“Heroes of the sea, noble people …” is the opening line of the Portuguese national anthem. It is the expression of a collective memory through which Portugal’s great seafarers – Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias or Ferdinand Magellan – remain alive to this day. Above all, it was their outstanding sailing skills, their precise nautical charts and the use of instruments such as the astrolabe and Jacob’s staff to determine their latitude on the high seas that enabled them to embark on their daredevil voyages of discovery to West Africa and across the world’s oceans. The pioneers of Portuguese seafaring managed to reconcile seemingly incompatible opposites: their hot-blooded temperament with cool calculation; outstanding courage with respect for natural forces; and historical tradition with all that was new in science and technology. The Portuguese watches from IWC are a distant echo from that glorious past. They combine the tradition of nautical instruments with contemporary design and forward-looking mechanics.
More than 500 years later, at the end of the 1930s, two Portuguese businessmen active in the watch industry were searching for technical precision of the highest order and paid a visit to the factory in Schaffhausen. They ordered wristwatches in steel cases with the accuracy of a marine chronometer. At the time, the only way of meeting their request was with a pocket watch movement, so IWC decided to take one from a hunter movement (which also has the crown on the right-hand side) and house it in a wristwatch case. The first Portuguese of 1939 established an IWC watch family whose precision, sheer size and complex mechanics have been a source of pleasure to watch enthusiasts the world over for more than 70 years.
At the Basel Watch Show in 1967, IWC presented the Yacht Club Automatic, a superbly crafted men’s wristwatch that was perfectly suited to the hardships of life on stormy seas. Its movement was spring-suspended and mounted on rubber buffers, making it doubly resistant to shocks. This meant that the 8541 calibre was able to move in response to impacts, thus neutralizing any knocks or bangs. The steel model was water-resistant to 10 bar, the gold version to 6 bar. Exclusive, rugged and ideal for everyday use: small wonder the Yacht Club became one of the best-selling IWC watches of all time.
To mark its 125th anniversary in 1993, the Schaffhausen-based company reincarnated the striking Portuguese watch after 50 years with a special limited edition. The 9828 calibre featured in the anniversary Portuguese model was based on the legendary 98-calibre pocket watch movement and, for the first time, could be seen from the back through its sapphire-glass cover.
In 2000, after five years of development, IWC unveiled the Portuguese Automatic with the IWC-manufactured 5000 calibre. It was an exciting combination of traditional and new IWC technology. Among other things, the imposing IWC pocket-watch-sized movement incorporates a bidirectional Pellaton winding and a balance with a Breguet spring for maximum precision. The newly designed seven-day movement with its power reserve display represented a gigantic technological leap in the history of the automatic movement.
The Portuguese Perpetual Calendar of 2003, which featured the newly developed perpetual calendar mechanism, was further proof of IWC innovation at its best. In 2005, the Portuguese F. A. Jones Hand-Wound limited edition was launched as a classic memorial to the Schaffhausen-based company’s founder. The watch combined authenticity and tradition down to the last tiny detail. By 2007, the Portuguese watch family had already welcomed several prominent representatives of the world of Haute Horlogerie to its circle (including the perpetual calendar, the minute repeater and the flying tourbillon). At this point they were joined by another extravagant example of first-class watchmaking: a regulateur with separate hour, minute and seconds displays. In 2008, a Portuguese Hand-Wound was launched as part of the IWC Vintage Collection. With its railway track-style chapter ring and arched-edge front glass, the watch bore a striking resemblance to the 1939 original but, from a technical point of view, was state of the art.
In 2010, IWC celebrated another “Portuguese” year with a wealth of fascinating new products. Leading the way was the flagship of the collection, the Portuguese Grande Complication, a grande complication for the first time in a Portuguese case. The Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde combines the magic of a floating tourbillon with the logic of a date hand that reverts to its starting position. Featuring echoes of earlier styles, the Portuguese Hand-Wound bridges the gap between the historic Portuguese and the present, while the Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph is the first model to bring a sporting note into the family. All the timepieces in the Portuguese line have one thing in common: they are precision navigation instruments designed for everyday use in today’s world.