A few years ago, when I was still in banking, I noticed that IWC became the new Rolex for many colleagues. Where the Rolex Submariners, Datejusts, Day-Dates and – of course – Daytonas were part of the appearance of many colleagues for many years, there was a clear shift going on to IWC watches. My explanation for this would be that IWC changed its direction a bit from being a manufacturer of tool watches to being the manufacturer of watches for a wide(r) audience. Understandable. At that time I also decided to buy an IWC; an Ingenieur ref. 3227-01. Based on the heritage of a pure tool watch, but with the finish and elegance of a modern wearable mechanical timepiece.
A watch I wore a lot and I loved the finish on the case and bracelet as well as the in-house caliber 80110 movement. However, at some point I did a trade-up for another watch and had to let a couple of watches go, including this IWC Ingenieur. Up to this day, there are two IWC collections that I really prefer over all others; the Ingenieur and the Portugieser. The Ingenieur for the reasons mentioned above, and the Portugieser mainly for its aesthetics. What is not to like about the design of the IWC Portugieser?
75th Anniversary of the Portugieser
This year, IWC celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Portugieser watch. A name that wasn’t used before 1993 though, when IWC resurrected the Portugieser collection. You have to know, that back in the day, a lot of brands (including IWC) only used a reference number to indicate a particular watch. Using collection and model names is something that wasn’t very common in the first half of the 20th century. The IWC Portugieser goes back to 1940, when two importers from Lisbon, Portugal, requested a large pocket watch sized wristwatch for their clients.
IWC created such a watch, with a very unusual 41,5mm diameter for that time, when the average mens watch had a diameter between 30 and 35 mmm. The reason for the Portuguese business men to request a wristwatch with a large diameter was that pocket watches had a better accuracy due to the larger movement, and thus larger balance. IWC used their hunter style pocket watches caliber 74 and 98 for this new project to ensure accuracy for the wristwatch. The first “Portugieser” watch was actually referred to as ‘325’ and was in production from 1939 till 1981 in different sub versions. The first version came with the mentioned caliber 74 movement (in production till 1951) and not long after its introduction, in 1944, there was a second version with caliber 98. This 325-2 reference was in production till 1971. A third version of the 325, was in production from 1977 till 1980 and was referred to as the “German edition” and IWC only produced 57 of those. In total, IWC made 690 reference 325 watches.
IWC did a wonderful on-line book on the Portugieser collection that consists of 164 pages that is well-worth reading. You can read it here.
The IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar Ref. 5035
As I’ve wrote before, IWC resurrected the Portugieser watch in 1993. It was actually Kurt Klaus that proposed the relaunch of the Portugieser watch after he discovered an original 1940s piece on the wrist of a colleague. Then CEO of IWC, the legendary Günter Blümlein (also one of the few people involved in the resurrection of the A. Lange & Söhne manufacture) decided to give it a go and in 1993, IWC introduced a watch called “Portugieser” that shows a huge resemblance with the reference 325. From then on, IWC made the Portugieser to a separate collection and made a number of variations. The masses will probably know the Portugieser Chronograph (ref. 3714) best, using the appearance of the classic Portugieser timepiece with a Valjoux 7750 based chronograph movement inside. Another well-known Portugieser is the “Automatic 7-Days” (ref. 5007).
However today, we are looking at the IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar Ref. 3035. A piece that was introduced during the SIHH last January. To be brutally honest, I wasn’t very enthusiastic when I laid my eyes on it for the first time when I was in Geneva. The apertures for the day, date and month were very “present” and turning the watch up side down, it looked like the watch was smiling at you. However, in the flesh that was something that I quickly forgot about again. The watch looks beautiful on the wrist and I think it is nice to have all functions at hand (in one view) when it concerns an annual calendar. I also recently had the Moser & Cie Endeavor Perpetual Calendar for a review in my possession and it only shows the date and has an arrow for the month indicator. A pity in my opinion. Same for the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Annual Calendar that I reviewed a while ago, that doesn’t show the month.
The dial of the IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
The dial of the reference 3035 that I have here has a nice dark blue tone and a “sonnenschliff” (sun burst) finish. The two sub dials look familiar and have the same functionality as the ones on the Portugieser Automatic 7-Days ref. 5007. The main difference on first sight between the classic 5007 and this 5035 are the three apertures on the upper half of the dial. Of course, the date aperture on the 5007 was located at 6 o’clock and that became obsolete with the three annual calendar apertures on the 5035. The IWC logo moved from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock instead. The beautiful applied Roman numerals stayed, as well as the very sleek leaf shaped hands. The art of finish and aesthetics is something IWC masters, especially with the Portugieser collection there seems to be so much focus on these aspects.
However, there is one thing that is a bit disturbing to me. The way the month, date and day (in that order) are indicated on the dial. I never write down a date like that, August 9 Sunday (see image above). I’d say Sunday 9th of August. Of course, it is clear what is being meant, no discussion or confusion possible, but I’d rather see it in a different order.
IWC Calibre 52850
The price tag of €21.700,- Euro for a stainless steel watch is a hefty upgrade from the Portugieser Automatic 7-Days (€12.900,- Euro). However, this can be explained due to the additional Annual Calendar complication of course. Inside IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar ref. 5035 is calibre 52850. It features the IWC patented Pellaton self-winding system and has a power reserve of 7-days. At 9 o’clock there is a small seconds indicator (hacking) and on 3 o’clock there is a power reserve indicator. The annual calendar indicates, as written above, the day, date and month. The movement has an indexless balance (Glucydur beryllium alloy) with high-precision adjustment screws on the balance rim. The big rotor has an 18 carat gold medallion.
In rose gold, the IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar 5035 has a list price of €32.000,- Euro. The Portugieser Perpetual Calendar ref. 5034 is available starting at €37.900,- Euro. Besides correctly changing from February to March without interference and a year indicator, the Perpetual Calendar also indicates the Moon phases. The Perpetual Calendar is only available in gold (perhaps with the exception of a stainless steel boutique special like they did for a Paris boutique a few years ago) so the step from €32.000,- Euro to €37.900,- Euro is something that gives food for thought as well.
The huge pocket watch sized calibre 52850 movement is a feast for the eyes and despite the big rotor, everything is easy to observe. It almost appears that the movement diameter doesn’t differ much from the case size (44.2mm).
As expected, the 5035 has a lot of wrist presence. The 44.2mm diameter case in shiny polished stainless steel is unmistakably IWC and immediately draws the attention of other watch fans. It is surely a talking piece among enthusiasts. The alligator leather strap is of topnotch quality and the folding clasp makes it easy to adjust it for the correct wrist size. Officially, I’d say the Portugieser is a dress watch, including the chronograph watches (perhaps even including the Yacht-Club models). However, since I left the banking industry a couple of years ago – and especially during summer – the days I am in business attire are very scarce. Shirt and jeans and during summer days, a polo and jeans. The IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar 5035 (but I guess any Portugieser) will do fine with that as well. For sports or more active events I won’t suggest to wear a piece like this, but mainly because of the leather strap. The watch is probably up to it, but it would hurt too much to see the beautifully finished case getting scratched.
The setting of the calendar is being done with the crown. In its first position, you can correct the calendar. However, you can also advance the date with the time setting in position 2 of course. Setting the correct date on the IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar is very easy, but always needs to be done with care. Once you advance a day too far, you can’t turn it back. You can only advance. It is not a Perpetual Calendar, so if a mistake is made in terms of multiple days or even months, you can just start over again. With a Perpetual Calendar, that is more problematic as it is programmed till a certain year.
Anyway, setting the time and date on this reference 5035 is easy and you are quickly done and ready to go. I noticed that this watch is an easy timepiece to go with and to grab for daily wear. Do I need an annual calendar? Of course not, but I can imagine that for many people the (almost) monthly correction of the date can be an annoying thing. Not sure if that alone justifies the price tag on this watch for that group of people, but a mechanical complication is always awesome to have on your watch and an annual (or perpetual) calendar is one of those functions that is useful.
There is little to criticize about this IWC Portugieser, except for the specific order of the three calendar apertures. It is an awesome looking watch and this would actually be the one I would go for. There is another stainless steel 5035 version, with a silver-plated dial, but this one just speaks to me more.
More information can be found on the IWC website.