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Watches - Feature Article

The IWC Yacht Club: Most Underappreciated Modern Steel Sports Watch?

It’s a big statement. I know. But bear with me. Through a journey of history and design storytelling, I am going to do my best to convince you that this sub sect of a well know Family from IWC might well just be the one watch you won’t want to overlook. So, let’s dive into the background of the yacht Club (sorry, I had to). 

It was in 1967 IWC introduced its first diving watch and also another model (available in gold), the Yacht Club, reference 811AD. After the initial success of the Yacht Club, in 1976 the line evolved into a series of “Club” watches.

The secret sauce of the original Yacht Club was its straight-forward dial featuring indices, it used IWC’s famous calibre 8541 automatic movement and also had special shock absorbers inside its case. The case, while modest by current standards was 36mm in diameter, had a distinctive characteristic: broad flared lugs. Creating a special curve with its case shape.

But more than having a distinctive design, the Yacht Club also developed a special niche. Like its name, the model represented an exclusive club, for those sportsmen who sailed into adventure on yachts, it is even said that Yacht Club was IWC’s best-selling model in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

While these early references were discontinued, it was in January 2010 at the Geneva watch show, SIHH that we saw the new look variation on the classic: The Yacht Club Chronograph, reference IW3902. This was elegance meets sports utility personified.

Now it is also important to note, there are some key adaptations between this Yacht Club and the standard Portugieser which make it more suitable for aquatic excursions. While the started Portugieser is suitable for 3 bar of exposure, this Yacht Club is good at 6 bar (approximately 60 meters). It may not be a divers watch per se– but it’s good to go between the bar, the boat and the beach in the Caribbean that’s for sure!

This was is classically inspired, from the “foy” hands seem on the original Portuguese, to the large Arabic numerals to the high legibility and the train track which runs on the perimeter of the dial. The sporty touches come from the red chrono hand and the touch on the sub dial at 12 oclock.

The 3902-10 we have in stock right now boats an in-house calibre 89360, it is self-winding, and the bi-directional rotor was developed in the late 1940’s by Albert Pellaton. It has been implemented at IWC since and remains a leader industry wide when it comes to accuracy and serviceability. It has 60 hours of power reserve and let’s not forget you have the hacking seconds feature, which allows you to set the watch accurately to the second.

ALBERT PELLATON. Image Source: Monochrome Watches.
ALBERT PELLATON. Image Source: Monochrome Watches.

But for me, this watch is about versatility (and its drop-dead gorgeous looks!)– we’ve seen the rise of the rubber strap in the Aquanaut the Offshore and many others. And that is why folks, I think this Portugieser Yacht Club family has been somewhat left in the darkness by the market. Those top spec, steel sports watches on rubber strap are spectacular, but so is this guy. It has to be one of the best-looking watches on the market, with its striking black dial and cream perimeter are wonderfully shaped steel case. The 3902-10 we currently have in stock has a 45.4mm steel case, it’s in excellent condition and comes as a full set. While it may not have been on your radar as that “go anywhere” sports watch – I hope it might be now.

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