5240 IWC Portuguese Minute Repeater
When this IWC sold new in 1995, it had an MSRP almost identical to a top-of-the-range BMW 5 Series (thanks @alteuhrener for that excellent bit of trivia). Today, it’s far less than half that. And yet, today as back then, it’s one of the most elegant minute repeaters ever designed. It’s the IWC ref. 5240, and it’s one of the most understated 40+mm high complications available. If you’re a fan of vintage design but can’t swing 35mm, this might be the answer. There’s even a plexi crystal. It’s a devious engineering exercise and yet belies nothing of its hidden depths from the dial-side. Total discretion, unless you happen to spot the slide.
Introduced in 1995, the 5240 took the 42mm Portuguese Anniversary case and somehow fit it inside the minute repeating system from the 1993 Il Destriero Scafusia Grande Comp. The movement here is from a pocket watch base that IWC has used for many decades, the calibre 95. Then IWC’s team of crack watchmakers reengineered nearly all of the 34-piece Comp repeater system to fit this 11mm thin profile. On the outside, it’s a yellow gold 42mm Portuguese, except that the petite seconds have moved from 6 to 9. The only other giveaway is the left hand slide, glaringly tantalizing if you know. A minute repeater requires the skills of both an engineer and musician, one to design and one to tune. The gold alloy here was chosen for its acoustics, not strength (sold in YG, WG, and PT). Once activated, its hour hammer taps out a perfect B flat, its minute hammer E flat. It may be the sole instance in history where a German singing is a good thing.
Bringing it back around to the opening topic, values of the 5240 have been on a wild ride over its 4 decades. Originally, these commanded just under 70K in US, in ’95 mind you. Inflation adjusted, that’s 140K today. They lost year on year until the lows of roughly a decade back, when some traded hands under 20K at auction. They’ve been very slowly starting to simmer and rise again, but only in the last few years. The current minute repeating IWC Portuguese, ref. 5449, offers none of the vintage aesthetic and is near the limit of wearable at 44mm. People are only just starting to recognize how elegant and relatively economic, given the complication, the 5240 is today. It has all the makings of a neo-vintage classic, save for hype. Chime on, you crazy diamond.
This example is marvelous, with a full case sporting superficial wear and clean dial. It was serviced last year at Schaffhausen, comes with its full set, and is being offered (at a quite reasonable ask I’ll note) by a well-regarded collector in our little community out of Sweden.