IWC Portugieser Chronograph vs IWC Portofino Chronograph
by Owen Davies ; @86imaging | January 15, 2018
In the first Head to Head of 2018, I’m taking a closer look at two chronograph watches from renowned watchmaker IWC. The Portugieser and Portofino chronographs are among most popular models produced by IWC and are two I’ve admired for some time. I’ll be putting both through their paces and deciding on the one I would purchase.
The Portugieser Chronograph - formerly known as the Portuguese - has been a part of the IWC family since 1998 and is arguably the most well-known watch the Schaffhausen company produces.
The most noticeable design feature on the watch is undoubtedly the dial. The modern Arabic numerals coupled with the long sword-shaped hands give the watch a modern look and the recessed sub-dials add contrast without breaking the silver colour of the dial.
Space is often an issue with two register chronograph watches, with some feeling too crowded or cluttered. IWC made the ingenious decision of pushing the minute track outwards and onto a colour coded outer ring, which makes the dial appear much larger than the 40.9mm case size would suggest.
The Portugieser’s case follows the dial design and keeps fuss to a minimum. At 40.9mm wide it’s a great wearable size and the combination of brushed sides and polished edges add a dress-watch style elegance. The deployant buckle looks quite severe, with sharp edges and a large engraved logo, but the black alligator leather strap does a great job of balancing that out.
The Portofino has more of a sportier look when compared to the Portugieser, thanks mainly to the rounded pushers, straight lugs and thicker bezel. The dial seems a little smaller too, despite the larger 42mm case, which is due to the addition of a small seconds dial and the day and date apertures.
The hands on the Portofino have more pronounced curves and thinner tips so not to obstruct the view of the subdials. The baton hour markers also help to keep dial clutter to a minimum, but IWC has made the odd choice of using Roman numerals at twelve and six o'clock and then cutting most of them off with the chronograph dials. It seems like a pointless inclusion and I think slightly thicker baton markers would have worked better in this case.
I like aspects of both watches. The handset and baton markers of the Portofino look great and I’m really impressed how IWC have managed to maintain a sense of space on the dial despite having four complications to display. I don’t like the cut-off roman numerals at twelve and six and I’m not completely sold on the top-hat style chrono pushers.
My winner though has to be the Portugieser. I’ve long been an admirer of the various models in the range and the chronograph is probably my favourite. I love the overall simplicity of the watch, from the modern-looking numerals and signatures to the utilitarian case design. Special mention has to go to the dial, which I think is one of the best looking in the watch industry and does a fantastic job of maximising the available space. My only criticism is the slight cut-off of the 12 and 6 hour markers. It’s pretty much unavoidable due to the size of the chronograph registers, but it’s still a little annoying and takes away from what is otherwise a great looking dial.
The Portugieser Chronograph is powered by a 79350 calibre self-winding movement, which is actually a modified Valjoux 7750 produced by ETA. IWC take this as a base movement and then replace parts with their own to improve performance. The movement is also finished and decorated with IWC signatures, although these can’t be seen due to the solid case back of the Portugieser.
The 79350 contains 31 jewels, beats at a frequency of 28800hz and has a power reserve of 44 hours.
The Portofino Chronograph is powered by a 75320 movement, which much like the 79350, is based on a third party calibre. IWC have modified a Selita SW300-1 chronograph movement (which itself is based on the ETA 7750) in the same way as the Portugieser’s 79350, adding their own parts and decoration.
The 75320 contains 25 jewels, beats at a frequency of 28800hz and has a power reserve of 44 hours.
Seeing as both watches use outsourced movements, albeit modified, I have to call a draw here.
It’s disappointing that IWC has yet to introduce an in-house chronograph calibre for their lower priced watches, particularly when brands such as Tudor and Nomos are doing just that and at a lower price point.
I can understand a relatively new brand not being able to afford the large costs involved in creating and testing an in-house movement, but IWC are one of the most renowned watchmakers in the industry. I’m hoping there’s one just around the corner, as for me it would greatly increase the value and prestige of both watches.
On the wrist I found both watches to be very comfortable. The Portofino is the slightly larger watch on paper and I did notice it when changing between the two. The chronograph pushers are nice and snappy, but I found that due to their design, they make the watch feel that little bit bigger.
Setting the time and date is incredibly easy and can all be done using the crown, which has plenty of grip and very little ‘wobble’. The tang buckle makes the watch very easy to take off, but a little more care needs to be taken when putting the watch on.
The Portugieser was slightly more comfortable for me to wear than the Portofino. I found that the 2mm made a noticeable difference, as did the smaller protrusion of the chronograph pushers. The curve in the case lugs also meant that the watch kept flush to my wrist and the shallower depth allowed it to slip under my shirt cuff easily.
Operating the watch is very straightforward and the pusher response is as snappy as the Portofino. What I would have liked to have seen is the hand setting speed of IWC’s 7-day calibre movements (available in the Portugieser and Pilot’s series) which sweep around the dial at roughly twice the rate when the crown is turned. The Portugieser Chronograph is by no means slow to set, but it would have been the icing on the cake for me.
The deployant clasp is also a good addition and it has a really satisfying snap when fastened. It can be a little stiff to undo at first, but I imagine regular use would relax it slightly.
I found both watches very comfortable and easy to use, but my winner here is the Portugieser which I’m mainly putting down to the case design. I found it just edged the Portofino in the comfort stakes and the deployant clasp meant I could put it on and take it off very quickly.
With two wins out of three, the Portugieser is my winner in this head to head. I absolutely love the design of both the case and dial and coupled with excellent wearability, it makes for a brilliant everyday watch. It’ does a great job of bridging the formal/casual gap and I think it’s perfect for when something like a Submariner or Seamaster feels little too casual for an occasion.
The Portofino is equally suitable for such situations, but I didn’t like the design and wearability quite as much. One thing that can be said for both watches though, is that they would greatly benefit from an in-house IWC movement. Make it happen IWC, you know it makes sense!