As a brand associated with pilot’s watches and the much-loved Portugieser, IWC‘s stylish yet understated unisex Portofino family is often overlooked. By the look of things, though, IWC is addressing this somewhat neglected collection by introducing new, more complicated models, including a pointer date, a complete calendar and a chronograph. Unveiled at the end of last year, the Portofino was fitted with IWC’s perpetual calendar module developed by former head watchmaker Kurt Klaus. Housed in a compact 40mm stainless steel case (there is also a gold edition), the brand has hit a soft spot with the more restrained diameter, which is currently the smallest perpetual calendar in the brand’s collections.
Launched in 1984, the Portofino’s clean, classical looks have earned the collection the much sought-after distinction of timelessness. The minimalist round case design of the Portofino can trace its lineage to the 1970s when IWC made a pocket watch based on a large Lépine movement. Measuring 40mm across with a height of 12.7mm, the polished stainless steel case of the new Portofino Perpetual Calendar is discreet with a certain understated 1950s charm. Pictured here on Brice’s 16.5cm wrist, the watch delivers complexity in a handsome, compact case. Admittedly, it’s not the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar or the smallest, but it wears exceptionally well.
KURT KLAUS & HIS INNOVATIVE QP MODULE
In the early 1980s, IWC’s head watchmaker Kurt Klaus set out to translate the many irregularities of the Gregorian calendar into a mechanical programme for a wristwatch. In line with IWC’s pragmatic approach to engineering, his innovative perpetual calendar contained very few parts, and all its displays could be adjusted via the crown. Making its debut in the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar of 1985, the model displayed the date, day, month, year in four digits and the moon phase. Unlike other perpetual calendars that required each display to be set separately, Klaus’s ingenious movement relied on the date mechanism as a source of power to activate an entire gear chain and advance all the displays at once. Built with just 81 parts – a small number for a QP – the module offers a high degree of autonomy. Capable of recognising the different lengths of months and leap years, the smart mechanical programme will only need an adjustment in centurial years that skip the leap year: 2100, 2200 and 2300. The solid gold moon phase display is so precise that it deviates from the actual phase of the Moon by just one day after 577.5 years.
pristine Silver dial
Although it shares the same movement and layout as the larger Portugieser 42mm, the Portofino’s thin bezel, coupled with the sapphire crystal’s arched edge, opens the dial up substantially.
Conforming to the recent facelift, the smooth silver-plated dial features the elongated applied Roman numeral XII and classic indices (rhodium-plated) coupled with elegant leaf-shaped hands. Purity is a word that is often used to describe the Portofino, and the copious information pertaining to the perpetual calendar functions is elegantly and amenably arranged in three circular sub-dials. The pointer date at 3, the months and moon phases at 6, and the day of the week and the small round leap year indicator at 9 o’clock all have a refined snailed band printed with the pertinent information and small blued leaf-shaped hands, matching the hour and minute hands. Thanks to a special reduction gear train, the moon phase is so precise that it will only deviate by one day from the orbit of Earth’s satellite after 577.5 years.
The lack of luminous elements compounds the overall sobriety of the dial. However, two ‘fun’ touches enliven the dial represented by the 60-minute marker and Sunday picked out in red.
The caseback offers a view of the robust automatic calibre with Kurt Klaus’s perpetual calendar module. Calibre 82650, with its skeletonised rotor and “Provbus Scafusia” medallion in solid gold, is fitted with the highly efficient Pellaton automatic winding system. The movement has components made of zirconium oxide ceramic – pawls, cam and automatic wheel – that are virtually wear-free; it oscillates at 28,800vph and has a power reserve of 60 hours. Finishings include touches of circular graining on the plates and Geneva stripes on the bridges.
Availability & Price
The IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar stainless steel reference IW344601 is delivered with a casual blue calfskin strap and butterfly clasp. It is now available from the brand’s online and physical boutiques, as well as retailers. The retail price is EUR 26,100 – more information at IWC.com.