Dress watches are a unique category. Unlike tool watches that are set apart by the function they provide the wearer, dress watches prioritize form over function. They’re straightforward, often time-only watches. They’re typically modest in size, defying watch and style trends. And, they’re inherently timeless. Two of the most iconic models in this category hail from Patek Philippe and IWC. We look at the Patek Philippe Calatrava vs. IWC Portofino.
Birth of the Patek Philippe Calatrava
Patek Philippe first released the Calatrava in 1932. The design for the collection draws inspiration from the Bauhaus art movement. Like the dress watch, the Bauhaus philosophy emphasizes form over function. These minimalist principles influenced the understated yet elegant style of the Calatrava, which has only seen subtle updates since it made its debut.
Introduction of the IWC Portofino
Five decades later in 1984, IWC launched the Portofino. At the time, many other brands were pushing the boundaries and creating increasingly bold designs following the Quartz Crisis of the 1970’s and 80’s. However, IWC continued to stay true to their classic approach to watchmaking. The collection was inspired by the design principles of one of the world’s greatest watchmakers, Jean-Antione Lepine and his namesake pocket watch. The result was a model with a distinct effortlessness in a time when many other options on the market were more complicated and opulent.
Evolution of the Calatrava
Around the time of the Portofino’s introduction, Patek Philippe released one of their most notable iterations of the Calatrava. The Reference 3919 launched in 1985 and debuted the brand’s Cloud de Paris guilloche bezel. This intricate style is created by embossing that results in hollowed lines that intersect to form small square knobs. It signified somewhat of a departure from the original design approach to the model, adding a more ornate element to its aesthetic. However, the function of the model remained simple and time-only. Ultimately, this minor design update served to elevate the model and allow it to continue to shine among its competitors.
Modern Variations of the Portofino and Calatrava
Despite nearly 75 years of nonconformity and defying industry trends and standards, Patek Philippe launched a larger, more modern version of the Calatrava in 2006: the Reference 5119. The model was polarizing at first. Longtime collectors and fans of the model didn’t appreciate the contemporary updates. However, the new design opened the brand and model up to the newer, up and coming generation of watch enthusiasts.
In 2008, IWC celebrated the brand’s 140th anniversary with the introduction of the Portofino Hand-Wound, Reference 5448. Instead of taking a more modern direction with the special edition model, IWC returned to its roots and the design of the original 1984 Portofino for inspiration. The only significant update was an all-new mechanical movement, the Caliber 98800.
Latest Addition Models
The most recent additions to the two collections are the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time, Reference 7234R, the Portofino Hand-Wound Moon Phase Edition 150 Years, and the Portofino Automatic Edition 150 Years. Each of these latest variations debuted in 2018. The Calatrava Pilot Travel Time revives the modest size of the original model, measuring just 37.5mm. However, as the name indicates, it departs from the model’s traditionally time-only display and incorporates both a date function and second time zone indicator. Both the Portofino Hand-Wound Moon Phase Edition 150 Years and the Portofino Automatic Edition 150 Years are part of the brand’s Jubilee 150th Anniversary Collection. As the name indicates, this limited edition of 27 of IWC’s most iconic models commemorates 150 years of the brand.
Patek Philippe’s Calatrava and IWC’s Portofino were created over fifty years apart. Yet, these two timepieces share a number of distinct characteristics. Overall, the parallels between the two models poignantly illustrate the charm and timelessness of the dress watch.