It’s a big year for the Portugieser over at IWC, the iconic watch that was launched in 1939 and has become a perennial favourite among watch lovers. Along with the unprecedented Portugieser Automatic 40, there were two new Portugieser Automatic 42 models; one in steel and one Boutique Edition in 5N gold with a blue dial. Recently, we were lucky enough to have the Boutique Edition IW500713 for our hands-on session and here’s what we found.
Not only in boutiques
I have to admit that when I saw the ‘Boutique Edition’ suffix I figured that this rose gold model was a boutique-exclusive-limited-production deal. Well, I was wrong. Boutique Editions refer to models that combine rose gold cases and blue dials and are not limited in production. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to trek out to an IWC Boutique to buy this particular model. You can view it online and then order it over the phone. I tested the procedure online and in seconds an assistant popped up, answered my questions and then offered to have it delivered to my address following a phone call confirmation.
Background Portugieser automatic 42
The Portugieser is one of the oldest collections at IWC created at the behest of two Portuguese businessmen who wanted the precision of a marine chronometer in a wristwatch format. In 1939, the 43mm Portugieser wristwatch (the iconic ref. 325) was born, its large dimensions for the day attesting to the fact that it was equipped with a hand-wound pocket watch movement, calibre 74. Its clean, simple, legible design has withstood the test of time and is the salient feature of this family today. Following a period of scant supply, the IWC Portugieser made a grand return in 1995.
The large diameter and wide dial opening are key elements of the Portugieser’s design.
The Portugieser Automatic 42mm joined the Portugieser family in 2000 and was known as the Portuguese 2000. Its distinguishing features, the small seconds at 9 o’clock and the power reserve at 3 o’clock and its formidable dimensions pointed to the incorporation of IWC’s landmark calibre 5000. Designed to mark the change of the millennium, calibre 5000 was a formidable 38.2mm movement composed of 286 parts and IWC’s first automatic movement with an impressive 7-day power reserve. In 2015, calibre 5000 was replaced with calibre 52010, the same one used today in the Portugieser 42mm family.
Pocket watch dimensions
Larger than the Portugieser Chronograph (41mm) but smaller than the original 1939 model (43mm) and roughly the same size as the new Perpetual Calendar, the Portugieser Automatic has a diameter of 42.3mm and a height of 14.1mm. It is a large watch, no doubt about it, but it captures the essence of the Portugieser to perfection. Frank’s 18cm wrist was used for the photographs and it looks great on a larger wrist. The finishes on the 18k 5N gold case include brushed casebands and polished top surfaces. Thanks to the relatively thin bezel, the dial is the star of the show.
The combination of pink gold and blue dial is simply striking and works great in the Portugieser context.
The intense blue dial is captivating and recalls the colour of the deepest parts of the ocean – a maritime association IWC likes since it taps into the history of the first Portugieser. The sunray pattern on the dial emanates from the centre and gives the dial a lovely sheen. All the hallmark traits of the Portugieser have reported for duty: the railway track chapter ring on the periphery and on the small seconds counter; the elegant applied Arabic numerals; the slim feuille hands; and the clean, amenable layout of the elements. To match the luxurious rose gold case, the numerals are made from 18k gold and the hands are gold-plated.
The horizontal layout of the two sub-dials – small seconds at 9 and power reserve at 3 o’clock – creates a pleasing balance. There is nothing jarring or superfluous, even the date window at 6 o’clock is artfully integrated with a background matching the dial colour.
Calibre 52000 and Co.
When the calibre 5000 was replaced with the calibre 52000 family in 2015, many fans of the brand wondered what could possibly be improved on the famous 7-day automatic movement. Basically, the robust power reserve on the new generation 52000 calibres was spread across two barrels instead of just one, for a better distribution of the torque. The Pellaton bidirectional winding system was improved and the winding pawls and automatic wheel were made from ultra-resilient, virtually friction-free zirconium oxide ceramic. Other changes included an increased frequency from 2.5Hz to 4Hz combined with a Breguet spring and a reduction in the size of the balance wheel. On the aesthetic front, the rotor was partially skeletonised, as were the bridges, to improve the view. The overall finishes were also upgraded with bevelled edges on the bridges, Geneva stripes, perlage etc.
Powered by calibre 52010, the reverse side of this Portugieser Automatic 42 offers a generous view of the automatic movement. Thanks to the dimensions of the watch and the movement (38.20mm) the view is extremely satisfying. The large rotor features an 18k gold medallion and although the decorations are more than sufficient, don’t expect Haute Horlogerie flourishes here. After all, the founder of IWC – the American F.A. Jones – was a pioneer in incorporating modern production methods used in the American watch industry resulting in an industrial approach that enabled higher volume and more cost-efficient production.
Balanced, elegant and large are adjectives that go hand in hand with the Portugieser collection so there is no point bemoaning the dimensions: they are as much a feature of the Portugieser as its clean, legible dials. The combination of rose gold and navy blue is very smart, a bit like the uniform of a commissioned naval officer with the navy blue jacket and gold brocade. It’s the kind of watch that will get noticed for all the right reasons.
As a Boutique Edition, you might have expected an increase in price. Well, the Boutique Edition costs exactly the same as the regular gold Automatic 42. Fair enough, it is more expensive than the smaller Automatic 40 model, but you are getting a formidable 168-hour/7-day power reserve over the 60 hours of the 40mm model.
Strap and price
The IWC Portugieser Automatic 42 Boutique Edition IW500713 comes with a handsome blue alligator strap made by Santoni. The price of this handsome gold and blue dial version of the iconic Portugieser is EUR 23,100 (incl. taxes and shipping).
For more information, please consult iwc.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.