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The IWC Portuguese (now Portugieser) is an icon of watchmaking well ahead of its time.
Introduced in the 1930s, it was designed to deliver marine chronometer precision with the elegance of a pocket watch. The result is a timelessly elegant design with an imposing size. Railway-track style chapter rings, Arabic numerals, and slim feuille hands also became hallmarks of the design.
Today, the original, clearly organized dial remains an icon among watches, even with the addition of multiple functions and features. In fact, the IWC Portuguese collection is home to many technical tours de force – from minute repeaters and tourbillons, to the manufacture’s most complex watch – the Sidérale Scafusia.
Explore our selection of IWC Portuguese watches for men and women at SwissWatchExpo.com.
The IWC Portuguese collection traces its beginnings back to the 1930s. Due to the devastating effects of the Great Depression, IWC turned its focus to Portugal, a less saturated European market. Two businessmen, Rodrigues and Antonio Teixeira, approached IWC about creating a large wristwatch with the timekeeping precisions of a marine chronometer. To achieve this, IWC had to make use of a pocket watch movement.
This resulted in the first ever Portuguese watch (or Portugieser in German) with a diameter case of 43mm – huge by that era’s standards, whose average case size was 33mm.
Over the next few decades, IWC continued to produce these oversized watches using pocket watch movements, and with the same design hallmarks: Arabic numerals, thin bezels that make the watches look larger, leaf-shaped (or feuilles de sauge) hands, and a large seconds subdial at 6 o’clock.
The IWC Portuguese headed to a slow decline, until the 1990s when talks to revive it began. Kurt Klaus, the legendary IWC watchmaker responsible for many of their iconic complications, saw a reference 325 on a customer. This gave them the idea to start making the Portuguese again.
In time for the 125th anniversary of the manufacture, the IWC Portuguese was reintroduced, this time in a collection inspired by the ref 325. The opening salvo was a limited edition that closely matched the original design, aptly called the “Jubilee”.
New models followed in the following years:
In 2015, the IWC Portuguese collection was renamed in time for its 75th anniversary, and given a newly designed Caliber 52000 movement. Now known as the Portugieser, it remains an icon in the watch world and continues to set technical and aesthetic standards for large timepieces.
Today’s IWC Portuguese retains its imposing size and harmonious dial, even with the addition of complex features. The range now includes time-only models to haute horlogerie pieces such as retrograde tourbillons and astronomical displays.
Here are the sub-collections available in the IWC Portuguese family of watches:
IWC PORTUGUESE AUTOMATIC
One of the simplest Portuguese designs, its dial features two subdials (a small seconds at 9 o'clock and a power reserve indicator at 3) in addition to the date and time. A date aperture at 6 o’clock was added in 2015. Despite its simple looks, it offers an impressive 7-day power reserve thanks to its twin barrels. It is also equipped with IWC’s famous Pellaton winding system, which uses pawls rather than direct gearing between the rotor and barrel, which minimizes shocks.
Case size: 40 and 42.3
Material: Stainless steel or rose gold
IWC PORTUGUESE CHRONOGRAPH
The most successful design among IWC Portuguese watches, introduced in 1998. It combines the timelessly elegant design of a dress watch with the sporty features of a chronograph. Vertical subdials provide a clean and balanced look, while raised Arabic numerals and the signature feuille (leaf-shaped) hands add refinement. Current versions are powered by the 69355 Calibre with 46 hours of power reserve.
Case size: 41mm
Material: Stainless steel or rose gold, with option of steel bracelet or leather strap
IWC PORTUGIESER YACHT CLUB
The sportiest of all IWC Portuguese watches. The nautical-inspired watch combines the elegance of the Portugieser with rugged details such as a filigree bezel and flat case ring, rhodium-plated hands and appliqués, and rubber straps. The Caliber 89361 with flyback function displays the stopped times at 12 o’clock and offers a 68-hour power reserve.
Case size: 44.6mm
Material: Stainless steel or rose gold; with limited editions
IWC PORTUGIESER ANNUAL CALENDAR
This annual calendar (which requires adjustment only once a year at the end of February) displays the month, day, and date in three apertures on the dial at 12 o’clock, resulting in a harmonious look and easier read. Powered by the IWC-manufactured 52850 caliber, it also offers an impressive 7-day power reserve on top of all those features.
Case size: 44.2mm
Material: Stainless steel or rose gold; with options between leather and mesh bracelets
IWC PORTUGIESER PERPETUAL CALENDAR
This perpetual calendar (which accounts for leap years and only requires adjustment every 577.5 years) went a step further by adding a year display, and a moon phase display that accounts for both northern and southern hemispheres. The day, date, month, year in four digits, and moonphase are all harmoniously arranged using 4 subdials at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. Powered by the 52610 Caliber, it also offers a 7-day power reserve.
Case size: 42.4 and 44.2mm
Material: Stainless steel and 18k rose gold
IWC PORTUGIESER TOURBILLON
The IWC Portuguese collection is home to three iterations of the tourbillon complication, with the first two models limited to 50 pieces.
Case size: 42.4 (hand wound), 43.5 (retrograde chronograph) and 44.2 (mystere retrograde)
Material: Platinum and 18k rose gold
IWC GRAND COMPLICATION
Comprised of 659 individual components, this watch brings together a total of 20 functions through multiple complications including: a perpetual calendar, perpetual moon phase display, chronograph, and minute repeater. Powered by the 79091 Caliber with 44 hours power reserve.
Case size: 45mm
Material: Platinum and 18k rose gold
IWC SIDERALE SCAFUSIA
The most complex watch in IWC’s catalog, the Sidèrale Scafusia combines solar time with sidereal time, together with astronomical displays, in a single timepiece. Among its features are a perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset times, constant-force tourbillon, 96-hour power reserve display, sideral time display, and a rotating night-sky disc that shows more than 500 stars and constellations.
Case size: 46mm
IWC models are assigned reference numbers to document their sale and manufacture. Modern IWC models have alphanumeric reference numbers that start with the letters IW, followed by six numbers – the first four tells us their watch family and complications, while the next two tells us the material used for the watch.
Here are IWC Portuguese reference numbers as of 2022:
|IWC Portugieser Chronograph
|Stainless steel or 18k rose gold, 41mm
|IWC Portugieser Automatic 40
|Stainless steel or 18k rose gold, 40mm
|IWC Portugieser Automatic
|Stainless steel or 18k rose gold, 42.3mm
|IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph
|Stainless steel or steel-18k rose gold, 44.6mm
|IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide
|18k rose gold, 44.6mm
|IWC Portugieser Hand Wound Monopusher Laureus Sport for Good
|Stainless steel, 46mm
|IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
|Stainless steel or steel-18k rose gold, 44.2mm
|IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42
|Stainless steel or steel-18k rose gold, 42.4mm
|IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar
|Platinum, 18 white gold, or 18k rose gold, 44.2mm
|IWC Portugieser Minute Repeater
|18k rose gold, 44.2mm
|IWC Portugieser Hand Wound Tourbillon
|18k rose gold, 42.4mm
|IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph
|Platinum or 18k rose gold, 43.5mm
|IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Mystere Retrograde
|Platinum or 18k rose gold, 44.2mm
|IWC Portugieser Grande Complication
|Platinum or 18k rose gold, 45mm
|IWC Portugieser Siderale Scafusia
The IWC Portuguese is a symbol of refinement, while incorporating oversized cases and technical tour de force. Here are the most common questions about the IWC Portuguese.
The IWC Portuguese is a collection of round watches characterized by imposing size, railway-track style chapter rings, and clean, organized dials. The design is based on oversized wrist watches developed by IWC in the 1930s for two Portuguese merchants, hence the collection’s name.
Today’s collection houses a wide range of complications – from chronographs to tourbillons and astronomical instruments – while retaining the simple design that it has been known for.
IWC Portuguese watches have a water resistance of up to 3 bar (30 meters). With this depth rating, the watch can be worn during light swimming or skiing.
An exception to this is the IWC Portuguese Yacht Club, which has 6 bar water resistance.
However, we should note that a watch’s water-resistance is not permanent. Its sealing systems may wear and tear depending on its age and usage. Periodic maintenance and service is recommended to keep your watch’s accuracy and water resistance.
IWC recommends a complete service every five years. However, this is general advice, and varies depending on how your watch is stored and used. A full service entails disassembling the watch, rigorous testing of the timekeeping accuracy and waterproofing, replacement of parts as needed, and polishing.
There may be signs that your watch already needs maintenance even before the 5-year period. Here are some Signs It’s Time for Watch Maintenance.