Hand-to-hand combat

Two manual-wind watches with manufacture movements take their gloves off in this comparative test.

Specs

IWC Portuguese hand-wound

Manufacturer: IWC, Baumgartenstrasse 15, CH-8201 Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Reference number: IW5454

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds; stop-seconds function

Movement: Hand-wound manufacture caliber 98295; 18,000 vph: 18 jewels; Kif shock absorber; Glucydur balance; Breguet hairspring; fine adjustment via eccentric weights on the arms of the balance; regulator with arm; 46-hour power reserve; diameter = 37.8 mm, height = 4.7 mm

Case: Stainless steel, sapphire crystal is nonreflective on both sides, six screws hold back in place, sapphire window in caseback; water resistant to 30 meters

Strap and clasp: Alligator strap, stainless-steel pronged buckle

Pros

+ Popular design

+ Easy to operate

+ Manufacture movement

Cons

— Poor legibility at night

— High price

Specs

Panerai Radiomir 42 mm

Manufacturer: Officine Panerai, Rue de la Balance 4, CH-2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Reference number: PAM00337

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds

Movement: Hand-wound manufacture caliber P.999/1; 21,600 vph; 19 jewels; Incabloc shock absorber; Glucydur balance; 60-hour power reserve; diameter = 27.4 mm, height = 3.4 mm

Case: Stainless steel, nonreflective sapphire crystal, screwed caseback with sapphire window, threaded crown; water resistant to 100 meters

Strap and clasp: Alligator strap, stainless-steel pronged buckle

Pros

+ Popular design

+ Very legible at night

+ Manufacture movement with long power reserve

Cons

— No stop-seconds function

— No fine adjustment

The IWC Portuguese and the Panerai Radiomir were introduced in the late 1930s. The Portuguese was developed for precision timekeeping; the Radiomir, for timing underwater missions. Both watches were unusually large for their time, a feature that adds to their appeal today. We tested two recent iterations of these well-known models. This version of the Portuguese Hand-Wound, with light-colored dial and matching seconds subdial, debuted in 2011. The Radiomir 42 MM, with its hand-wound movement, came out in 2010. Both watches are handsome tributes to their predecessors from 70-odd years ago.

The modern Portuguese looks very much like the original Portuguese, with railway track-style minutes markings, feuille-shaped hands, and small numerals that make the dial look even larger than it is. The sapphire crystal is highly curved toward the sides, recalling vintage watches. The reddish-gold color of the hands, numerals and indices reinforces the vintage look.

Little grooves set the seconds subdial apart from the rest of the dial, and the numeral 60 is highlighted in “signal red.” As is true of many IWC dress watches, the middle portion of the case of the Portuguese is satin finished, while the upper and lower parts are polished. This makes the slender (10-mm-thick) watch look even slimmer. The Portuguese Hand-Wound’s extra large, 44-mm diameter further accentuates its thinness. This model is larger than both the well-known Portuguese Automatic, which is 42.3 mm, and the original Portuguese, which was 42 mm. The new version of the Portuguese has been given a sapphire case-back held in place by six screws.

While the modern Portuguese is a little bit larger than the original, the updated Radiomir, at 42 mm, as its name suggests, is quite a bit smaller than the first Radiomirs. They were a gargantuan 47 mm in diameter.

This Radiomir’s case is completely polished and is cushion shaped. It has the same wire lugs as the original, but they are no longer soldered on, but screwed on. To change the strap, you unscrew the two screws attaching each end of the wire loop to the case and pull the two sides of the loop so that it “breaks apart” in the middle. You can then remove the two halves and insert them into the new strap.

The Radiomir’s sandwich-style dial recalls early Panerai models. The dial consists of a cushion-shaped sheet of metal that’s entirely covered with luminous material and then topped by a second overlying disk that’s been stencil-cut for the numerals and indices. This assures very bright and long-lasting luminosity in the dark. The hands also glow brightly, giving the Radiomir an advantage over the Portuguese, which has no luminous material on its dial. However, the Radiomir’s dial cannot be read precisely be¬cause it lacks individual minutes markings; indices are at 5-minute intervals.

The crown, which has a conical shape, and the historical logo “OP” (for Officine Panerai), are traditional features of Panerai watches. The crown, which is threaded, can be found on the very first Panerai models. The Radiomir offers water resistance to 100 meters, but for daily manual winding the crown must be unscrewed, turned, and screwed shut again each day. Nevertheless, most watch aficionados who have chosen a hand-wound watch will not mind the extra bit of work.

The crowns on both watches turn easily. Each can be pulled out quickly to the hand-setting position, but the Portuguese has an edge over the Radiomir because IWC has added a stop-seconds function: The seconds hand stops when the crown is pulled out and restarts when the crown is pushed in. This makes it easy to synchronize your watch with a time signal or a radio-controlled clock. The Radiomir lacks a stop-seconds function, which is hard to understand in a newly developed movement in this price range.

The straps and buckles of the two watches are on a par. Both straps are made of alligator and are comfortable and well-crafted, with neatly applied lacquer on their cut edges. Panerai uses contrasting stitching to accentuate the watch’s sportier styling. We found the pronged buckles to be equal as well. IWC’s has alternately polished and satin-finished surfaces, which match the styling of the watch’s case. Panerai’s buckle repeats the design of the wire lugs and has the brand’s name on its prong, which is milled.

Because the Portuguese is larger than the Radiomir, it fits less snugly around a slender wrist, but this is not a problem if you have a larger wrist.

You can see the movement of each watch through a sapphire window in its caseback. An advantage of hand-wound watches like these is that you have a better view of the movement than you do with an automatic watch because there is no winding rotor.

Inside the Portuguese ticks IWC’s caliber 98295. The movement is modeled on caliber 98, a pocketwatch movement that was used in the first Portuguese watches. The watch has a stop-seconds function.

The wheels are borne in a three-quarters plate. This plate and the extremely long arm on the regulator are horological allusions to the first movements made by IWC’s founder, Florentine Ariosto Jones, which he designed and made shortly after he established the company in 1868. By incorporating a three-quarters plate, IWC not only reduces the number of parts but also makes the movement more stable than one with cocks. In addition to the moveable weights on the two arms of the balance, the long arm on the regulator can also be used to finely adjust the rate.

Geneva waves decorate the Portuguese’s movement. The screws are polished and the edges of the flat parts are beveled but not polished. The bearing jewels are set in gold: an attractive and rare form of embellishment. The beautiful, large screw balance swings at a leisurely 18,000 vph.

THE RADIOMIR contains caliber P.999/1, which has a frequency of 21,600 vph. The caliber’s lone barrel gives the Radiomir a 60-hour power reserve, considerably longer than the 46-hour power reneck fine adjustment mechanism — unlike caliber 999, which is used in the rose-gold version of the Radiomir — and can only be coarsely adjusted using its regulator, which doesn’t even have an elongated arm. This is a poor configuration because even the smallest shift results in a large change in the rate. Therefore, we found it surprising that our Panerai test watch consistently kept accurate time when worn and deviated from a radio-controlled clock by less than 1 second per day. The Portuguese, too, performed well, gaining between 3 and 5 seconds per day on the wrist.

The results were even closer when we placed both watches on our timing machine. Deviation among the various positions is the most important category in a rate evaluation, and IWC’s model strayed by 8 seconds in this test, compared to Panerai’s 9 seconds. The average deviation among all positions was slightly more than 1 second for Panerai and 3 seconds for IWC. The difference in amplitude between flat and hanging positions was too large for the Portuguese, at 52 degrees. Panerai achieved a slight lead over IWC in the rate results, but not enough to earn the Radiomir more points.

The prices of the Portuguese and the Radiomir are farther apart: The IWC Portuguese Hand-Wound costs $8,900, while Panerai’s Radiomir 42 mm is $7,700. Although the cost-to-benefit ratio is not good for either watch, the enthusiasm for these models, as well as the likelihood that they will maintain much of their value over time, help somewhat to justify their high prices.

The Radiomir is more comfortable on the wrist, is legible at night and costs less, but the Portuguese is easier to operate, has individual minutes markings on its dial and has a more elaborate, decorated movement. Both performed well in our rate test, each has its own very popular and distinctive styling, and both are equally well crafted. The bottom line: Our comparative test ends in a tie.

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