When I heard that IWC Schaffhausen was to update its Portuguieser collection I was somewhat alarmed. The IWC Portuguieser has always been an exemplar of stylish understatement. Indeed, this view has been shared by many, leading to incredible commercial success and its legendary status.
The notion of redesigning a horological gem seemed fraught with risk. However, I am pleased to allay any fears and reassure concerned readers, the changes to some existing favourites are subtle and do nothing to diminish the allure of this collection which now celebrates its 75th anniversary.
On the face of it the changes are subtle
The outer appearance of the Portugieser Automatic (Ref 5007) has received only mild reworking. The lugs are more curvaceous and incorporate arched spring bars to enhance wearer comfort. While the changes may appear minor, they augment the appeal of the watch. Moreover, this timepiece is to be equipped with the new in-house 52000 calibre, an aspect I will return to later.
IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph – Ref IW390502
Some of the more complicated watches within the Portuguieser family now incorporate gorgeous Santoni alligator leather straps, first seen with the release of the Portofino models a few years ago. These straps, made by the famous Italian shoe company, exude luxury from every grain of their sumptuous leather surfaces.
Santoni leather strap attached to the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Digital Date-Month Edition “75th Anniversary”
The Portuguese Perpetual Calendar with a double moon (Ref 5034) has benefited from an overhauled dial. It now features four subdials and enjoys a tidier appearance to the starry nocturnal sky depicted. Curving lines now extend to the sapphire crystals which now adopt a “glass-box” style. Again, it will be equipped with the new in-house 52000 calibre.
Other models in the Portugieser collection have also received mild tweaks. No changes are too radical. This is not to play down the work of the IWC team, on the contrary, it shows a judiscious use of restraint. Each element of each reference has been appraised and in some cases distilled. In other instances no changes have been made, subscribing to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra.
More to the 2015 Portugieser than meets the eye – the 52000 calibre
The nomenclature of this historical collection harks back to the latter part of the 1930s when two Portuguese businessman visited the factory in Schaffhausen seeking wristwatches with the accuracy of marine chronometers. Now IWC has written a new chapter in the Portuguieser story with the announcement of its latest in-house 52000 calibre which features in some of the new models revealed at SIHH.
The in-house 52000 calibre will be joined by two additional in-house automatic movements in the future, the IWC 69000 and 42000 calibre families. This clearly accords a greater degree of independence for the Swiss brand and represents a significant investment in the future of the company. Moreover, IWC Schaffhausen has plans to move to a new production and technology centre on the outskirts of Schaffhausen. The new facility in Mersihausertal is scheduled to open in October 2016 and will play host to case and parts manufacturing, together with movement assembly.
New IWC 52000-calibre family
The specification of the 52000 calibre is impressive. At the centre of the oscillating mass is a rotor bearing made of white ceramic, resulting in low friction and, by default, virtually no wear. A Breguet Overcoil enhances accuracy and the brand’s legendary bi-directional Pellaton winding system also features.
Twin barrels help to deliver an impressive power reserve of 7 days, even in complicated watches such as the new Portuguieser Annual Calendar and Perpetual Calendar models. This latter model is equipped with a calibre featuring high level finishing such as circular Côtes de Genève motif and blued screws, together with an open-worked solid gold rotor.
During its life, the Portuguieser has led to the creation of numerous models featuring several complications. This year, the brand has released the Portuguieser Annual Calendar (Reference 5035), a complication not previously seen in the Portuguieser family.
IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar – Ref IW503502
Two additional models have been released to celebrate the landmark year in the history of the Portuguieser, the Perpetual Digital Date-Month Edition “75th Anniversary” and the Portuguieser Hand Wound Eight Days Edition “75th Anniversary”. This latter model features arc-deco influences and a discreet date display at 6 o’clock.
IWC Portugieser Hand Wound Eight Days Edition “75th Anniversary” – Ref IW510205
Christian Knoop, the Creative Director of IWC, together with his team, have carefully navigated a safe passage in producing the latest Portuguieser models. They have avoided losing the essence of the iconic model, retaining all of its legendary eye-appeal, but somehow refined the design elements with incredible skill and to sublime effect.
Over the coming months, I intend to return to the IWC Portuguieser family in order to review some of the recenly launched models in more detail.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.