An Old Acquaintance: Reviewing the IWC Portugieser Chronograph


IWC has added several new models to the Portugieser family. One of them is the iconic chronograph. We tested this watch, our good old friend, which now boasts a trendy green dial and is equipped with a manufacture caliber.

The Portugieser is one of IWC’s oldest and most prestigious product lines, with a dial that has hardly changed over 80 years. “That’s why we approached the project of designing the new collection very carefully and with tremendous respect for history,” Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC, and Creative Director Christian Knoop explained.

The Portugieser’s Handsome Dial Remains Nearly Unchanged
The impressive result puts every doubt to rest. Glancing at the attractive face of the Portugieser Chronograph, you instantly recognize a cherished old acquaintance, although the dial of our test watch is now a trendy green, and plays with the light. Another version comes with a burgundy dial. There’s also a boutique edition with an elegant blue dial and a rose-gold case.

The very distinctive, clear and functional dial is 38 mm in diameter and has recessed counters at 6 and 12, slim feuille hands and applied Arabic numerals. These features have so strongly influenced the Portugieser chronograph that even in the new version, no designer dared to replace the partly cut-away numerals 6 and 12 with arguably “simpler” index strokes. Comparing this latest update to the last fine tuning about 10 years ago, we find that the calibrations on the counters with inward-facing numerals, the lettering, and the slender quarter-second scale on the flange have all remained unchanged. As a whole, the latest version of this timeless watch retains its own character and remains loyal to its origins as a time-measuring instrument — not least because of the finely calibrated elapsed-seconds scale. With three intervening strokes between each pair of full-second lines, its markings correctly match the 4-Hz rhythm of a modified version of a movement from IWC’s recent 69000 caliber family.

The green dial of the new Portugieser chronograph plays with the light. The new model retains it iconic appearance — the numerals, hands and even the contours of the case have all remained nearly unchanged.

IWC’s Favorite, at Last with a Manufacture Caliber
Designated as number 69355, this caliber is the essential new feature in the latest Portugieser chronograph. As one of the most popular items in IWC’s portfolio, now it’s finally equipped with a manufacture caliber. This was not yet the situation a decade ago, when the still-young Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph was given a manufacture movement from the 89000 caliber series, which was introduced in 2007. The 69000 caliber family, which made its debut 10 years later, underwent four years of further development and was encased for the first time in the Ingenieur Chronograph in 2017.

With the newly designed 69000 caliber series, IWC is gradually replacing chronograph movements based on the ETA/Valjoux 7750 and at the same time offering a less costly alternative to the 89000 series of manufacture calibers. Our test watch comes with a $7,950 price tag. The least costly variant of the new Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph with Caliber 89361 sells for $12,100. Paying the additional charge also gets you a flyback function and a longer power reserve of 68 hours. The power reserve of Caliber 69355, on the other hand, is rather short by contemporary standards, at 46 hours, and this caliber relies on an index to adjust its hairspring’s active length — a simpler method of finely adjusting the rate than the eccentric screws on the rim of Caliber 89361’s balance in the Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph.

Otherwise, chronograph Caliber 69355 similarly offers a sturdy and precise column wheel to control the stopwatch functions, a rocking pinion to couple the chronograph with the flow of force from the gear train and a modern bidirectional effective self-winding mechanism. This automatic winding, however, is not the Pellaton mechanism (named after the former IWC engineer) that’s installed in the calibers of the 89000 series, but a modern development from the Richemont Group.

Under a sapphire crystal, the movement appears to its best advantage. Four screws affix the back to the case of this elegant chronograph, which is water resistant to 30 meters.

The Movement’s Rate Upholds the Promise of Quality
The positioning of the subdial for the continually running seconds at the 6 is unusual because most chronographs put this indicator at the 9. While other modifications of Caliber 69000 have a counter for 12 elapsed hours at the 9, it’s absent from the Portugieser chronograph, as is the date across the dial at the 3. With reference to this watch’s history and to further enhance the harmony of its design, this newest Portugieser only has a 30-minute counter at the 12 and no luminous material on its numerals, indexes or hands.

Turning the timepiece over and peering through its back, where four screws affix the sapphire crystal, you can discover numerous details typical of IWC’s caliber construction, e.g., circular patterns in Geneva-stripes style, satin finishes, circular graining and a skeletonized rotor engraved with the words “Probus Scafusia.” Our test confirmed that the automatic movement upholds this promise of quality. It ran extremely well and achieved well-balanced rate values. Its performance on the wrist was similar to the rate measured by our timing machine when the watch was fully wound. Timekeeping in chronograph mode is likewise impeccable, with an average daily deviation of about 1 second.

Chronograph Caliber 69355 with column wheel control has typical IWC features with circular Geneva waves and a skeletonized rotor. In this version, there is neither an hour counter nor a date. It performed extremely well in our test.

The Portugieser Chronograph Reflects Timelessness and Modernity
The stopwatch functions are controlled by pressing mushroom-shaped push-pieces. The pressure points here are secure and the buttons run smoothly to reliably trigger the column wheel. The knurled crown is user friendly and can easily be pulled outward into the hand-setting position. These components complement the classic Portugieser case, which reveals its conical contours when viewed from the side. The narrow, polished bezel extends beyond the middle part of the case, thus providing plenty of space for the dial. The screwed back tapers toward the sapphire crystal with a concave edge curve. The case’s laterally satin-finished middle section slopes very strongly downward to the strap lugs. All this, together with the high-quality alligator leather strap and its convenient butterfly folding clasp makes it comfortable to wear on the wrist.

A quick look at the wrist immediately offers a pleasant surprise because our “good old friend” now indulges in a lively play of colors. Viewed through its domed and anti-reflective sapphire crystal, the dial doesn’t appear green from every angle, but changes its appearance from dark green to nearly black, which endows this classic watch with understated elegance. Whether by coincidence or on purpose, in this way too the Portugieser chronograph embodies the timeless modernity for which IWC is known and appreciated.

SPECS:
Manufacturer: IWC Schaffausen, Baumgartenstrasse 15, 8200 Schaffausen, Switzerland
Reference number: IW371615
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph (central elapsed- seconds hand, counter for up to 30 elapsed minutes)
Movement: IWC 69355 based on caliber family 69000, automatic, 28,800 vph, 27 jewels, Glucydur balance, Nivarox hair-spring, Etachron fine adjustment via bi-partite index, Incabloc shock absorption, 46-hour power reserve, diameter = 30.0 mm, height = 7.90 mm
Case: Stainless steel with domed sapphire crystal above dial anti-reflectively treated on both sides, sapphire crystal in caseback, water resistant to 30 meters
Strap and cla­­sp: Black alligator leather strap with double folding clasp
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours, fully wound/after 24 hours:
On the wrist +1.6
Dial up +3.1 / +1.4
Dial down +2.5 / +0.0
Crown up -0.5 / -3.5
Crown down +4.1 / +4.4
Crown left -0.3 / -0.8
Greatest deviation 4.6 / 7.9
Average deviation +1.8 / +0.3
Average amplitude:
Flat positions 321° / 292°
Hanging positions 296° / 267°
Dimensions: Diameter = 40.95 mm, height = 13.08 mm, weight = 90.0 g
Variations: With burgundy dial (Ref. IWC371616; $7,950); Boutique Edition with rose-gold case, blue dial and blue strap (Ref. IW371614; $17,800)
Price: $7,950

4 Responses to “An Old Acquaintance: Reviewing the IWC Portugieser Chronograph”

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  1. Peter Norman

    Brilliant watch and hard to evaluate. I have a 2001 version, unworn and in a wooden box. It is a limited edition split second model and not worth a lot as with many high end watches. As with most IWCs hard to better and very underrated.

    Reply
  2. Love this watch! From the first time I saw it in the metal, I wanted it. I have the blue dial 150th anniversary version which I just adore.

    Reply
  3. Humberto Pacheco

    My son got one 20 years ago and is still very happy with this wonderful timepiece. Within my vast collection I have various IWC, including a priceless D’Avinci, and hold the marque in very high esteem.

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