Despite the latest technical breakthroughs in forging new materials, creating new in-house movement designs, or manufacturing rugged watches for “ingenieurs,” the general appeal of simple and refined dress watches is something no luxury brand can ignore. In recent years, IWC has been busy restyling its Portuguese Chronograph (review here) and Aquatimer (debut article here) collections, and now, it appears, the time has come to offer something “pure and classical.” So pure and classical, that IWC decided to add these phrases to the name of its new-for-2015 dress watch: the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Pure Classic (reference IW511101 in red gold and IW511102 in steel).
The dress watch is not dead: among fierce competition between luxury brands to create the latest, greatest, most complicated and most resistant (to whatever impact the wearer himself/herself could never possibly survive), there actually still is a massive market for restrained and classical looking timepieces. Clearly, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Pure Classic intends to get a large slice of the high-end, classical dress watch market – although, as we will see, there is some hypocrisy involved.
A highly restrained, silver-plated dial, elegantly curved, gold or rhodium-plated hands, just a pair of Roman numeral indices, and a minimalistic minute track on the periphery with one of the most uninteresting font designs for Arabic numerals the world has ever seen. No three-dimensionality, no date or decorative pattern, not even a running a seconds – it just can’t get much simpler than this without sacrificing legibility. And it just can’t get much better for those (myself included), who appreciate this kind of simplicity.
What may render this simplistic design a watch lover’s wet dream is what is hidden behind that plain dial: it is the in-house made 59060 movement that runs at 4 Hertz and yet offers 8 days (192 hours) of power reserve. The movement is huge; it fills most of the case back with its two large and uniquely shaped bridges and two small cocks that secure the escape and balance wheels. Although concealed by the largest bridge, the massive mainspring barrel is still easily noticeable at the top half of the movement – it takes a long and thick spring to hold energy that lasts 8 days with a balance wheel running at 28,800 vibrations per hour (a slower balance wheel consumes less energy allowing for longer power reserve).
The icing on the cake – beyond the tasteful decoration on all plates – is the power reserve indicator that is located on the case back side – a nice touch, especially on a watch with such extensive autonomy. Although in a different configuration – with date and sub-seconds – we have seen this base movement in the Portuguese Hand-Wound Eight Days (article here).
Judging from the official images, the watch appears to be rather proportionate, especially with the movement filling up the caseback so nicely. The design is not giving away one of the more important aspects of the new Portofino, something that will likely keep some blue-blooded purists away from paying up for either one of the steel or the red gold versions: the case is a hefty 43.5 millimeter wide and 12 millimeter thick. That definitely is on the larger side when it comes to dress watch sizes preferred by many, and it will put this new release off the map for those who think a dress watch has to be around 40 millimeters wide at most.
The consolation is of course the in-house movement and its 8 days worth of power reserve, and this movement would clearly be impossible to cram into a 38 millimeter wide case, as chances are that it just simply would not fit. In essence, is the new Portofino pure? Oh yes, it very much is. Is it Classic? Perhaps not so much – but only because of the more modern size. Regardless of the comparison to traditionally sized dress watches, we are looking forward to seeing the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Pure Classic hands-on at SIHH in mid-January to get a personal feel of how this larger size works “in the metal.” Price for the version in steel (Reference IW511102) is $10,400, while the red gold model (Reference IW511101) is $19,900. iwc.com