A decade after its maiden voyage, the third-generation Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph (Ref. 3907) sails into port. The novelties are a larger case size, the relocation of the date window, some fine-tuning on the dial and a new metal bracelet. Still ticking to the tune of in-house automatic calibre 89361 with a flyback function and a unique chronograph display using one dial to indicate elapsed hours and minutes, the IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph comes in three iterations. The sportiest of the Portugieser family, the latest revamp of the Yacht Club has notched up the dress factor of the watch considerably. Just ahead of the official Watches & Wonders digital launch, we were able to spend some time with these three models.
Brief History of the Yacht Club
The Yacht Club, as we know it today, made its debut in 2010. However, there was a 1967 Yacht Club antecedent. This first Yacht Club (Ref. 811) was a three-hand and date model with an extremely robust shock-absorption system and marketed as a sporty alternative to the Ingenieur. Ten years later, in the midst of the quartz crisis, designer Gerald Genta turned his hand to the Yacht Club II and fitted it with an octagonal bezel. Only a few thousand mechanical pieces were produced converting them into a coveted collector’s item.
Revived in 2010, the Yacht Club became a part of the Portugieser family and was endowed with a sophisticated flyback chronograph movement based on the first manufacture chronograph movement (83960) to be developed in its entirety in Schaffhausen in 2007. As a flyback chronograph, you can stop, reset and start the chrono functions with one button – designed to record consecutive events without having to sacrifice valuable seconds. The particularity of this flyback chronograph was the display: instead of two individual counters for the elapsed hours and minutes, these were housed in one single sub-dial at 12 o’clock reserving the second sub-dial at 6 o’clock for the running seconds.
Although the Portugieser line is not populated by sports watches, the incorporation of the Yacht Club made sense; if you recall, the first 1939 Portugieser was, in fact, a downsized nautical marine chronometer made at the behest of two Portuguese businessmen who wanted the precision of a marine chronometer in wristwatch format.
As a sports watch with a nautical theme, the 2010 Yacht Club came with 60m water-resistance and crown protectors along with pushers shaped like bollards. The watch also sported luminous hands and markers. However, as a member of the elite Portugieser family, it displayed hallmark traits like the large 45.4mm round case, the railroad minutes track, the elegant leaf-shaped hands and the applied Arabic numerals.
3Rd-Gen IWC Portugieser Yacht Club
Over the past ten years, the case size of the Yacht Club has fluctuated. Starting with a case size of 45.4mm in 2010, it was then whittled down to 43.5mm and now, in 2020, appears with a diameter of 44.6mm and a height of 14.4mm. It’s worth remembering that the original Portugieser was an extremely large watch in its day and the collection has always flaunted large watches in keeping with the spirit of its venerable 1939 ancestor.
The models we had for our hands-on session are the two-tone steel and gold model and the steel model with a blue dial or with a white dial with blue accents. The rounded rose gold bezel and the plain steel bezel are polished, a decorative motif that is echoed on the rounded and polished ingot-shaped central links on the steel bracelet. A novelty for 2020, the bracelet is exceptionally well crafted and supple on the wrist displaying contrasting matte brushed links and the raised and polished central link. The other steel elements on the case, the lugs, the pushers and the crown guards are also polished to contrast with the matte finish on the bracelet.
Subtle changes on the dial
The dial has also undergone some subtle changes, no doubt aided by the increase in size of this 2020 edition. The deep-set dial still features the quarter-second scale on the flange for measurements of shorter intervals indicated by the central chronograph hand, but you’ll notice how the sub-dial at 12 o’clock for the combined hours and minutes of the chronograph has more space around it and no longer ‘hits’ the double markers above. Another big change is the relocation of the date window from 3 o’clock to its new home inside the small seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock, a much neater solution. The inscription IWC Schaffhausen has switched from left to right and the words Yacht Club that were formerly inside the small seconds counter are now inscribed on the dial to the right of the 9 o’clock marker.
One thing that strikes us an unusual, however, is the substitution of the central red chronograph hand for a hand to match the material of the hour and minute hands, in the case of these two models, gold-plated for the two-tone and rhodium-plated for the blue dial model. It is more difficult to consult elapsed times now – although there is a red hand on the dial that corresponds to the small seconds. As with all Portugieser watches, the Arabic numerals are applied. Depending on the model, in gold or rhodium-plated. The hands are classic leaf-shaped with a streak of lume down the centre to match the luminescence of the blocks placed on the railway minute track to highlight the hours.
The overall effect is one of balance and harmony, less sporty, perhaps even dressier for some than its predecessor.
The heart of the chronograph is IWC’s 89361 manufacture calibre with a flyback function at 12 o’clock displaying the measured hours and minutes (co-axial). There is also a date display at 6 o’clock. It beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4Hz) with a sizeable 68-hour power reserve. This in-house automatic has 38 jewels and is a workhorse for IWC, powering many of its chronographs of the last decade.
Bracelet and Price
As mentioned, the bracelet is a novelty this year for the IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph and all three models are equipped with this ergonomic bracelet, with a micro-adjusting system. The price of the two-tone steel and 18k rose gold model (Ref. IW390703) is CHF 20,500 or EUR 19,300 and the steel models (Ref. IW390701 and IW390702) are priced at CHF 13,500 or EUR 12,700. More information at iwc.com.