, the timing of these short events is made possible only if the start is simultaneous, like as in a race for example.

An understated Limited Edition

The making of a Limited Edition isn’t, contrary to what one may think, an easy thing. The proof is the number of limited editions which we believe is of little or no interest at all. I’m talking about all the dials that have been vulgarly stamped with football-inspired crests and boast sometimes very awkward colour variations.

The limited edition that we’ve chosen here is quite another story: a shiny slate dial and two black sub-counters that discreetly differ themselves. Only real aficionados will recognise the limited series at first glance, and for which city it was produced: Paris.

For he who is neither aficionado, nor a part of the watch illuminati, but who wishes to learn more, the engraving on the case back will leave no doubt. In the center, the Vendôme column with the inscription of the official motto of the city: “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur.” Around, the inscriptions “Special Edition” and “Rue de la Paix” complete the picture. Not one vulgar trace of the word “Paris” or “France” can be seen.

IWC Portuguese - Split-Second Chronograph - Rue de la Paix Limited Edition

We like the piece very much, especially if we know the meaning of the motto that reveals itself to be more than inspiring.

Fluctuat Nec Mergitur

Engraved on the back of the case of this special edition are three words: “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur,” Paris’s motto since the 14th century and made official on November 24th, 1853.

The motto means “Tossed by the waves but never sunk,” and is a reminder of the dangers that the city has overcome, the revolutions that agitated its history, and all kinds of crises it has been subjected to. It also expresses notions of vitality, strength, and of continuity that characterises marvelously well the long and glorious existence of this city named Paris.

In terms of signature, in my humble opinion, it’s hard to achieve more elegance and class then this.

Our take

This is a piece that we already really liked even before the limited edition. But here, we’re offered a magnificent homage, in all finesse and subtleness, to our beautiful city of Paris. A limited edition whose provenance or affiliation isn’t highlighted on the dial and whose latin motto applies to us all, including those not in Paris!

IWC Portuguese - Split-Second Chronograph - Rue de la Paix Limited Edition

A very beautiful memory of a trip to Paris on the one hand, and a marvelous way to express our love for the City of Lights on the other….