IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Collection Celebrates 75th Anniversary (1939 -2015)

Launched in 1939, the Portugieser line by IWC is one of the most revered watch collections from the Schaffhausen based watch manufacture. In 2015, IWC Schaffhausen is celebrating the 75th birthday of a watch family steeped in tradition: the Portugieser. To mark this memorable milestone, the prestigious watch brand has enriched the legendary Portugieser collection with new horology creations that come with  technological and design modifications as well as new features.

Furthermore, the Swiss luxury watch manufacturer is developing more of its own in-house movements and plans to launch three new calibre families in the years ahead. Initiating this move is the 52000-calibre family, which is found in four models in the new Portugieser collection.  The newly designed annual calendar celebrates its debut and the perpetual calendar with its digital large date display is likewise welcomed into the Portugieser portfolio. Before exploring in to the Portugieser 75th anniversary collection, we just look back to the origins of this prestigious watch collection.

In 1939, when the first “big wristwatch” left the factory, neither its eye-catching size nor its purist dial and simple, round case conformed to contemporary ideals. Popular taste demanded dainty, wherever possible rectangular, watches in the art deco style. The large case with its grooved bezel – the term used to describe the channelled recess in the ring that holds the glass in place – together with the straight strap horns ran counter to the spirit of the time and its penchant for curlicues and conspicuous accessories.

International Watch Company (IWC), Portugieser Ref. 325 (Circa 1939)

By contrast, the predecessor to today’s Portugieser timekeeper had alternating Arabic numerals with simple hour markers that harmonized perfectly with the narrow, leaf-shaped feuille hands. A facet separated the centre of the dial while the chapter ring featured the “chemin-de-fer” (“railway”) style popular in pocket watches at the time. These graphic elements appeared once more in the small seconds sub-dial at “6 o’clock”.

International Watch Company (IWC ) Portugieser Ref. 325 (Circa 1939)

If time is defined as a sequence of events, the 75-year history of the Portugieser watch family is especially rich in unusual occurrences in the art of watchmaking. It all starts with the story surrounding its origins, and how, in the late 1930s, two Portuguese businessmen ordered wristwatches with the precision of marine chronometers from the International Watch Co. At the time, the only way of providing the requested accuracy was with a voluminous pocket watch calibre. This was the reason why the watchmakers decided to take the 74-calibre hunter pocket watch movement and later the 98 calibre – both of which fortunately have the crown on the right-hand side – and to house them in wristwatch cases.

International Watch Company (IWC) Portugieser Ref. 325 (Circa 1942)

The first of the new pocket-watch-style wristwatches (Ref. 325) left the factory in 1939. The watch, which was unassumingly listed as a “large wristwatch”, shared the fate of other iconic IWC models. It was way ahead of its time. By the early 1980s, only a few hundred of them had been produced. It was not until 1993 that, now known as the Portugieser, it was to celebrate its triumphant comeback.

In 1967, at the watch fair in Basel, IWC presented the IWC Yacht Club Automatic (Ref. 811 A/AD), the predecessor of today’s Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph. This magnificent men’s watch was made for the rigours of the open sea. Its movement, featuring the efficient Pellaton winding system, is spring-suspended in the case, bearing-mounted on rubber buffers and thus had dual shock-resistance. Exclusiveness combined with ruggedness and suitability for everyday use ensured that the Yacht Club became one of IWC’s bestselling watches.

International Watch Company (IWC) Portugieser Anniversary Watch Ref. 5441 (Circa 1993)

To mark IWC Schaffhausen’s 125th anniversary in 1993, the Portugieser watch line was reborn. Under the name “Portugieser”, the company produced a limited special edition that referenced the legendary story of the striking “men’s pocket watch” from the 1930s. The Anniversary edition (Ref. 5441) adopted not only its uncluttered dial design but also the tradition of the voluminous pocket watch movement. Its size, originally unappreciated, now established a new order of magnitude for wristwatches that was to revolutionize the industry and is highly popular all over the world to this day.

IWC Portugieser Minute Repeater Ref. 5240 (Circa 1995)

In the following years, the Portugieser line continued to feature new and striking complications and scaled the peaks of haute horlogerie. In 1995, for example, the extremely complex Minute Repeater (Ref. 5240) and the Chronograph with Split-Seconds Hand (Ref. 3712) were unveiled.

IWC Portugieser Chronograph Rattrapante Ref. 3712 (Circa 1995)

In the year 2000, the IWC-manufactured 7-day 5000 calibre in the Portugieser Automatic 2000 (Ref. 5000), which had been 5 years in the making, marked a technological quantum leap in the history of automatic movements. Among other things, it incorporated bidirectional Pellaton winding and a balance with a Breguet spring for maximum precision. The limited edition sold out in no time and was the foundation for the lasting success of the Portugieser family.

IWC Portugieser Automatic Ref. 5000 (Circa 2000)

In 2003, the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 5021) with the newly developed calendar mechanism was further proof of IWC innovation at its best.

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar “Double Moon” Ref. 5021 (Circa 2003)

The timepiece combined a perpetual calendar with a perpetual moon phase display and a 7-day power reserve generated by the Pellaton pawl-winding system. The display showing the moon in the northern and southern hemispheres diverges by just 1 day in 577.5 years from the actual phase
of the moon. In 2004, the manufacture introduced the Portugieser Tourbillon Mystère (Ref. 5042).

IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Mystère Ref. 5042

In 2005, the limited Portugieser F. A. Jones (Ref. 5442) with manual winding was launched as a classic memorial to the company’s founder. Its IWC-manufactured 98290 calibre takes some of its design cues from the first F. A. Jones movements, such as the elongated index and the three quarter bridge decorated with Geneva stripes.

A further example of watchmaking extravagance joined the Portugieser complications in 2007: the regulateur with separate hour, minute and seconds displays (Ref. 5444). Featured below is a new reference of same model (Ref. 5446) launched in  2008.

IWC -Portugieser Regulateur Tourbillon Ref. 5446 (2008)

In 2008, a Portugieser Hand-Wound (Ref. 5445) featured in the IWC Vintage Collection. With its railway-track-style chapter ring and arched-edge front glass, the watch bore an uncanny resemblance to the 1939 original but, from a technical point of view, represented the state of the art.

IWC Portugieser Hand-Wound Vintage Ref. 5445 (2008)

In 2010, IWC celebrated another “Portugieser” year with a host of fascinating new products. Leading the way was the flagship of the collection, the Portugieser Grande Complication (Ref. 3774).

The Portugieser Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde (Ref. 5044) combined the magic of a floating tourbillon with the logic of a date hand that reverts to its starting position.

With its numerous stylistic references, the Portugieser Hand-Wound (Ref. 5454) bridges the gap between the original Portugieser and the present. The Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph (Ref. 3902) takes up the tradition of the 1967 Yacht Club Automatic and brings a sporty note to the Portugieser family.

In 2011, the Portugieser line was enriched by the addition of the Portugieser Sidérale Scafusia (Ref. 5041). It is the most exclusive and complicated mechanical watch ever made by IWC. It took the project team at IWC Schaffhausen10 years to develop and build this spectacular masterpiece.

IWC Portugieser Sidérale Scafusia (Ref. 5041)

Complications such as the patented constant-force tourbillon, sidereal time and the times of sunrise and sunset are testimony to the inventiveness of IWC’s watch makers. The individually calculated star chart and the wealth of possible configurations make each timepiece unmistakable and unique in its own right. In 2013, the Portugieser Hand Wound Eight Days (Ref. 5102) with an 8-day power reserve and the Portugieser Chronograph Classic (Ref. 3904) with an in-house chronograph brought the exciting and eventful history of the Portugieser family to a temporary halt.

In 2015, the Portugieser 75 the anniversary collections are launched. This exceptional anniversary collection offers most of the horology complications including Annual Calendar, Perpetual Calendar, Tourbillon, Minute Repeater, Chronograph and Moon phases. Below is a video on the Portugieser 75 the anniversary collection.

The new Portugieser Annual Calendar (Ref. 5035) is IWC’s first annual calendar. The month, date and day are shown in three separate, semicircular windows at “12 o’clock”.  The date switching mechanism is able to take the differing lengths of the individual months into account but not those for the differing numbers of days in February owing to leap years. The newly developed 52850 calibre has twin barrels to supply the additional torque required to advance the three display discs.

IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar (Ref. 5035)

Thanks to the new Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “75th Anniversary” (Ref. 3972), the Portugieser watch family now includes a model featuring a large digital display for the date and month.

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “75th Anniversary” (Ref. 3972)

This exclusive timepiece brings together all IWC’s expertise in its in-house 89801 calibre, which has a perpetual calendar featuring a leap year indicator and quick action switch for the large displays as well as a chronograph with flyback function.

The Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days Edition “75th Anniversary” (Ref. 5102) is right at the heart of the watch family. Its purist design is starkly reminiscent of the original Portugieser (Ref. 325) from the 1930s. But its IWC-manufactured 59215 calibre with an 8-day power reserve is at the leading edge of the industry.

IWC Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days Edition “75th Anniversary” (Ref. 5102)

The most important design change in the new Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph (Ref. 3905) is immediately obvious: the case diameter has been reduced from 45.4 millimetres to 43.5 millimetres. IWC has heeded requests from many potential buyers who expressed a wish for a slightly smaller version of the sportiest model in the Portugieser watch line. The width of the new rubber strap has also been modified to fit the watch’s character: slim and sporty.

IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph (Ref. 3905)

Thanks to its elegant design, moderate case height and eminent suitability for everyday use, the Portugieser Chronograph (Ref. 3714) seems destined to retain its status as the most popular of all the Portugieser watches in this anniversary year.

IWC Portugieser Chronograph (Ref. 3714)

For the new collection, IWC has further improved the technological and design features of the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar with a double moon (Ref. 5034) and the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar with a single moon (Ref. 5033).

Portugieser Perpetual Calendar with a double moon (Ref. 5034)

From 2015, both models will be equipped with IWC-manufactured movements from the new IWC 52000-calibre family, featuring solid red gold rotors and blued screws. The watches will also have arched-edge front glasses and luxurious Santoni straps. For the first time ever, the dial of the double-moon model comes with the railway track-style chapter ring typical of the Portugieser, while the moon phase display sparkles attractively with a panoply of tiny gold and silver stars.

Starting this year, too, the Portugieser Automatic (Ref. 5007) will be powered by an in-house movement from the new 52000-calibre family. The legendary Pellaton winding system has been further improved: the pawls, automatic wheel and rotor bearing are now made of extremely hard, wear-resistant ceramic; and two barrels, rather than just one, build up an impressive 7-day power reserve with a frequency of 4 hertz.

For 2015, IWC is making further modifications to the appearance of the Portugieser Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde (Ref. 5046). The new arched-edge front glass makes the watch appear slimmer. With its exclusive Santoni alligator leather strap and the newly designed in-house 51900 calibre, a timepiece swathed in mystery radiates an even greater attraction.

IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde (Ref. 5046)

Featuring one of the most sophisticated of watch making complications, the Portugieser Minute Repeater (Ref. 5449) continues to fascinate lovers of precision watch mechanics.

IWC Portugieser Minute Repeater (Ref. 5449)

For five years now, the Portugieser Grande Complication (Ref. 3776) has been a union of some of haute horlogerie’s greatest milestones, including the perpetual calendar, perpetual moon phase display and minute repeater.

IWC Portugieser Grande Complication (Ref. 3776)

The dial is now clearer and more composed, while the engraving on the back of the case takes the form of a compass rose. Both the red gold and platinum versions will be available in a limited edition of 250 watches each.

The Portugieser Tourbillon Hand Wound (Ref. 5463) with its filigree “whirlwind” will remain a source of delight to connoisseurs of precision watchmaking.

Five models in the 2015 Portugieser collection feature an arched-edge sapphire glass. It makes the case look slimmer and underscores the
watch’s classic elegance. The strap horn, which closely follows the contours of the case, combined with the slightly curved lugs ensure that the watch fits more comfortably even on a slimmer wrist.

The luxurious alligator leather straps made by Italian shoe manufacturer Santoni are among the best that traditional craftsmanship has to offer. One of the secrets of Santoni’s success is the nuanced shading of the leather. Elaborately finished by hand, every strap comes with an exclusive
patina-like shimmer with its own individual colour tones. To achieve this effect, the surface of the leather is polished with a variety of different pastes until it has the desired shading and a perfect sheen.

New in-house movements
The focus on manufacturing its own movements and pride in its own watchmaking capabilities are nothing new in Schaffhausen. The in-house movements in the new 52000-, 69000- and 42000-calibre families also feature numerous technical improvements which, among other things, make them more accurate. The integration of more ceramic components has made the automatic winding system practically wear-free.

The 52000-calibre family represents the introduction of a new aesthetic to the movements in the Portugieser line. In the calibres of the 52000 family used for the Portugieser premium models, the engraved rotor is made of solid 18-carat red gold and is complemented by blued screws, which is an indispensable characteristic of an exquisite in-house movement for many watch connoisseurs. The decoration with circular graining and Geneva stripes, the interplay of red jewels, blue screws and black ceramic elements with the red gold of the rotor: together they convey an overall impression of quality that is in keeping with an in-house movement of this kind.

Despite the elaborate ornamentation, the movements still look highly technical. IWC Schaffhausen thus remains true to the engineering ethos for which company founder F. A. Jones laid the cornerstone with production methods that were at the cutting edge of the industry in his time. The decoration of watch movements has a long history in Schaffhausen. Even the first F. A. Jones calibres featured engraving and decorative elements. The reason for this lies in the then common practice among American watchmakers of presenting movements openly in their shop window displays. This gave end-customers a chance to familiarize themselves with the complex internal mechanism, even if they never actually saw the movement in the finished watches.

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