January 2, 2016
by James Stacey
What is it about the appeal of a classic monopusher chronograph? We are looking at possibly one of the most fitting answers to that question: with the reference 5151 IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph, IWC has checked all the boxes with a beautiful dressy chronograph, backed by an impressive movement in a watch fitting of the Portofino name.
In the metal, this 45mm-wide IWC Portofino is large, but far from brash or blingy. Available in either 18k white or red gold, the white gold model has a slate colored dial with a brushed surface treatment, while the red gold has a silvery white dial. As we will see throughout our hands-on look here, the IWC Portofino family walks a line between classic and modern, blurring the edges of dressy and casual in a way that often seems effortless.
While the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher is indeed large, when you flip it over and view the movement through the display case back, you get a better sense of why the case is just so… generously sized. Like the stretched hood of a V12 E-Type, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph houses IWC’s rather handsome and entirely massive calibre 59360. The 59360 is a hand-wound movement with time, date, a power reserve indication, and a 60-minute chronograph that is activated, stopped, and reset via a single button embedded in the crown. Ticking at 4Hz with a power reserve of 192 hours (8 days), the chronograph mechanism is modular and features a column wheel.
Not always the case with modular calibers (as, unlike here, the modules are often installed on the dial side of the movement), with the IWC Portofino, we are given the chance to scrutinize how the chronograph function’s parts have been installed on IWC’s powerful 59000 base caliber that supplies enough go-juice for eight full days. The large but sufficiently sized and shaped plates that secure most additional wheels of the chronograph cover only about 1/4th of the movement, leaving plenty of room to explore the base caliber underneath and see the substantially sized column wheel in operation after every press on the pusher.
Despite its modular architecture, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph is only 13mm thick, making it no more cumbersome on wrist than most simple sport watches. The movement is treated to a lovely finish that accents its open design and lack of a winding rotor. With an index-less balance and Breguet spring, the 59360 features vertical striping and beveled edges on the main plates.
The dial design is delicate and direct, using a successful mix of classic and more modern elements (like the red accents on the sub dials and power reserve). Legibility is strong and the view of the dial is preserved with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal. The markers are applied and catch the light with a glimmer that is nicely matched by the tone and color of the precious metal case options.
On wrist, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher feels like a power move. It’s large but classic and the more complicated layout of the dial is belied by the simple lines of the case, which is wide but features minimal lugs. The thin bezel further enlarges the overpowering visual effect of the wide dial, while the clean lines and non-cluttered layout save the IWC Portofino from being too much, aesthetically.
Naturally, the mono-pusher chronograph movement omits the double-pushers commonly seen on other stopwatches, as now the single pusher for the chronograph has been integrated into the already rather large crown. Consequently, the crown-pusher piece protrudes considerably from the already massive case and hence yes, from time to time, the crown and the pusher will dig into the skin on your wrist. Still, the end result is a very classic, effortlessly dressy – and perhaps a bit nerdy. Kudos to IWC for a classic design that doesn’t directly mimic the aesthetic of a vintage model.
Finished with a matching – and indeed genuinely beautifully crafted – alligator strap from Santoni and a matched 18k gold tang buckle, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph retails for $25,400 for the red gold and $27,100 for the white gold with the slate dial. Large and in charge, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph combines IWC’s considerable mechanical knowhow with their take on a modern yet classically inspired dress chronograph. iwc.com