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The Journal

Michael Friedberg takes you on a short journey through the IWC Portugieser Yacht Club history

The Portugieser Yacht Club stands as the epitome of development behind several important IWC precepts. It combines the essence of the classic Portugieser wristwatch with the sporty elegance of the original IWC Yacht Club model, and then tops off the combination with a chronograph.

IWC has a proud history with its products in its first century being classic models. These were meticulously made watches: reflecting good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen. Initially in the 19th century IWC, like other Swiss manufactures, produced pocket watches. Then in 1939, IWC first produced a pocket watch meant to be worn on the wrist: reference 325, the original Portugieser. While traditional with its pocket watch heritage, this bold size for a wristwatch was a defining move.

 

To celebrate its 125th anniversary in 1993, IWC produced a new version of its classic Portugieser: the Jubilee Portugieser, reference 5441. That was soon followed 1995 with a rattrapante chronograph (reference 3712) and then 1998 with the original automatic Portugieser chronograph (reference 3714). The Portugieser watch became a signature of IWC.

Back in the 1960s, however, most IWC products were designed as smaller than the original Portugieser, and equally as classic. There apparently was a desire in that era to produce watches for a new generation: for younger, more cutting-edge and active persons who engaged in recreational activities. Several new and sportier models were introduced by IWC in the 1960s and 70s. First, IWC debuted several steel watches as part of the “SL” line in 1976. It remains a subject of debate whether “SL” meant “steel line”, since the models were all in steel, or “sports line”, since they were atypically sportier than classic models.

Ref. 1830 GOLF CLUB SL - AUTOMATIC (1976)
— Ref. 1830 GOLF CLUB SL - AUTOMATIC (1976)
Ref. 1831 POLO CLUB SL - AUTOMATIC (1976)
— Ref. 1831 POLO CLUB SL - AUTOMATIC (1976)

In 1967 IWC introduced its first diving watch and also another model (avaiable in gold), the Yacht Club, reference 811AD (later redesignated as 1811AD). After the initial success of the Yacht Club, in 1976 the line evolved into a series of “Club” watches. In addition to the Yacht Club, there also were the Golf Club (reference 1830) and Polo Club models (reference 1831 or 1931 without date), as well as a more boldly designed Yacht Club II in 1977 (reference 3212 with bracelet and 3211 with strap), which later often contained a quartz movement.

Yet the star of the show has been the original Yacht Club. With a straight-forward dial featuring indices, it used IWC’s famous caliber 8541 automatic movement and also had special shock absorbers inside its case. The case, at 36mm in diameter, had a distinctive characteristic: broad flared lugs. Creating a special curve with its case shape, this model was a product of its time. This was the Age of Aquarius: of Beatles and bell-bottoms. The Yacht Club had panache.

 

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. The ordinary watch customer could join this club, and could proudly wear a tool watch with class. This was a watch for the sophisticated sportsman. Reportedly the Yacht Club was IWC’s best-selling model in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Ref. 1811 YACHT CLUB - AUTOMATIC (1967)
— Ref. 1811 YACHT CLUB - AUTOMATIC (1967)
IW390202 PORTUGIESER - YACHT CLUB CHRONOGRAPH (2010)
— IW390202 PORTUGIESER - YACHT CLUB CHRONOGRAPH (2010)

After a long life, this reference was no longer produced. But there always was a desire to recreate a new IWC Yacht Club model. That came to fruition in January 2010 at the Geneva watch show, SIHH. The new model, which continues as a best-selling one a decade later, is known as the Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph, reference IW3902. This watch model defines the concept of an elegant timepiece with sportiness and flair.

 

When first introduced, some collectors expressed that the model should have had those 1960s flared-lugs. But instead of that anachronism, the design captured the true essence of the Yacht Club: a sporty and classy watch. It combined that spirit with the size and classic design of the original Portugieser. And it then added the ultimate sports tool: a chronograph. This new model also contains the IWC acclaimed in-house chronograph movement, caliber 89360. Above all else that new model combined its technical attributes with elegance and function.

 

Several variations have been produced, including steel models sporting silver or black dials and an exceeding beautiful red gold model with a slate dial. Given its intended elegant/sporty nature, the Portugieser Yacht Club has a screw-in crown, a crown protector and is water resistant to 6 Bar (approximately 60 meters). Not a diving watch, but an elegant one that should withstand the splashes on deck – and with élan.

 

It also works well onshore at the clubhouse. Welcome to the club!


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