IWC launched the Portugieser Yacht Club 10 years ago into the sporty yet elegant world of sailing. For 2020, the nautical chronograph model has a classic look and a steel bracelet upgrade. We give it a thorough review in this feature from our January-February 2021 issue.
The new IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph is a watch you can wear with confidence anywhere at the marina. A first glance shows that the third generation of the sportiest Portugieser model, our test watch, is designed to be both a nautical timepiece and a luxury accessory. The first impression is confirmed upon closer inspection of its polished and satin-finish case, sunburst blue dial and brightly polished hands. Every component is flawlessly finished and worthy to be part of the supremely elegant Portugieser collection.
For the first time in its 10-year history, this Portugieser Yacht Club boasts a steel bracelet rather than a rubber or leather strap — a sturdy but elegant IWC steel bracelet with brushed outer links and polished inner links. Shortening the bracelet involves simply pressing a button on the back of each row of sturdy links to remove it. Unlike simpler bracelet designs, using screws or hammering is not needed.
Inside the safety folding clasp, there is also a quick extension piece that quickly and easily lengthens the bracelet by up to 7 mm. Pressing the polished “IWC” button on the outer bar of the clasp extends the bracelet in seven increments — without ever removing the watch from your wrist. Two safety buttons round out the sturdy and well-designed folding clasp.
In addition to the bracelet, the dial has also been updated. The central chronograph hand is now steel-gray instead of red, and the date window has been shifted from the 3 o’clock position to the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. Both changes enhance the elegance of the Yacht Club and were well received by our editorial staff.
The elegant impression is diminished, however, by the enlargement of the already considerable stainless-steel case from 43.5 mm to 44.6 mm. Our editorial staff admitted that no one among them had a wrist to match its substantial dimensions.
Even so, the large, heavy watch is quite comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically shaped sloping lugs and a supple steel bracelet. Unfortunately, the flexibility and adjustability of the IWC’s bracelet results in relatively large gaps between the links, which can catch and pull hair.
Components taken from earlier generations of the Yacht Club include the sturdy and powerful in-house movement, Caliber 89361, with many excellent features like a 68-hour power reserve; a traditional column-wheel control mechanism; the brand’s own exceptionally efficient Pellaton dual-pawl winding system; a free-sprung, temperature-resistant Glucydur balance wheel; and a flyback function for the direct restarting of the running chronograph. It can also show off beautiful decorative finishes, gold-enhanced engraving and a gold IWC medallion on the skeletonized oscillating rotor. Another feature of the in-house movement is the combined 12-hour and 60-minute counter in the upper half of the dial, which is intended to show elapsed time intuitively, as on a clock. The combined counter is too small for everyday use, however, and its markings are too fine to read elapsed time to the minute quickly and easily. The chronograph seconds track around the dial is also extremely fine, and the central chronograph seconds hand is insufficiently long to fully reach it. In sum, it’s a mixed bag, with clearly legible time and date, and elapsed time that is much more difficult to read.
Our rate test revealed more about the Swiss movement. The electronic timing machine showed a negligibly small daily rate of +0.8 seconds, a maximum deviation between the positions of only 4 seconds and almost the same values when the chronograph is engaged. A two-week wearing test confirmed the small daily deviation with values between zero and +2 seconds — making our test watch a reliable partner for everyday use.
In addition to the movement, another feature of the Yacht Club that hasn’t changed arouses mixed feelings — the pressure resistance of six bar that corresponds to water pressure at a depth of 60 meters. Although this may sound like a lot at first, the water resistance as it is tested under laboratory conditions is rather low for a nautical luxury sports watch linked to the world of sailing. Coming in contact with spray or waves means a watch should be resistant to at least 10 bar or 100 meters to ensure a certain degree of security in a variety of different environments. And even though this still isn’t a lot, it is the current standard for any water sports watch not explicitly designed for diving.
Advice for boat owners is simply this: it’s better to wear this watch in the evening, below deck, or to dinner at the marina, and either take it easy onboard during the day or rely on a sports watch that is clearly defined as such. The new Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph is well equipped for normal everyday wear and light sports activities — and is the perfect gentleman sailor for social events on or below deck.
Manufacturer: IWC Schaffhausen, Baumgartenstrasse 15, 8201 Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Reference number: IW390701
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, flyback chronograph with combined 60-minute and 12-hour counter, date
Movement: In-house Caliber 89361, automatic, 28,800 vph, 38 jewels, hack mechanism, quick date adjustment, Incabloc shock absorber, column wheel, fine regulator with screw weights, Glucydur balance, 68-hour power reserve, diameter = 30 mm, height = 7.5 mm
Case: Stainless steel, domed sapphire crystal with anti-glare coating on both sides, screw-down crown, threaded caseback with sapphire crystal viewing window, water resistant to 60 m
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless-steel bracelet with safety folding clasp and quick extension
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours, with chronograph switched off/on):
Dial up 0 / +1
Dial down +3 / +2
Crown up -1 / -2
Crown down +2 / +2
Crown left +2 / +3
Crown right -1 / -3
Greatest deviation 4 / 6
Average deviation +0.8 / +0.5
Flat positions 287° / 273°
Hanging positions 257° / 236°
Dimensions: Diameter = 44.6 mm, height = 14.3 mm, weight = 170 grams
Variations: With silver dial (Ref. IW390702, $13,100); with stainless-steel and rose-gold case and bracelet (Ref. IW390703, $19,900)
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): Very attractive, highly functional stainless-steel bracelet with safety folding clasp and quick extension. Large gaps between links. 9
Operation (5): Generously sized, smoothly operating pushers are easier to use than the screw-down crown. The large crown is easy to turn but needs some force to pull out. The chronograph has a flyback function for direct restart of an ongoing timing sequence. 4
Case (10): The case is beautifully finished but is rather simple and water resistant to only 60 meters. 8
Design (15): Attractive combination of sportiness and elegance. The superior quality of every component is easily apparent. 14
Legibility (5): The time and date are both easy to read, but elapsed time presents more difficulty. Bright luminous material. 4
Wearing comfort (10): The heavy watch lies comfortably on the wrist, but the metal bracelet catches fine wrist hair. 7
Movement (20): The in-house caliber stands out with its column wheel, Glucydur balance, fine regulation, extended power reserve, efficient dual-pawl winding mechanism and attractive decorations. 17
Rate results (10): The watch can boast absolute reliability with an average daily gain of 0.8 seconds and a maximum deviation between the positions of 4 seconds. Individual values are similar even when the chronograph is engaged. 9
Overall value (15): IWC has created a luxury chronograph at a high price, but it has a lot to offer. 11
Total: 83 POINTS