Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen ranks amongst the best in the world and the Portugieser remains one of their most quintessential lines. This particular range is also an absolute rock star of the horological world at large, preceded by decades of underdog status. From its elegantly proportioned case to the stunning in-house calibres, the watch has more than stood the test of time. If anything, time itself had to catch up to this one.
The tradition of excellence continues with the Portugieser Chronograph Gold and Chronograph Steel, three modern adaptations that hold fast to the family’s iconic DNA. Aussies can find these latest additions at The Hour Glass watch shop in Sydney or Brisbane (respectively), which touts a venerable legacy of their own. Let’s take a deeper look at IWC’s revolutionary timepiece and how it has evolved over the years while also staying true to its origins.
History of the IWC Portugieser
From the late 1920s through the 1930s (aka The Great Depression), times were tough all around the world. Like so many other Swiss watchmakers, IWC was forced to adapt or perish. That led them to create a series of distinguished pocket watches and wristwatches in the reductive Art Deco style, which was popular at the time. However, the brand was also experimenting with the Bauhaus style, a modernist theory of design out of Germany. This would provide the foundational aesthetic for their newest wristwatch.
The second piece of the puzzle arrived in the form of two Portuguese wholesalers named Messrs. Rodrigues and Teixeira. Approaching IWC in the late 1930s, they explained that watch demand was high in Portugal, and not just for the standard pocket watch or women’s dress watch. As it turned out, their fellow countrymen were eager to find men’s wristwatches with the precision of marine chronometers.
IWC’s subsequent creation debuted in 1939 and was known only as ‘Reference 325’ for many years to come. Not just more precise than the standard wristwatch, it was also much larger.
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.
Even as the Reference 325 Portugieser struggled to find an audience, IWC continued to improve upon it. All the while, the distinguished watch gained a loyal following amongst collectors and retailers alike. In 1993, the brand celebrated its 125th anniversary with the release of a limited edition Jubilee Portugieser and it sold out immediately.
Things really took off in 2004 with the release of the Portugieser Automatic reference 5007, which paired heritage design with some of the best in modern mechanics. It represented yet another triumph for this once-marginalised model. At long last, the Portugieser was getting its due.
The IWC Portugieser Collection Today
From its humble beginnings to its current status as an absolute masterpiece, the Portugieser has stayed impressively true to certain key features. Today, the collection still employs an impeccable dial layout, with large Arabic numerals, a thin bezel, and at least one subdial. The 41mm case of recent iterations is likewise (more or less) faithful to the original Reference 325s, which measured 41.5mm in diameter.
While certain aspects of the design have remained unchanged over the years, others have been improved upon or revised. With the 1993 edition, IWC implemented a transparent case back for the first time. Over the years that followed, the brand continued to play with the design possibilities.
For some versions, that meant adding an extra subdial or incorporating a new complication such as a moonphase aperture or tide indicator. Then we have examples like the Portugieser Grande Complication from 2010, which added specs in every conceivable direction, even as it retained key style elements of its predecessors.
With the new Portugieser Chronograph Gold and Chronograph Steel, IWC once again interweaves the past and present to wondrous results. The immaculate dial can trace its lineage all the way back to the original Reference 325s, even with the inclusion of a second subdial. Of course, various elements remind us that this is very much a modern timepiece and a brilliant one at that.
Portugieser Chronograph Gold (IW371610/IW371611)
Large Arabic numerals, two subdials, golden hands and appliqués, and a thin bezel perform an elegant balancing act within a 41mm case of 18-carat 5N gold. Indeed, the Portugieser Chronograph Gold is as bold and distinguished as this range has ever been. Powered by in-house 69355 Calibre, the watch injects dressy sophistication with sporty undertones. Peer through the sapphire-glass case back to behold the precise chronograph movement and its column-wheel design.
IWC’s new model comes in either a slate-coloured dial with black alligator strap or a silver-plated dial with dark brown alligator strap. No matter which silhouette you choose, you’ll be rolling with some seriously impressive wristwear.
Portugieser Chronograph Steel (IW371605)
Less expensive perhaps, but the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Steel is no less fantastic than its gold-cased brethren. It too retains the immaculate dial layout of certain predecessors and runs on 69355 Calibre with small hacking seconds and a chronograph function. Blue hands and appliqués grace the silver-plated dial and thereby drive home the pristine vibe. Wrapped in sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating on both sides, the watch comes affixed to a luxurious strap of blue alligator leather.
The Hour Glass
Like the very brands they sell, The Hour Glass brings forth their own distinguished legacy. Part of a world-leading luxury watch retail group, they’ve held court in Australia for over 30 years. Their relationship with IWC Schaffhausen is long-standing, ongoing, and extraordinary.
If you’re in the market for a new Portugieser Chronograph Gold or Chronograph Steel, visit The Hour Glass boutique in either Sydney or Brisbane. Prepare to immerse yourself in the timeless tradition and art form of luxury watchmaking. We’ll take that over the nearest museum any day of the week.