IWC’s classic movement – the Calibre 89

A lot happened at IWC in 1944. An American squadron bombed them on April 1 during an air raid on Schaffhausen, there was the appearance of IWC’s first W.W.W. (Watch. Wrist. Waterproof) watches for the British Army, and also the arrival of Albert Pellaton from Vacheron Constantin as Technical Director.

Somehow, amidst this and the ruins of post war Europe, Pellaton worked on his first design, the manual winding calibre 89 movement, which was launched two years later. Simple, robust and reliable, it proved to be representative of the times and a success because of its no-nonsense durability.

The genesis of the Calibre 89 was IWC’s calibre 83, introduced in 1939 and generally understood to be a transitional calibre between pocket watches and wrist watches. It proved to be one of the brand’s stalwarts, used  through to the early 1990s. It found its way into watches such as the Mark XI (1947) and the Yacht Club, but today’s examples of this calibre are very much civilian. The Cal.89 found its way into a huge variety of cases and designs.

At 35mm and 36mm respectively, these watches may seem small to those used to contemporary sizes that are closer to the 40mm mark, but their designs are very classical and arguably s a perfect dress watch size on the wrist. My personal preference is for the 1960s rose gold version, which is just stunning, especially those lugs.  I was told by a watchmaker that in Portugal, it’s referred to  as a ‘biscuit case’. The stainless steel one is from a decade later and, because of the metal, perhaps more in the workmanlike spirit of the first post war Calibre 89s.

One of the reasons that the owner of these watches so values this calibre is that its centre second movement was designed from ground up rather than adding an extra wheel to convert from a small seconds to centre second, which is not uncommon for cost efficiency reasons.

If you are interested in getting an example of this important IWC calibre, it’s worthwhile taking the time to look around and do some research. The sheer breadth of the styles means that it’s worth the wait to get exactly the right one for you.

Categories: Hands-on, IWC, Vintage watches, Watch movements, watches

4 replies

  1. i am constantly amazed at how u get to check out vintage pieces! it’s a great balance to all the fancy new watches these days that we see everywhere. i do fancy the older style pieces these days! sign of old age, me thinks! hope the weather in melb improves!


  2. lovely article and great photos. 🙂


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