IWC Schaffhausen: On the way to the Portuguese


The Swiss manufacturer is dedicating 2020 to this legend among icons.

Constantly evolving, the Portuguese sails on the waves of sobriety, his intrinsical quality since his birth in the late 1930s. What was it? A watch that was already unusual. At the time of the Art Deco cases, two Portuguese dealers sent Schaffhausen’s company an order against the current: a wristwatch that was as imposing and precise as a pocket watch.

The two friends knocked on the right door, with IWC in front of its worldwide reputation for precision guset watches. Watchmaker Masters find a solution by initiating a “soap” calibre in a 41.5-millimeter case. The dial? They borrow it from the cover watches produced for the British Royal Navy, nautical instruments of high readability. At the time, the Swiss house had no doubt that it had just created the sleek and functional design of a future bestseller. However, the Portuguese will have to wait until the spotlight of the 125th anniversary of the IWC becomes famous.

From yesterday to today

The elegant sporty Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph in steel, automatic, 68 hours power reserve.©IWC

“What is surprising is that his face has hardly changed in more than eighty years,” says Managing Director Christoph Grainger-Herr. “The challenge is to reconcile tradition and innovation. The Portugieser Automatic 40 mm – the new reference that comes closest to the creation of 1939 – is not a new edition, but a further development,” explains Walter E. Volpers, Head of Product Development. We find the stylistic characteristics of the first models (ultra-clear dial, simple timer, fine hands, small seconds at 6 o’clock).

On the other hand, technical progress required between eight and twelve prototypes (on average three to four) and “a lot of time and discussion in terms of movement”. Originally, the winding was manual instead of the current pellaton automatic winding, designed to quickly gain 60 hours of power reserve and reduce friction with multiple ceramic components. “More precision and less maintenance,” concludes Walter E. Volpers.

Another core of the 2020 collection, the Portugieser Chronograph, is one of the most popular IWC models. For what? Its unique look: counters in retreat at 6 a.m. and 12 p.m., scale of the top graduated in quarter-seconds. Excellently recolored with a burgundy, green or blue dial for the 18 kat red gold boutique edition.

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When the sea rises…

Very stylistically very close to the original from 1939, the Portugieser Automatic 40. Pellaton automatic winding, 60-hour gear reserve. Available in steel (7,150 euros) or red gold. ©IWC

It is that the moon attracts it! IWC brings them together on board the very sporty-chic Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph Moon – Tide. Its robust case and elegant proportions accommodate a feature developed by the company: a tidal indicator, no less! Twice a day, a cog train translates the rhythm of the hours into a chronological sequence of full and low seas. Another device indicates flooding at 12 o’clock. Under the wave (reinforced) the complications of the Portuguese family, the eternal calendar remains at the top. It now combines a manufacturing calibre, new strokes and a closed diameter of 42 mm. To all gentlemen, all honour: This ingenious complication was invented in the 1980s by Kurt Klaus, the legendary master watchmaker of IWC.

The moon version in red gold, Pellaton winding, 60 hours power reserve. The 6 o’clock counter indicates high and low tides. The display of the double phases of the moon also makes it possible to signal the high tides. ©IWC