March 3, 2018
by Ariel Adams
At SIHH 2018 IWC released five different watch collections in celebration of the Schaffhausen-based company’s 150th anniversary. Each of these collections is a limited edition and designated by the Edition “150 Years” moniker. While most of the Edition 150 Years IWC watches are decidedly super-high-end such as timepieces with a tourbillon, a few pieces such as this iteration of the Portugieser Chronograph are for “everyday luxury watch lovers.” I also happen to think that these are particularly handsome IWC Portugieser watches with a nice mixture of technical competency, wearing comfort, value, and design. This is our hands-on look at the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Edition ‘150 Years’ watches.
In my opinion only one of these two new IWC Portugieser Chronograph Edition “150 Years” watches is really worth talking about as a compelling purchase option. Each is limited to 2,000 pieces, but it is the white-dialed reference IW371602 variant that excites me. The other version is the IWC Portugieser Chronograph reference IW371601 with a lacquered blue dial. Aesthetically this version of the Portugieser is very pretty, but it is marred by ineffective hands. Notice how on the blue dial the beautiful white hour markers are easy to read because of the high contrast? IWC didn’t follow suit with the hands, which are needle-thin (per Portugieser-style design) and polished. This means they blur in with the dial and cause legibility issues which do not flatter the full potential of the timeless Portugieser dial design. If only IWC had painted the hands in white to match the hour markers… perhaps for a future variant of the Portugieser Chronograph? We can hope right?
Having said all that, the white lacquer-dialed IWC Portugieser Chronograph Edition 150 Years watch is so nice we at aBlogtoWatch put it in our list of the top 10 watches of SIHH 2018 (here). In the past watches such as this had sourced movements but today the wonderfully-proportioned 41mm wide version of the Portugieser can be had with an in-house IWC caliber 69355 automatic chronograph movement (more on that below). The IW371602 features a polished steel case and slightly glossy black alligator strap which looks just fantastic in a high-end, timeless, and conservative style. I’ve long said that the Portugieser Chronograph is a staple “timeless, non-offensive” luxury dress watch for people seeking to maximum fashionable versatility and value. In short, a watch like this will simply never feel out of place in a well-rounded timepiece collection.
No, I’ve never been at all upset with the ETA-based versions of the IWC Portugieser, but at these prices having an in-house movement simply feels a lot more appropriate. There is also the attractive visual experience of turning the IWC Portugieser Chronograph case over and looking at the movement which fills most of the caseback. The caliber 69355 automatic movement is produced from 194 parts with a bidirectional automatic winding system and an attractive level of finishing. The chronograph is limited to 30 minutes, making for the clean, vertical arrangement of the sub-dials on the face of the watch. IWC further designed the chronograph with a column-wheel transmission system and the watch operates at 4Hz (28,800bph) with 46 hours of power reserve.
Let me be clear that the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Edition 150 Years watches mark the first time that a 69000 caliber family (here the 69355) movement is in this size Portugieser case. In the past Portugieser Chronographs with in-house movements had larger and beefier cases, which made the Portugieser a bit more sporty than a lot of people wanted it to be. This likely means that future (non-limited edition) Portugieser Chronograph models will be equipped with the 69355 movement – but for now fans of these watches are limited to these two limited edition models for 2018.
As I said above, the IWC Portugieser Chronograph case here is 41mm wide and just 13.1mm thick. The iconic Portugieser-style case looks as good as ever, and the case is water-resistant to 30m. In my opinion the dial design is exactly what someone should be looking for in a Portugieser timepiece. The stark white dial with black hour markers evokes the ship deck-style clock that the Portugieser design was originally inspired by. The hands are blued-steel and offer sublime contrast and a hint of color, which flatters pretty much any watch dial rather nicely.
IWC has absolutely no shortage of Portugieser Chronograph models to choose from if you are in the market for one. The model that you as a consumer will ultimately choose is a mixture of price, availability, and style. With watches like this I always recommend going with a lighter-colored dial as it will feature the core Portugieser design best. I will also remind IWC that I miss it when these watches were just called the Portuguese and not Portugieser. IWC made that nomenclature change a little while ago – and I’m still not sure why. In any event, consumers fresh to the collection should be aware that with many retailers and watch enthusiasts, when it comes to IWC, “Portuguese” and “Portugieser” are terms that can more or less be used interchangeably.
Collectors in search of novelty value and the allure of a more exclusive product in the form of a limited edition should be delighted by these new for 2018 limited edition IWC Portugieser Chronograph Edition 150 watches. Again, the two models are the reference IW371601 in blue (which I am less hot on), and the reference IW371602 that I really adore. Each is limited to 2,000 pieces and has a retail price of $7,150 USD. iwc.com