Quick Look: IWC Portugieser Chronograph Edition “150 Years”

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In a Small surprising announcement, especially so soon after Baselworld, IWC has launched the IWC Pilots Watch Chronograph Online Boutique Edition. IWC started selling watches directly in their online store back in 2017, and this release is no doubt an attempt to draw visitors to their online shop. Available only through IWCs online store, the Pilot Watch Chronograph is a clear descendant of IWCs classic aviation watches.The Pilots Watch Chronograph features a metal case that clocks in at a diameter of 43mm and a height of 15.3mm. Since this is a fairly standard dimension across many pilot chronographs, I envision it will wear rather well on the wrist. Beating within the watch is the IWC Caliber 79230, an automatic chronograph movement based on the ETA 7750, with a 44 hour power reserve, 25 jewels, along with a frequency of 28,800 bph. On the dial are 3 tests exhibiting the running seconds, elapsed minutes tracked by the chronograph, and elapsed hours tracked by the chronograph.In addition, the movement provides the wearer with the date and day. The sub-registers are displayed in the usual style found on watches powered by a 7750 based movement, and it works very nicely here. Some also may bemoan the usage of this day-date function, but I truly dig it heresomething about it meshes nicely with the dials aesthetic, and I greatly appreciate the performance of this day-date complication. In classic IWC pilot watch fashion, the motion is encased in an iron cage to protect the movement from magnetization, and as a result, that the caseback is solid.
The watch is water resistant to 60 meters, and as is expected at this price point, has a sapphire crystal.In my opinion, the dial of this Pilots Watch Chronograph is so stunning. Dependent on the Fliegerchronograph that IWC produced over 20 decades ago, the dials clean design is very reminiscent of pure instrument watches. The white markers offer a wonderful contrast with the black dial, and the palms and lume plots in 12, 3, 6, and 9 are painted with beige faux-patina style lume. Faux-patina lume can sometimes be overdone, but it functions well with the classic design of the layout. The squared-off hour hand and slightly pointed second hand are similar to those found on elderly IWC fliegers, such as the Mark 11, which I believe is a good selection for this watch. Additionally, the subdials have a great subtle radial texturing which delivers a nice visual component to divide an otherwise eloquent dial design.Packaged with the watch is its just strap: a green textile/NATO strap, and my feelings about this choice are somewhat conflicted. The watch does look quite good on the strap in photographs, and Im certain the IWC NATO is high quality, but as someone who possesses a slew of NATO straps I could easily wear any watch, I want that IWC had chosen to incorporate a wonderful leather strap too. Finding a denim leather strap which matches a particular watch can be hard, while there are a variety of high quality NATO straps on the market that individuals can source themselves. At this price point, IWC could have done a little more at the strap department.IWC has published the Pilots Watch Chronograph on their online store, where it will exclusively remain until October of 2018.

Now 20 years old the IWC Portugieser Chronograph has been a top selling mainstay of the line, being a good looking watch, surprisingly flat despite its complication, and well-priced. Despite an attempt to go upmarket with IWC’s high-end in-house chronograph movement, the original Portugieser Chronograph ref. 3714 remains popular.

IWC’s 150th Anniversary Jubilee Collection offers a hint as to where the Portugieser Chronograph is headed, which is basically a better movement for the same price.

IWC Portugieser Chronograph 150 Years 5

Aesthetically, the Portugieser Chronograph Edition “150 Years” gets the anniversary treatment, glossy lacquered dials in either dark blue or white. Both are familiar colours for the Portugieser Chronograph, but the shiny finish that resembles enamel is novel. Being more restrained, the white dial has the edge in visual appeal.

IWC Portugieser Chronograph 150 Years 4

Inside is where the upgrade is significant. Instead of the low-cost Valjoux 7750 or Sellita SW500 inside the original ref. 3714, the anniversary chronograph is powered by the cal. 69355. IWC terms it a “manufacture” movement, think of it as a heavily upgraded Valjoux 7750 produced by IWC.

IWC Portugieser Chronograph 150 Years 3

While much of basic architecture relies on the tried and tested Valjoux 7750, improvements have been made in crucial areas. Several of the key upgrades are obvious, namely the column wheel to control the chronograph start-stop, as well as the escape wheel and pallet fork produced via LIGA, a high-tech lithographic and moulding process. The technique results in a lightweight, open-worked escapement made of nickel, improving the efficiency of the movement.

The solid gold anniversary medallion on the rotor is unique to the Jubilee Collection.

Though the anniversary Portugieser Chronograph is indistinguishable from the earlier generation, it is actually slightly larger due to the new movement. The anniversary model is 41mm in diameter and 13.1mm high, making it marginally larger than the original that measures 40.9mm by 12.6mm.

The upgraded Portugieser Chronograph is barely 4% more expensive than the existing ref. 3714, making it a better buy than the original, offering more for essentially the same money.

Price and availability

The Portugieser Chronograph Edition “150 Years” is a limited edition of 2000 pieces in each colour: the blue dial (ref. IW371601), or white (ref. IW371602). It is priced at US$7150 and will be available in IWC boutiques and retailers starting October 2018.