If there’s one watch that can be called a classic at IWC, it has to be the Portugieser Chronograph. One of the earliest models to be launched after the rebirth of the range, it succeeded the Portugieser Rattrapante with a simpler movement but almost identical design. And since its launch in 1998, with the exception of minimal design evolutions and a new movement, it hasn’t changed a bit – and for the best. Recently, however, IWC presented a new duo of Portugieser watches with Panda blue dials. And now that we’ve managed to see it in the metal, I can tell you that there’s a lot to love in what appeared at first as a negligible upgrade.
Let’s start with a brief historical reminder. The original IWC Portugieser was born in the 1930s, following the request of two Portuguese merchants (named Rodrigues and Teixeira), who wanted the precision of IWC’s deck clocks in wristwatch format for sailing. But that’s not what really matters here. The other significant moment in the life of this emblematic watch occurred during the late 1990s. First, the brand (under the guidance of Günter Blümlein) released the all-important reference 3712, with a doppelchronograph movement created by Richard Habring. In 1998, three years after the introduction of the Chronograph Rattrapante, IWC launched a classic automatic chronograph edition, the reference IW3714. The design was identical; only the movement changed.
The beauty of the Portugieser Chronograph lies in its timeless nautical look, with sleek lines and the minimal bezel surrounding an oversized dial. It’s clean, simple, and casual, with just the right dose of elegance. A watch that has changed in decades and that still looks superb. The only evolution that can be reported throughout its life occurred in 2020 when IWC launched the reference IW3716. Design-wise, almost nothing changed. Mechanically, it was time for a new proprietary movement with various upgrades.
As for the steel version of the IWC Portugieser Chronograph, four main models have long been available: the all-time classic silver dial with golden accents; the nautical-inspired silver dial with blue accents; a black dial with rhodium-plated accents; and a blue dial with rhodium-plated accents. If I am honest, I’ve always thought that the silver/blue edition was not only the most relevant in this nautical context but also the best-looking of them all. I’m slightly biased since I own the IW3714 with this dial myself… And there wasn’t a single edition to change my mind, up until this summer, and the launch of a new model, still with a light-coloured dial and blue accents… However, some small updates to the dial colours and finishing, as well as a new strap, undoubtedly brought a fresh look.
Known as the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Blue Panda edition, this watch seems, at first sight, to just introduce a new colour on the sub-dials. Wrong… There’s more to it. I know I’m getting slightly enthusiastic here, and objectively there are not that many differences to report, but I have such affection for the Portugieser Chronograph that it does matter to me.
The basics for this new Portugieser Chronograph Blue Panda are the same as all previous editions of the IWC Portugieser Chronograph 3716. The case is steel, brushed and polished, 41mm in diameter with a 13mm height, and a design that is familiar to most watch enthusiasts – the Portugieser is a watch that most watch nerds know about. This means a classic central case topped by an inverted conical bezel and large pump chronograph pushers. It’s neat and sleek and makes for a very compelling watch. The only complaint could be its limited 30m water-resistance.
Inside the case, the story is the same. We have the calibre 69355 launched in this model in 2020, an automatic integrated chronograph with a column wheel that marks a strong evolution over the 7750 architecture. Produced by Richemont’s movement maker ValFleurier, it beats at 4Hz and stores 46 hours of power reserve. The decoration through the sapphire caseback is pleasant, with circular stripes and perlage.
What has changed with the new reference IW371620 is mostly the dial. And it’s actually very different from the classic editions. As a reminder, the standard model has a matte, slightly grained galvanised dial with a silvery-white metallic feel and matching sub-counters. Here, IWC treats us with a panda blue colour scheme, with blue-toned sub counters. But that’s not all; the dial has a new glossy white (and not silver) finish. It has a very appealing vitreous effect, which makes the numerals, minute track and printings almost float over the dial. The two-tone effect also adds depth and animation to what usually is a rather austere watch.
The other evolution is the strap. Instead of a formal (too formal, if you ask me) alligator leather strap, IWC here provides a textured blue rubber strap with curved ends that hug the case. Not only does this add a much more casual feel to the watch, which is perfectly in line with the nautical theme of the collection, but it makes it more coherent design-wise altogether.
Overall, I know we’re talking about minimal updates… But sometimes, small changes can make a huge difference, and in the case of this IWC Portugieser Chronograph Blue Panda IW371620, this new dial and strap combo is, in my books, marks the best edition of this emblematic watch to date. The model is now available and priced at EUR 8,950 (the same price as other steel editions). For more details, please visit iwc.com.
Photos were provided by our regular contributor Santiago Tejedor from horasyminutos.com.