THE TIMELESS APPEAL OF THE MEDITERRANEAN LIFESTYLE
“I found my love in Portofino” was the title of a chanson that was popular in the 1950s. It was the time when Hollywood greats like Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Humphrey Bogart discovered the idyllic fishing village on the Ligurian coast for themselves and, with it, a taste for the easy-going Mediterranean lifestyle. You simply took a seat in one of the cafés at the Piazzetta next to the harbor, sipped espresso and watched the boats arrive. For the paparazzi the narrow little houses in red and terracotta clustered tightly around the picturesque natural harbor provided the perfect backdrop for stars and celebrities. In the evening, you met up for drinks at the legendary splendid hotel bar high up on a rise above the bay. In the 1960s the village teemed with celebrities as the Italian cinema enjoyed its most glorious epoch. Its glamour was underscored by the presence of actresses such as Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale as well as many famous directors and artists. Even today, the Italian and international jet set gathers in Portofino to savor the atmosphere of the Mediterranean dolce vita. The classically elegant Portofino watch family reflects this attitude towards life. For more than a quarter of a century, it has been the unassuming star of the IWC collections, an expression of understatement and good taste.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, the market was dominated by mass-produced quartz watches and ever-more daring design timepieces increasingly more daring in design. Nevertheless, IWC noticed that there was still a steady demand for more classical models – for weddings, success in examinations and other special occasions. Watches for events like these had to be reliable, retain their value and remain stylish, without being part of a fashionable trend. The optical inspiration for the new watch family came from timeless watches like the Reference 380 of the 1950s, with its yellow gold case and silver-plated dial. Its pure, functional lines largely determined the basic design of the Portofino watch line.
The Reference 5251 was the inspiration for the Portofino line. In 1984, it surpassed all the trends prevailing at the time and, with its 46-millimetre case, was not easy to miss. Equally striking were the clearly defined proportions and an unmistakable touch of extravagance: the moon phase display made of genuine goldstone with tiny copper particle inclusions to represent twinkling stars and a superbly finished component from the Italian glass center of Murano. For the hand-wound precision movement, IWC’s watchmakers turned the original 9521 calibre of a Lépine open-face pocket watch, measuring just 8.5 millimeters in thickness, through 90 degrees to the right. This resulted in the small seconds and the moon phase display being in the unusual positions of “9 o’clock” and “3 o’clock”, respectively. The original design and the small production run have ensured that the original Portofino is a much sought-after rarity among collectors today.
In 1988, to mark its 120th jubilee, IWC unveiled the Reference 2532, an elegant, consummately designed timepiece in a gold case with Roman numerals, a small seconds and the hand-wound IWC 4231 calibre behind a sapphire-glass cover. That same year saw the appearance of the Portofino Reference 3731 with the hybrid 631-calibre movement. Although the chronograph consisted of 233 parts, the height of the movement was just 3.8 millimeters, which was a stroke of genius. A typical product of the 1980s, it was powered by twin quartz-controlled motors for the time display and chronograph movement and, to the surprise of watch lovers everywhere, had a fork-shaped hand running round the dial. In 1993, IWC presented the Portofino Hand-Wound Reference 2010. With a movement just 1.85 millimeters thick, it was so spectacularly slim that IWC – exceptionally – showed it in profile in the catalogue. The flattest of all IWC watches, it sold successfully until 2005. In 2004, IWC increased the case diameter of the Portofino Automatic, Reference 3533, to a more contemporary 38 millimeters. In 2007, the watch family was expanded to include another mechanical chronograph. At first sight it appeared to be a break with the Portofino’s purist style but on closer inspection it turned out to be a logical continuation. Despite its improved technical features, the Reference 3783 retained the austere design cues that run through the entire Portofino line. The counters, seconds dial as well as the date and day displays are discreetly integrated into the dial: everything fits together perfectly, all the way through to the rectangular chronograph push-buttons with their rounded edges. On the occasion of the company’s 140th anniversary in 2008, the Portofino Hand-Wound from the IWC Vintage Collection, Reference 5448, followed on from the success of the original Portofino. As a reference to the historic model, it featured a front glass with a prominent arched edge, which was made of sapphire glass in place of the original Plexiglas®*. The choice of a hunter movement meant that the moon phase and seconds display reverted to their traditional positions of “12 o’clock” and “6 o’clock”, respectively. The much-improved movement also increased the accuracy of the moon phase display considerably: in 122 years, it will deviate by just one day from the actual course of the moon.
* IWC Schaffhausen is not the owner of the Plexiglas® trademark.
In 2011, the year of Portofino, fans of this watch family can look forward to two revised and one newly developed watch models. With the IWC-manufactured 59210-calibre movement featured in the Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days, this traditional watch family impressively scales the Mount Olympus of Haute Horlogerie. The Portofino Hand-Wound Eighty Days features fine alligator leather straps from the world-renowned shoe manufacturer Santoni. Elaborately finished by hand, every strap from Santoni comes with an exclusive patina-like shimmer, with its own individual nuances of color. The stainless-steel versions of the Portofino Automatic and Chronograph are likewise available with a Milanese mesh bracelet in stainless steel in the elegant style of the 1960s. Milanese mesh bracelets made of finely interwoven metal links combine the stability of a metal bracelet with the flexibility and comfort of a leather strap.