IWC has a wide variety of swiss replica watches in its stable, from time only hand-winds to tourbillons and minute repeaters. The most defining of these however, beyond the Pilot's line, has been the Portuguese Chronograph, who's vertical sub dials and elegant case have become synonymous with the line they represent. This watch's successor, so to speak, which was revealed earlier this year, has been highly anticipated by fans of the brand for the upgrade from a Valjoux-based movement to an in-house IWC chronograph caliber (cal 89361). What's more, the watch has undergone several aesthetic revisions that significantly separate it from the original. So, what's the new Portuguese Chronograph Classic like on the wrist and how does it compare with the model it builds upon? I spent a week with the new watch to find out, and even got my hands on the previous model to compare and contrast; read on for my impressions.Introduction
IWC's Portuguese line of replica watches holds an important place in the brand's history. The first Portuguese dates back to 1939, when two Portuguese business men were looking for a wristwatch that could match the precision of a marine chronometer. To accomplish this, IWC (then operating under the full "International Watch Company" moniker) was forced to use a pocket watch movement within a hunter style case to allow crown placement at 3 o'clock. The watch, which measured 43mm, was enormous by standards of the day, but it got the job done in yet-to-be-appreciated dapper style. We've shown you original Portuguese for sale online and at auction, and they routinely fetch upwards of $35,000.
The history of Portuguese production is a bit cloudy, but we do know these replica watches were produced in (very) limited quantities. According to one source, from the 1930s through the early 1940s, only 304 total Portuguese with the Calibre 74 were made, and an additional 371 Portuguese replica watches were produced with the Calibre 98 and Calibre 982 from the 1940s through the 1970s. During this second period, distribution was restricted to certain markets (the German market in particular). But in the early 90s an original found its way back to an IWC atelier (on the wrist of a customer), where it raised enough eyebrows to earn a spot in IWC's lineup once again.
The first on the left is a Reference 325 with Calibre 74, the one in the middle is a Reference 325 with Calibre 98 and the third, in pink gold, is a Reference 5441 with Calibre 9828 Courtesy of an anonymous collector
So in 1993, to celebrate the company's 125th anniversary, the Portuguese ref. 5441 was introduced, sporting the lovely Caliber 9828. The anniversary model introduced styling cues still enjoyed by its contemporaries, such as rivet style minute and hour markers and modern Arabic numerals applied to the dial. This time only watch has also spawned numerous variations within the Portuguese line, and you'll find everything from chronographs to minute repeaters to perpetual calendars rounding out the Portuguese family. In particular, the Portuguese Chronograph ref. 3714 has become something of a modern icon, and now we have the new Chronograph Classic.ADVERTISEMENT The Portuguese Chronograph Classic
The new Portuguese Chronograph Classic is more than just a simple evolution of its older brother. The case plays a more prominent role, layout of the chronograph registers has changed, and a date aperture has found its way onto the dial. It is best not to think of this watch as a direct replacement of the ref. 3714, but rather an extension of the bloodline in a slightly different direction.
Ref 3714 on the left, ref 3904 on the right.
One of the first things that I began to appreciate about the 3904 is just how accessible its design and execution are. The steel case options look good worn with just about anything north of cut-offs and a sweatshirt. I attribute this to the watch's new sportier looks, which you can credit to a more broad-shouldered case, the railway track chapter ring broken down to quarter-second hashes, and the more pronounced circular graining and markings for the subregisters.
The dial design is actually more reminiscent of another Portuguese chronograph, the Yacht Club, than the 3714. Additionally, the chronograph totalizer displays elapsed time via hour and minute hands living atop one another in the 12 o'clock sub dial. The sum of these details is a 3904 that doesn't have to live in the formal wear section of your wardrobe.
Ref 3914 on left, ref 3904 on right.
At 42mm, the new Portuguese Chronograph Classic is slightly over 1mm larger than the 3714 (which sits at 40.9mm), and it's just enough to be noticeable. Everything about this new design though is a little beefier. The lugs are wider and make a less pronounced curve into the caseband, the pushers have longer but thicker stems and heftier tops (not to mention the substantial click you get when activating the chronograph), and even the crown has more visual weight to it.
On the wrist, I suspect that only those with sub 6.25" wrists will find something to complain about though. This is a watch that wears its size exceptionally well, thanks to that strong bezel that pushes the dial into a more modestly sized opening. The hand-made Santoni strap looks as good as it feels on the wrist, though I believe a less formal option might entice some buyers.ADVERTISEMENT The IWC Caliber 89361
The biggest thing the Portuguese Chronograph Classic brings to the table is an in-house IWC movement. IWC's manufacture caliber 8900 family can be found in some of the marques latest and greatest, from the Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month (3792) to the Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month (3791). It lives as the 89361 within the Portuguese Chronograph Classic, and it's on full display around back.
The Caliber 89361 features an impressive 68 hour reserve, flyback function, and the aforementioned hour and minute counters combined in a totalizer at 12 o'clock. Using the functions you immediately realize that this is a truly serious movement, from smooth winding and easy chronograph actuation to a snappy quick-date set and hacking functionality. Unlike the Valjoux-based caliber in the 3714 the spinning of the oscillating weight on your wrist will also go entirely unnoticed.
The circular Geneva striping on all prominent surfaces creates a uniform and almost utilitarian look. Cut away sections in the three-quarter plate give enough detail to see what's going on, but this movement is not one that I'd label sexy. Neither is it one that I'd label accurate. during my testing period, the watch ran nearly +8 seconds a day against an atomic clock. Please note that the watch I was testing may not have been market ready or properly adjusted.Ref 3904 or Ref 3714
The difference between these two replica watches is not insignificant. There are subjective differences, such as the sporty vs formal appearance and the experience of using them. But there are also objective differences like the case size and quality of caliber inside. And then, there is the price difference, which is tough to ignore. The 3714s priced from $7,900 in steel on up to $16,400 in gold. The 3904 on the other hand, begins at $13,000 and moves up to $24,200.ADVERTISEMENT
This difference means that the 3904 now lives in territory occupied by the likes of Cartier's excellent new in-house Calibre Chronograph, Jaeger-LeCoultre's Deep Sea Chronograph and a little watch called the Rolex Daytona, who's caliber 4130 is something of a standard bearer in the world of automatic chronographs. While IWC's new Portuguese Chronograph Classic is undoubtedly an impressive watch, is it up to the task of going toe to toe with these heavyweights?
The ref. 3714 lived in comfortable territory and was accessible to a great many more buyers than the 3904 will be. Additionally, for under $13,000, buyers can get into manufacture movement chronographs like the new Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon, the TAG Heuer Carrera 1887, or the Zenith El Primero.Conclusions ADVERTISEMENT
Taken on its own merits, the IWC Portuguese Chronograph Classic is a beautiful watch that hits all the details just as it should. The case has been reengineered and all the components, including the crown, pushers, and crystal, work together harmoniously, and the sportier dial design includes a date window, more technical looking subregisters, and a railroad minutes track. Also, importantly, the Portuguese Chronograph Classic houses an upscale in-house movement with an upscale price to match.
While you might be disappointed with the Portuguese Chronograph Classic if you were looking for a in-house Caliber 89361 fitted into a Portuguese Chronograph Ref. 3714, this completely new interpretation of the Portuguese Chronograph serves a different purpose for a different audience entirely. And it will serve that audience well.Pros
Beautiful dial detail Upscale movement Solid complication performance Wears wellCons
A touch large Too sporty? Movement not gorgeous ExpensiveFull Specs
Ref. IW390403 In-House Caliber 89361 42mm Case 68-Hour Power Reserve Combined Hours and Minutes Totalizer Flyback Function Date Display You can find more details on IWC.com.