IWC Portugieser Chronograph Year of the Dragon

There are few modern watch designs more recognizable than the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Year of the Dragon. Its beautiful design, Goldilocks dimensions, and relatively affordable price made it a long-running favorite in the IWC catalog.
After its introduction in 1998, there’s a reason IWC left the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Year of the Dragon unchanged for the next two decades: don’t mess with success. Sure, it’s large – a 41mm diameter and slim bezel mean it wears big – but the minimal design and relatively thin case (12.5mm) make it completely balanced. Inside, the Valjoux 7750 ticks reliably.

What’s astounding about the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Year of the Dragon is how unastounding it is, which is what made it stand out for all those years. There are only a few elements to the design – finely shaped Feuille hands, simple and applied Arabic numerals, a round case – but all are executed unobtrusively with the utmost attention paid to each detail. Over two decades, when many watchmakers seemed to add more – elements, millimeters, everything – IWC just played the same hit, over and over again. We went hands-on with the Portugieser Chronograph back in 2015 and marveled at its unchangedness then, and IWC still left it untouched for another five years.

Finally, in 2020 IWC introduced the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Year of the Dragon ref. 3716, retiring the original ref. 3714 by bringing a new, upgraded caliber to the model line. It’s a nice upgrade to a modern classic, but sometimes there’s nothing like the original.