It might appear that I've written these posts in rather an odd order: perhaps the logical way would have been to start with the more accessible names and work my way up to Lange or AP or Breguet as the pinnacle. But there is at least a little method in this madness: I just wanted to spread the minute repeaters and exotica out a bit to keep it interestig, and there were some things I wanted to save for the end: one was Lange, as it's my favourite and had lots of pictures. One is Panerai, to be last for a rather trivial reason that I hope you'll understand, and before it, IWC, because of the watch I'm about to show you - the climax of my tyre-kicking in cost terms at least, with my Panerai silliness a little post-script to come.
So here is comes, IWC. First off, I'm aware that there's a certain amount of ambivalence about this maker among the watch cogniscenti. It has a long and interesting history, but the question of whether its movements are "in house", as often described, or mere ETA uniformity, seems to be an eternal source of conflict: as I understand it, ETA provides ebauche i.e. semi complete movements, and IWC do the rest. Correct me if I'm wrong. But as I see it, I'm not sure I really care - some stuff comes ready made, some stuff is made in house. Understood, and the terminology is not that important to me.
What is more important, and relevant, is that there are one or two I really rather like, at least in the pictures. So I went in to see if I could see one. The design that has always appealed to me is the Portuguese, specifically the chronograph. I asked, they obliged:
Fine, isn't it? I do love blued hands. But this isn't exactly the one I was after. You see, I forgot to mention that when I went into the IWC boutique, I was greeted for the first time that day by a native Arabic speaker (as opposed to Russian-speaking central Asian, Indian or Chinese). As is my habit, I engaged the attentive Syrian gentleman in his own language. But I have to admit, it was the first time I'd ever considered the question of watch vocabulary in Arabic. And I didn't really have any. All the salesmen in the local ADs are Indians, so we speak English. I can talk about most subjects in my adopted tongue, but considering how much I think about this one, it's ironic that here I was rather limited! Anyway, confusion was eventually overcome, and I got to see the one I wanted, the one I've been looking at in pictures for months:
Sorry, the picture of the second PC is rather inferior, but you understand: what I wanted was not the one with all blued hands and numbers, but the one with just the second hands blued. When I said "no gold", meaning no gold cases, I'd confused him, as this has a steel case but gold numbers. I'm sure you will all understand how fussy one can get about little details around this subject. It seems to be an important habit to acquire, actually. Anyway, I've decided that I like blued second hands, subsidiary seconds preferably, but not necessarily blued everything. That's just the way it is. And I like this watch.
There is a tinge of disappointment about it, though, on two counts. When I've seen the pictures, the gold indices have blended more into the dial - I actually thought they were steel or silver or similar the first time I saw it. The blued hands stood out more than the rest. The reality, in this well-lit location (this, and Panerai next, were the only ones with natural light), is that the gold numbers and main hands pop out a little more than I'd hoped. But that's not a show-stopper. The other little niggle is that at 40mm, with such a large, flat-looking dial, I'd imagined the case quite slim. In fact, although it's not a deep case, something about the shape makes it stand up just a little. Just enough that it doesn't slide easily under the shirt cuff.
In conclusion, I still like it quite a lot. I might even still want one. But I can't quite evangelise about it like some of the others I've seen. Just one of those things. Still, a slight adjustment to my shirt cuff buttons and I'm sure we'll get along fine!
Now, while Mr Mohsin was finding the correct Portuguese Chronograph for me, and plying me with coffee and chocolates (the latter refused, I've been on a health kick recently...), I'd noticed something special winking out of a case in the separate raised area at the back by the window. Here she is, winking at you...
I admit, I didn't know what this was. But I did want to see it. It's called the Portuguese Siderale Scafusia. And I'm told it costs about three quarters of a million bucks. Which might even make Frilly gulp.
Foolishly, I forgot to ask if anyone had actually ordered this, or if the AD had ordered it himself in the hope of selling it to a high rolling client. The thing is, this is important: each one is hand painted with about 500 stars on the "astrolabe", with the positions depending on the customer's chosen geographical location. I couldn't help but wonder if this had been made with Dubai at the centre of the universe, or Shanghai or Moscow in anticipation of a certain type of customer. I'd still like to know. Perhaps if you're an astronomer, you can work it out from this:
There it is. The most expensive watch I've ever held in my hand. Come to think of it, the most expensive anything: I once spent two days in Iraq, rather uncomfortably, carrying several hundred thousand dollars around in a bag until I could get it safely signed into the recipient's legitimate hands. But the price tag of this extraordinary thing trumps even that. So imagine having it actually tied to my body. I mean, me, mimo the shitheel, with this (literally) unique and invaluable object on my wrist! Ha!
And what's more, the coffee was quite nice too!
So that's it, the Tyre-Kicker's Diary almost complete. Just one Panerai-flavoured little postscript to add later (no, I didn't even buy one). And as a high point, the highest price I encountered on the day. Roll the closing credits...