The IWC Portugieser has, in many ways, been the daddy of modern perpetual-calendar wristwatches. The three variants of the new IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42 bring sizes, prices, and visual complexity down for 2020, now allowing for a lower point of entry into the world of Portugieser Perpetual Calendars at $22,000.
Let’s cut to the chase and start nerding out. Whereas the first Portugieser Perpetual Calendar reference 5021 of 2003 measured 44mm and had a fair number of additional indications, such as four-digit year and power reserve displays, the new 42mm-wide variant does away with those by integrating the Kurt Klaus-style perpetual calendar complication into an 82000 series caliber for the very first time. For the record, a perpetual calendar is a big deal in a mechanical watch because it enables the watch to correctly differentiate between months of different lengths and advance indications to the 1st of the next month, accordingly. A perpetual calendar is the be-all and end-all of refined calendar mechanisms, as these even take the odd 29-day February of leap years into account.
The streamlined dial layout stands out immediately. In the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42, the displays for the date, month, and day of the week are distributed over three sub-dials at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. The perpetual moon phase display is integrated into the month display at 6 o’clock and is engineered to be so accurate that it deviates from the actual orbit of the moon by one full day only after 577.5 years. Last, an indicator in the weekday display at 9 o’clock counts the years until the next leap year. For an added touch of refinement, the IWC Caliber 82650 advances the calendar module with a single impulse during the night, advancing all indications simultaneously — a touch seen exclusively in the more refined perpetual-calendar watches of the world.
Being an 82000-series caliber, we also see the Pellaton self-winding system on show with components crafted from zirconium oxide ceramic to prevent wear on these hard-used parts. Power reserve is 60 hours, a step back from the seven-day go-juice of its larger alternative, but still more than the industry standard of two days. Not having to constantly reset a stopped movement is a treat on every perpetual calendar watch, even on one’s like the Portugieser where adjusting indications conveniently happens only through the crown. That 60-hour reserve is combined with a modern 4 Hertz operating frequency; this could’ve been lowered to increase the power reserve but, personally, I’ll take a more robust frequency over a half-day extension of power reserve any time.
The Portugieser 42 retains the core stylistic elements of the collection. Wide, arched lugs and a slimmer (though still quite tall) bezel all continue to add masculinity to the design, with the finishing touch of manly accessories being the Santoni leather straps — definitely some of the best-looking straps in the business. The prototypes have shown some cracks in the top surfaces of the leather, which was odd, but I’ll chalk that up to these not being customer pieces.
Criticisms? Getting watch sizes exactly right is tricky business, especially on watches that have garnered their cult following by being bold and bulky — which the Portugieser has been since day one. And, for this brand, “Day 1” happened some 80 years ago, when a hunter pocket watch caliber was turned into a wristwatch for two businessmen from Portugal. And so the world has had plenty of time to get to love the IWC Portugieser as a manly and chunky watch.
That said, I can’t help but feel that this release could, and perhaps should, have been a little smaller still. All that excess space around the movement and especially on the dial next to the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock subdials perfectly outlines just how much narrower it could have become, making the gap between this and the 44mm four-subdial version more distinguishable. More importantly, in the metal this still has the impression of a big honking watch, whereas I reckon it could have done extremely well as a 40mm-wide in-house alternative that is a bit more elegant and a bit more proportionate. The shift from large watches to small and more elegant ones has been expediting, and it’s good to see that IWC won’t be missing out on the trend. And, I should add, it’s also good to remember that the Portugieser 42 still has a bit of space to work with should the brand consider it ready for a yet more compact version.
A stunning looking 82000-series movement, a much-loved Portugieser case, and a noticeably down-scaled dial should render the new IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42 a worthy addition to the family.
Pricing for the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42 starts with reference IW344203 at $22,000 in a steel case, whereas the solid 5N gold cased reference IW344202 costs $33,000. The blue over solid 5N gold IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42 Boutique Edition reference IW344205 is also priced at $33,000. You can browse all the new IWC Portugieser watches on the brand’s website.