IWC just released a new version of their incredibly successful Portuguese Chronograph! For many years now, the Portuguese Chronograph has held a very special role, that of the dressy chronograph. Its understated appearance and ultra-clean dial, no easy feat for this complication, has earned it a special time-tested place in the collections of many watch enthusiasts. Today, it receives its most significant update yet.
The Portuguese Chronograph has remained something of a constant in the watch world, with only minor changes since its introduction. For almost all of its life, the watch was powered by an IWC version of the Valjoux 7750, but that changed (briefly) for the 150th Anniversary model which, for the first time, used a member of the new 69000 family of IWC movements. Today, that movement graces six new full-production Portuguese Chronographs.
Although the new 69000 movement is based on the same basic layout as the 79000 it replaces (and therefore, the 7750), it’s a pretty radical overhaul. One of the small improvements is found in the 46 hour power reserve, two more than the preceding movement, but the differences go far deeper.
Most people’s favorite addition will undoubtedly be the column wheel, replacing the cam-actuated system, which should give the watch appreciably better feel. Not visible here is a new automatic winding system, apparently reminiscent of the famous Pellaton. Presumably, this will eliminate the need for the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) rotor wobble of the 7750 as the pawl-based system should be bidirectional and therefore eliminate the free-wheeling behavior so synonymous with the 7750.
The next improvement has flown under the radar of most. While IWC chose to stick to a conventional regulator/smooth balance design, unlike the free sprung/variable inertia balance found in some of their higher-end movements, a close look reveals a skeletonized escape wheel, of the same kind popularized by Grand Seiko in the famous 9S85. Indeed, IWC is using a similar process to manufacture these components to extremely high precision.
There are far more differences than that, of course, but we’ll have to wait for a full review before we get really in-depth. For now, it’s worth pointing out two more differences. The first is that the new 69000 movement is far prettier than the 79000 it replaces. The 7750 and its derivatives are wonderful movements, but they have never been among the most aesthetically pleasing. The second difference, no doubt related to the first, is the addition of a display case back.
There are some very small changes to the case, as well, although you’d probably never notice in real life. For one thing, size has increased from 40.9mm to a whopping 41.0mm. Slightly more appreciable will be the increase from 12.5mm to 13mm in thickness, perhaps necessitated by the display back. If so, easily worth it in my book.
Thankfully, one thing that hasn’t seemed to change at all is the absolutely gorgeous dial. IWC focused on simplicity and legibility in the Portuguese collection, something that can be difficult to achieve in a chronograph. But here, a bi-compax layout and no date keep things clean. It remains perhaps the best looking “dress chronograph” on the market, new movement or not.
As you may have already suspected, there’s a slight price increase for all of these new improvements. The new steel Portuguese Chronograph is now $7,950 while the new gold version is $17,800. For me, it’s an easy choice: I’d go for the new model, but then, I like my watches to be interesting inside and out. A more beautiful design, with smoother (bidirectional) automatic winding, a skeletonized escapement, and a column wheel-actuated chronograph suggest a substantially more sophisticated movement that ups the value. My favorite Portuguese, indeed, my favorite IWC, remains the Portuguese Automatic, but if you need a chronograph that can be worn every day, and for any occasion, the Portuguese Chronograph just got better.
Below you’ll find the complete list (so far) of each new Portuguese Chronograph. Click the image to be taken to a product page where you can learn more or pre-order.