A brief history of the Portugieser, IWC’s definitive watch 2
IW503312 Boutique Edition: 18-carat Armor Gold® case, blue dial, gold-plated hands, 18-carat gold appliques, blue alligator leather strap by Santoni.

A brief history of the Portugieser, IWC’s definitive watch

Since its introduction to the world in the 1930s, it was come to define the kind of models that the watch brand will produce. Recently, new pieces were added to its iconic family
Partner Feature | Apr 30 2020

In the mid-1930s, IWC Schaffhausen received an unusual request. At a time when petite, Art Deco- style wristwatches were in vogue, two Portuguese dealers ordered a large wristwatch with the precision of a pocket watch. They chose to approach the International Watch Company (IWC), which was established by F.A. Jones and soon established a worldwide reputation for precision pocket watches.

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Back in 1939, its master watchmakers swiftly came up with a solution: they housed a hunter pocket watch 74 calibre in a 41.5-millimetre case. Inspiration for the dial came from the deck watches that IWC produced for the British Royal Navy at that time. These pocket watch-sized nautical instruments were, among other things, navigation instruments and consequently needed to be very easy to read. With the small seconds hand at 6 o’clock, a simple chapter ring, Arabic numerals and slim feuille hands, Reference 325 established a timelessly modern design language that would run like a thread through the history of the Portugieser family. However, the elegant wristwatch in pocket watch format was decades ahead of its time: by the late 1970s, IWC’s ledgers contained details of only around 690 sales.


Icon in the making

The man responsible for rescuing the Reference 325 from oblivion and turning it into what is probably the brand’s best-known icon was Hannes Pantli, who was then its marketing and sales director. In 1993, the company celebrated its 125th anniversary with the Il Destriero Scafusia (Ref. 1868), at the time advertised as the most complicated wristwatch in the world. However, to mark the occasion, Pantli wanted to launch a timepiece that would represent IWC’s horological legacy and be accessible to a larger number of watch lovers. This prompted the idea of reissuing Reference 325 in a limited small series. The new name, the “Portugieser,” not only recalled the origins of the Reference 325, but also created a connection with topics such as navigation, precision and reliability. Production of the Portugieser Anniversary Edition (Ref. 5441) was limited to 1,000 watches in stainless steel; 500 in 5N gold and 250 in platinum. Measuring 42.5 millimetres in diameter, the watches took their power from the 9828 calibre, which was based on the 98 pocket watch calibre. The Portugieser Anniversary Edition quickly sold out and established a global trend toward larger-format wristwatches.

A brief history of the Portugieser, IWC’s definitive watch 3

IW390703: Stainless steel case, silver-plated dial, gold-plated hands and 18-carat 5N gold appliques, bracelet made of 18-carat 5N gold and stainless steel.

Twenty-year later, in 2003, the first-time integration of the perpetual calendar in a Portugieser was a milestone in the history of this watch family. Developed in the 1980s by Kurt Klaus, the sophisticated mechanical programme automatically recognizes the different lengths of the months and leap years. All the displays are perfectly synchronized with each other and, if the watch has been out of use for some time, can be easily reset using only the crown. Kurt Klaus used the development of the oversize 5,000 calibre as an opportunity to rework his calendar module from the ground up and adapt it to the more generous space available in the new movement. The fact that larger cogs were now involved led to an even more precise reduction in the moon phase display. In the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 5021), this is so accurate that it requires correction by just one day after 577.5 years. The Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Double Moon (Ref. 50611) is the first model from IWC to feature a double moon phase display. This unusual feature shows the moon as it appears to observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Design a rugged, weatherproof watch that cuts a fine figure on any occasion—that was the brief for the Yacht Club (Ref. 811A/D), which IWC launched in 1967. The driving force for this elegant, sporty automatic with its stainless steel bracelet was Albert Pellaton’s high-precision 8541B calibre. In the years that followed, it established itself as one of IWC’s most successful models. In 2010, the company decided to revive the legendary name and integrated the Yacht Club into the Portugieser family. In the Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph (Ref. 3902), IWC chief designer Christian Knoop created a nautical sports watch that met the highest expectations. The 45-millimetre case is ruggedly built and water-resistant to 6 bar. But thanks to the iconic Portugieser design, the watch also cuts a ne gure on dry land. The watch is powered by the IWC-manufactured 89360 calibre, which combines stopped hours and minutes and displays them in a simple-to-read totalizer at 12 o’clock. The ange, which features a quarter-second scale, not only enables precise reading of stop times. It also lends the Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph the character of a nautical instrument and its understated sporty style.


New models

IWC Schaffhausen recently added attractive new models to the Portugieser family. A compact automatic style in the iconic Portugieser design; a new model with the legendary perpetual calendar; a nautical sports chronograph with an elegantly proportioned case; and the first watch fitted with a tide indication—these are the highlights of the new collection, all of which are equipped with IWC-manufactured calibres and further enhance the unique appeal of the Portugieser family.

All the watches in the new collection are equipped with in-house calibres. Among others, they feature automatic movements from the 52000 and 82000 calibre families, which have Pellaton winding with ceramic components. In the chronographs, movements from the 89000 and 69000 calibre families ensure precise measurement of stop times. The Portugieser Chronograph (Ref. 3716), one of IWC's most popular models, is newly equipped in the standard version with the IWC in-house 69355 calibre and a see-through sapphire-glass back. It is also now possible to register any watch within the standard two-year warranty period for the My IWC program, which extends the international guarantee to eight years.

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IW358304: Stainless steel case, silver-plated dial, blue hands and appliques, blue alligator leather strap.

The Portugieser Automatic 40 (Ref. 3583) marks the return to the collection of the iconic design, with the small seconds at 6 o'clock, in a compact case with a 40-millimetre diameter. The new automatic model takes its power from the IWC-manufactured 82200 calibre with Pellaton winding. For the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42 (Ref. 3442), the perpetual calendar has been integrated for the first time with an in-house movement from the 82000-calibre family. The watch with the IWC-manufactured 82650 calibre has a 42-millimetre diameter and displays the calendar information clearly on three subdials.

As a nautical sports watch, the Portugieser Yacht Club combines timeless style with ruggedness and high water-resistance. The new models, with a 44-millimetre diameter, have a filigree bezel and flat casing ring that lend a particular elegance to the case proportions. The Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide (Ref. 344001) is the first watch from IWC to feature the newly developed tide indication, which indicates the arrival of the next high and low tide. The Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph (Ref. 3907) comes with either a stainless steel or 18-carat 5N gold and stainless steel bracelet.

Selected models will also be available with overarching design cues in the maritime-inspired colours blue and gold and are available exclusively in IWC boutiques and online on IWC.com. They feature blue dials, blue alligator leather straps and cases in 18-carat 5N gold or 18-carat Armor Gold®. Thanks to its improved microstructure, this innovative new material has considerably higher hardness values than traditional 5N gold alloys. Two models in the new collection underscore IWC's expertise in Haute Horlogerie: The Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph (Ref. 3940) combines a tourbillon with a retrograde date display and chronograph, while the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon (Ref. 5045) brings a tourbillon and perpetual calendar together on the dial.

IWC Schaffhausen is available in the Philippines through Lucerne.