IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar

IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar watches are versatile and stylish, with a hint of timelessness. The Portofino collection (introduced in 1984) is supposedly the entry-level offering from IWC Schaffhausen, but despite the efforts seems to remain overlooked and even underrated by the public. No specific data supports this claim, but Internet searches reveal far fewer mentions of IWC Portofino than Portugieser or Pilot Collection watches. Even the IWC corporate Journal listing “ten products that form the basis of its global success” makes no room for a Portofino. Nevertheless, the collection offers elegance, discretion, various models, a good number of complications and plenty of details to capture your attention and even impress. The new IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar IW3444 is bound to create a tourbillon of comments for several reasons. It is the smallest (40mm case diameter) perpetual calendar watch across the current IWC catalogue and will be available in steel. It is not the first Portofino with a perpetual calendar complication. And it is a watch that houses the calendar module created by Kurt Klaus, legendary former head watchmaker at IWC.

The perpetual calendar module developed by Kurt Klaus in the 1980s is very much the essence of the IWC engineering approach. Despite being built from about 80 parts, a small number for a QP, the module offers a high degree of autonomy and is foolproof. The mechanically-programmed mechanism inserts a leap day every four years as it can “recognize” the months and will display the correct data without human intervention until 2100, when there would be no February 29. This Gregorian calendar exception was devised by the Christian church in 1582 – for every year that ends in 00, there is no February 29 unless it could be divided by 400; read more about it here. In 2100 your lucky ancestor will have to advance the calendar using the crown – that simple – because the displays are synchronized. Very neat.  The two new references (one in 18k 5N gold and the other in stainless steel) of the IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar mark the return of this complication to the Portofino collection, as there was an IWC reference 3541, produced by the Schaffhausen manufacture in the 1990s. The 3541 was introduced in a 35mm diameter 18k yellow gold case, with an automatic Caliber 37582, based on ETA 2892-A2, with IWC (K. Klaus) perpetual calendar module. The movement operated at a 4Hz frequency, had a 42-hour power reserve and provided the owner with time indication, central seconds, perpetual calendar with date, day, month, year, and moon phase functions. One of these charming gold watches can be found for about 6,000 euros, while the new steel Portofino Perpetual retails for about 25k. Just to give an idea…

Once you read that the new IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar model is the most petite IWC watch to bear this complication, you wonder what other dimensions the brand offers. The Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42 is the next of kin, a very close relative; both watches use the same movement, and thus the display composition looks identical. But the dial and the case are naturally different; let us spend some time looking at the newborn. The IWC Portofino Perpetual Ref. IW344601 is the one in a stainless steel case, with a silver-plated dial and rhodium-plated hands and applied indexes. The variant in an 18k 5N gold case (Ref. IW344602), shares the same silver-plated dial, but the hands and hour indexes are gold-plated, to match the case.  The date is shown at 3 o’clock, the month at 6 o’clock, and the day of the week at 9 o’clock. The subdial hands that point to the calendar data and the central second hand are blued. The weekday subdial also contains a tiny round window to show the red “L” appearing when there is a leap year, and the calendar will add the 29th of February. The perpetual moonphase indicator decorates the month’s display, and the moon and the stars look rhodium- or gold-plated against the dark blue sky, depending on the case material. The moon display is exact with a reductionist gear train. It will only deviate one day from the actual moon cycle after 577.5 years (the famous IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar from 1985 provided for only 122 years). There is no four-digit year indication feature. The sapphire caseback allows plenty of view of the workings of the IWC Calibre 82650, chosen as an engine to drive the perpetual calendar module. The Calibre 82650 is equipped with a very efficient IWC-own Pellaton automatic winding system with components made of zirconium oxide ceramic, and they are virtually wear-free. It provides 60 hours of power reserve.

Most people associate IWC with pilot’s watches, which makes total sense due to their rich aviation history and classics like the Mark and Big Pilot series. But with their Portugieser and Portofino collections, IWC prove they still know how to appeal to dressier sensibilities. The latest duo of Portofino watches, the IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar IW344601 and IW344602, are great examples of this. These two new perpetual calendars continue the legacy of legendary IWC watchmaker Kurt Klaus, and his ingenious perpetual calendar module, born in the ’80s, that allowed the user to manipulate all of the perpetual calendar indications via the crown in favour of case-side pushers.