Archives September 24, 2002 admin
The Titanium Porsche Design
Moonphase Chronograph by IWC
(with méca-quartz movement)
In a market crowded with re-issues and look alikes, the distinctive PD chrono is a welcome breath of fresh air. I succumbed to the lure of this titanium-clad beauty two years ago. The astonishing way it has performed under extensive use only deepens my admiration for this sports chrono.
This watch was designed from the ground up to deliver great performance with style. Accurate, compact, and durable, the PD has few peers as a sports chrono. Yet, its thin case and graceful profile would be quite at home on any dress watch. The PD reveals its greatest strength after extended use: this watch has no serious flaws. Whenever I grow tired of other watches, I invariably reach for the PD chrono because I can always count on it to perform superbly. Poor legibility in low light and dull finish are about its worse shortcomings, minor flaws in my book.
True to its innovative spirit, the PD uses the Jaeger-LeCoultre méca-quartz movement that combines quartz precision with a mechanical chrono module. Few watches blend technology, tradition, and performance with such style. Discovering how this is done is part of the fun of owning a PD chrono.
CASE: titanium, 36 mm wide; 8.5 mm thick. Screwed-down crown. BRACELET: titanium, with safety clasp. CRYSTAL: sapphire. DIAL: matte blue, raised track for tachymeter on the dial; tritium-coated baton hands; red chrono sweep-hand; gold hands & trims on sub-registers. FUNCTIONS: date at 4:30; moonphase (9.5 mm) at 12; three sub-registers (8 mm) at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. WEIGHT: 69.5 grams with 7-inch titanium bracelet (19 mm wide). Water-resistant to 6 atmospheres.
The PD blazes new trails in design and styling. The PD push-buttons, for example, are completely integrated into the case, improving both the look and the ergonomics. Once you get used to this cleaner design, the traditional chronograph push-buttons begin to look odd the way they stick out like Ross Perot’s ears. The tachymeter scale is yet another clever idea. This scale is on a raised track inside the crystal, which refracts the light to provide a dark contrast against the dial. This arrangement prevents wear, reduces clutter, and improves the legibility of both the tachymeter and the dial.
At a glance, the thin PD chrono could be mistaken for a dress watch. The PD bracelet mates seamlessly with the case, forming graceful, unbroken lines. By comparison, the bracelets on many dress watches look like clumsy add-ons. The gold trims on the sub-registers further accentuate the dressy look, while the blue dial and the sandblasted titanium lend a sporty feel. The titanium is finished better than on the Bell and Ross/Sinn GMT, but still looks dull compared to stainless-steel or gold. And now a few words about the moonphase. I must confess I have no use for it whatsoever, but have grown
While the PD can’t quite match the military crispness of the IWC Flieger, or the swagger of the Rolex Daytona, it is unsurpassed in performance, balance and versatility. In fact, you get two watches in one: an accurate, functional, and durable sports watch, plus a comfortable and distinctive dress watch. And best of all, you get a watch with no glaring weaknesses.
THE MÉCA-QUARTZ MOVEMENT
The PD houses a innovative movement that matches its creative styling. The JLC calibre 631, developed in 1987, should never be mistaken for a mere quartz movement. It is a mechanical chrono module coupled to a quartz movement by ingenious stepper motors. The watch contains 222 mechanical parts and 25 jewels, which is more parts than many automatic watches can boast. This construction reduces the thickness to only 3.7-mm-compare with 6.5 mm, 7.9 mm, and 8.5 mm for the Zenith El Primero, the Valjoux 7750 and the Lemania 5100, respectively. The JLC calibre 631 may very well be the world smallest chrono movement, taking up only one-third the space of a purely mechanical movement. There is a method to this quartz madness: reducing
Like most quartz watches, the JLC 631 accuracy is not a big point of debate. My PD chrono runs about +1 second per month compared to the US Naval Observatory clock, good enough to time my other watches. Since each JLC movement passes the 1000-hour non-stop test, reliability should not be a problem either. The combination of quartz and mechanical movement leads to a second-hand (at six-o’clock) that jumps a second at a time, and a chrono hand (red center sweep-hand) that glides gracefully like a ballerina on ice.
The titanium finish looks rather dull, but does not show finger prints-a good tradeoff. This is one of many pleasant surprises you discover with extensive use suggesting that much thought has gone into the design of this watch. For example, the wide PD push-buttons are easier to push with your finger than the tiny push-buttons on most chronographs. Likewise, the low weight does not quite prepare you for how light this watch really feels on your wrist. With a steel watch on leather strap-say the Zenith Chronomaster, which weights about the same as the PD-most of the weight is on the watch, so unless you wear it tight, you can always feel the swing of this weight as you move your wrist. With the titanium PD, the balanced distribution of weight makes you quickly forget that you have the watch on. Well done.
Though somewhat stiff, the bracelet can accommodate a small wrist, thanks to a thin case and short links (5 mm). The deployant buckle and small clasp (22 mm) are deceptively simple. A gentle pressure locks the spring-loaded latch with a click. I could not get the clasp to open accidentally without pushing a thin tongue on the side of the clasp first-an elegant safety feature. The flat rectangular links are also well designed: to remove, push two spring-loaded pins from the back, and out comes the link without a scratch. This design is a notch below that of the IWC Flieger’s, but far better than most.**
The dial is very easy to read thanks to the tan baton hands and the gold markers, which shine brightly in daylight against the matte-blue background. The gold markings for the tachymeter also reflect the light to allow easy reading. The gold sub-registers look bright from some angles, but blend nicely into the background most of the time. If you have
THE FINAL COMMENTS
If you are looking for a sports chrono that is accurate, compact, light, comfortable, and rugged, it’s hard to do better than the Titanium PD Moonphase Chronograph by IWC. This watch does everything so well and is so comfortable you soon forget you have it on. The PD Moonphase isn’t perfect-what is?-but its faults are easy to live with. I guess this gorgeous watch might have been more popular had Porsche Design given it a decent name. Titanium Porsche Design Moonphase Chronograph by IWC is hardly an inspiring name for such an inspired design. It’s easy to come up with a better name, but not a better sports chrono.***
Acknowledgment-I’d like to thank Richard Paige, Jack Freedman, and Hans Zbinden for providing the background information used in this review. Any errors that may have crept in are only of my own doing.
*If you have a large wrist, you may find this watch too small. Check out its bigger brother, which has a fully mechanical movement, but alas, no moonphase.
**For the larger PD chrono from IWC, also in titanium, you must use a tool provided by IWC to push the pin in and out. Don’t lose it-the pin or the tool.
***Now is a good time to get the PD chrono as IWC and PD have parted company. You can pick up this watch second-hand for a reasonable price. IWC will give it a new titanium case and bracelet for $275. You basically get a brand new watch with a new pouch and a small bracelet tool. That’s service!