The IWC Portuguese and Portofino

Two Models that Live Up to the IWC Name

IWC is one of the premier brands in the luxury watch industry. For over 150 years, they’ve been creating supremely crafted timepieces from the inside out. Many other manufacturers in the industry have built reputations as producers of purpose-built tool watches. On the other hand, IWC has focused their efforts on refining their designs. As a result, they have crafted some of the most sophisticated and timeless dress watches on the market. Two of their most popular dress watch models are the Portuguese and the Portofino. While the two have a number of similarities, they each have their own place in the IWC catalog. Here, we’ll explore how these two models measure up.

The Portuguese

The history of the Portuguese dates back to the 1930s. During that time, the demand for watches in the civilian market was declining as the world struggled to recover from economic depression and prepared for the onset of WWII. As a result, manufacturers needed to think outside of the box to keep their businesses afloat. IWC began looking to new areas to sell their watches outside of the Swiss and European markets. This led the brand to connect with two Portuguese businessmen.

An IWC Portuguese on a man's wrist. It has a white dial and brown leather band.

Following WWI, wristwatches grew in popularity worldwide. However, in Portugal, manufacturers struggled to create wristwatch movements with the same technical accuracy as pocket watches. When IWC connected with the Portuguese businessmen, they were looking to fill this void. They wanted to create a wristwatch with the precision of a marine chronometer. This collaboration ultimately resulted in the IWC Portuguese collection.

IWC Portuguese and Portofino - A Portuguese with a blue dial, steel case, and black leather band

Ironically, the original Portuguese actually housed a pocket watch movement. It was also particularly notable for its oversized 43mm case, which was incredibly large for the time. For decades, IWC only produced the Portuguese models in limited quantities. However, in the 1990s, the model became a more permanent fixture in the brand’s catalog. One of the most monumental updates to the collection came in 2013. That year, IWC upgraded the line’s signature movement from a Valjoux-based caliber to their own in-house caliber. The new movement also necessitated some aesthetic updates. To accommodate the new caliber, the case design was more robust, from the overall thickness to the lugs and crown.

The Portofino

The Portofino may have debuted roughly five decades after the Portuguese. However, it served a similar purpose for IWC. Its history begins in the 1980s. The watch industry as a whole was just recovering from the quartz crisis. As a result, many watchmakers around the globe were producing modern and daring designs in an effort to remain relevant and keep up with the shifting times. IWC was not one of those watchmakers. They emerged from the quartz era with an even stronger desire to remain committed to the art of traditional watchmaking.

IWC Portofino with gray dial and gold case


Instead of looking to the future, they looked to time-tested designs of the past. Namely, they focused on one of the greatest watchmakers of all time: Jean-Antione Lepine. Lepine’s namesake pocket watch is one of the most famous timepieces ever created, and this model inspired the Portofino collection.

IWC Portuguese and Portofino - a Portofino with gold case, cream dial, and leather band

Similar to the original Portuguese, the original Portofino came equipped with a pocket watch movement. As a result, it also featured an oversized case construction. Still, the Portofino is the quintessential dress watch. Though the models are not strictly time-only, they maintain the qualities of a classic dress watch. They feature minimalist and refined designs with carefully laid out, uncluttered dials. Some of the most recent editions to the collection came in 2018. That year marked the 150th anniversary of the IWC brand. To commemorate the occasion, they launched the IWC Jubilee 150th Anniversary Collection, featuring three new variations of the Portofino.

Choosing the Best Model for You

Though they launched nearly 50 years apart, IWC developed the Portuguese and the Portofino during pivotal moments of change in the industry. Both models were born out of a need for creativity, ingenuity, and a fresh perspective. Yet, each model’s enduring appeal proves that these watches did more than fill a void in a time of need. They reflect IWC’s classic and time-tested approach to watchmaking. If you’re looking to start or expand your collection of dress watches, these are two of the best models around.

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Caitlyn is the founder of Grey Ghost, a New York City-based boutique content marketing agency with a passion for artists, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups. She believes in quality over quantity, creative thinking, and, above all, using language as powerful tool to build lasting connections.

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