August 27, 2015
by David Bredan
With the new IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph, “IWC presents its first-ever model with an ingenious single push-button chronograph” for Watches & Wonders 2015 (essentially SIHH for Asia, taking place in Hong Kong this Fall). The timing of this debut, perhaps not without a hint of irony, is fortunate, as it comes shortly after we have discussed at length this particular complication in our recent “Why Monopusher Chronographs Are Primitive & A Brief History Of The Chronograph Watch Complication” feature article. With all that’s been said there, but no prejudices on our mind, let’s see how this latest addition to the IWC Portofino line is new.
Available in two colorways – in 18k white gold with a dark, metallic brown dial and in 18k red gold with a silver plated dial – the new IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph features IWC’s in-house made 59360 caliber. At 45 millimeters wide, IWC once again went for what probably is the largest diameter that could possibly work for such a historical and indeed more dressy-looking piece like the Portofino. The thin and short lugs are barely noticeable next to the steroid-infused round case and its thin bezel; the width of the strap, thinness of the lugs and expansive dial are all part of a daring game with proportions – striking the right balance between a larger case size and the limiting factor of defining design elements (such as the smaller and delicate-looking lugs of the Portofino) is not always easy.
There is one good justification for this gargantuan size for an otherwise more refined and less “dernier cri” collection: an in-house movement that packs 8 days of power reserve. The 59360 is the latest iteration of the brand’s cleverly designed 59000 base 8-day caliber, now featuring a monopusher chronograph complication – IWC did debut a unique piece Portofino earlier this year with this movement inside for the Tribeca Film Festival.
Running at a modern 4 Hertz frequency and offering 8 days’ worth of power reserve requires a massive and powerful mainspring and mainspring barrel which, in turn, require quite a bit of real estate. Hence, the 59360 is a large movement that fills up the 45mm-wide case beautifully – and because that is a rare sight even today, about a decade after the advent of in-house calibers, IWC’s engineers and designers do deserve to be praised for creating such a genuinely modern caliber family.
Thanks to the architecture of the base movement, some indications on the dial are at the exact same location as on some other, previously debuted Portofino pieces. In this instance, the date is still at the 3 o’clock position, running seconds is at six, and the power reserve is at 8, while the chronograph seconds indication has been installed in the center and the 60-minute counter is at 12. The chronograph, unsurprisingly, can be operated by pressing the push-button set into the center of the crown – this will cycle the column wheel that is cleverly and fully exposed on the case back side, starting, stopping, and resetting the stopwatch.
The result is a relatively clean look once we consider the number of functions and indications on the front – albeit, this is further enforced by the apparent lack of any texturing on the silver dial and the subtle sunburst finishing on the slate colored version. It is only the power reserve indicator’s arch that saves the piece from perfect symmetry. On some other iterations of this base caliber, we have seen the power reserve dial moved to the case back side, and while that arguably would have been possible with the 59360 as well, this little and highly useful feature is now used to make the front appear that bit more complicated – and, arguably, compelling.
The IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph is a natural extension to the collection, following date and big-date versions based on the same caliber. The chronograph adds to the complexity of the piece – both technically and aesthetically – while the monopusher layout, in this rare instance, applies the evergreen rule of “less is more,” allowing the perfectly round Portofino case to remain visually intact and – save for the contemporary size – timeless. Price for the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher Chronograph (ref. IW515103) in white gold is $27,100, and in red gold (ref. IW515104), the price is $25,400. iwc.com