The IWC Portuguese is arguably the most famous of IWC’s product lines. As part of the so called 3Ps (Pilot, Portuguese and Portofino) the line is right at the heart of IWC and it has a history that can be traced back to 1939.
In the early 1930s, every swiss watch company was feeling the effects of the great depression. Exports were down and companies had to find customers to buy their watches in order to stay afloat. In 1939, two Portuguese importers requested that IWC made watches that used high precision pocket watch movements of the time in a large wristwatch form. This was the birth of the IWC Portuguese product line.
It should be noted that since its inception, the Portuguese was intended to be a big watch, much in a similar way to the Pilot line. As someone with averaged sized wrists and prefers to wear smaller watches, the line tends to feel big on my wrists, but I can appreciate the design language at play here.
Over the last eight decades, the collection has remained coherent regardless of the complications or slight changes in design. It’s safe to say that if you pass someone in the street wearing a Portuguese, you recognise it as a Portuguese and not another watch. Full credit to IWC here for developing watches that respect the heritage of large watches and including more complications and new innovations.
Now to the watch at hand. The IWC Portuguese Chronograph Automatic with gold markers and hands. It is potentially the most iconic IWC Portuguese. With its large clean dial, my initial prejudice was that it would wear larger than 41mm and feel flashy (two things I am not fond of). I was wrong though, it wears surprisingly well with its downwards curved lugs and the mix of brushed and polished surfaces onm the case make it appear less gaudy than I initially thought it would.
The design of the watch as a whole certainly seemed to attract the attention of my peers. In an age where fashion brands dominate with younger audiences, I was surprised to be complimented a number of times by friends who don’t have a strong interest in watches that they liked the look of this watch. This was likely be due to the uncluttered dial containing only the information that you need. It’s certainly not minimalist as one might describe the fashion brands, but it is minimal which is why I think friends took interest.
So what about the downsides? You might think from what I have previously written that I have a disliking for the size, however I doesn’t bother me. As with a Big Pilot, for example, if you wear that watch, you appreciate that it is big. Very few people can comfortably waer a Big Pilot but many appreciate the design and history so they own them. In a similar sort of argument, I think that the Portugese Chronograph is purposely large and by appreciating the history it has to be large.
A bigger gripe I have with the watch is the legibility. While it does have anti reflective coating, in bright conditions it can be difficult to distinguish between the dial and gold numerals. The blue also feels out of place on this watch, even though the chronograph hands are blue. I feel that it causes the watch to lose some of its elegance.
Both of these issues are silver with the Portugeuse Chronograph with blue hands and numerals. The darker colour for numerals and hands makes the watch more legible against a white dial and the blue anti reflective coating matches well with the slightly more sporty feeling of the watch.
All considered, it is a watch that surprised me. I had this preconception that it wouldn’t be for me, but I found myself wearing it more often than any other watch in my collection. The watch is elegant and it is IWC through and through.
by Owen Lawton
Owen studies Materials Science at Oxford. He enjoys sharing thoughts on the social meaning and emotional connections to materials, linking this to the watch industry and his passion for watches.