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Still Navigating To New Horizons
MORE than eight decades in, little has changed about the IWC Portugieser.
The collection has been refreshed for 2020 but minimal changes have been made to it and the watches by and large retain its timeless good looks.
After all, if it ain't broken, why fix it?
To understand the significance of the collection, it's important to step back in time and revisit the story behind the watch; and it's an interesting one linked by water.
When IWC's American founder Florentine Ariosto Jones crossed the Atlantic to establish the brand in 1868, he set up a hydroelectric-powered factory by the Rhine River.
The Portugieser, meanwhile, is a watch that is often associated with the sea and navigation.
Seafarers at that time often used the pocket watches made by IWC as marine deck observation watches for navigation out at sea because of their precision and legible dials; but it wasn't until the start of the 20th century when the brand started producing deck watches for the British Royal Navy.
That production became the inspiration for the first ever Portugieser (Reference 325) in 1939; and its now-familiar name actually came from the two Portuguese merchants who ordered it.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Schaffhausen luxury watch brand has refreshed the collection for a new generation.
All the trademarks of the Portugieser can still be found on the dial - from the signature small seconds at the six o'clock position, to the minute-scale railway tracks circling the bezel, the applied Arabic numerals, and the feuille hands.
The most significant change, however, is also the most important one for the brand because the Portugieser watches now all come with in-house movements produced at IWC's new two-year-old Manufacture in Schaffhausen.
Dial colours in green and burgundy were introduced for the Portugieser Chronograph earlier this year, but the model got another facelift just last month for Watches & Wonders Shanghai where it appeared with a stainless steel bracelet.
The polished and satin-finished surfaces of the metal band gives the revamped piece a striking and even sportier look; complementing the silver-plated dial, while contrasting nicely with the blue hands and appliques to make them pop.
A butterfly folding clasp allows it to sit ergonomically on the wrist, and the new stainless steel bracelet will be available as an accessory for all new models of the Portugieser Chronograph.
Collectors looking for a bit of history will notice semblance of the original Reference 325 in the reintroduced Portugieser Automatic, which now comes in a very wearable and contemporary 40mm diameter.
Also getting a size change to 44mm is the third generation Portugieser Yacht Club, with some models sporting metal bracelets that are a throwback to the original collection that dates back to 1967.
High complication pieces include a Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide - the first watch by IWC to feature a newly developed tide indication complication that will display the arrival of the next high and low tide - as well as a Portugieser perpetual calendar, which also comes in steel for the first time; a tourbillon rétrograde chronograph; and a perpetual calendar tourbillon.
A travelling exhibition, IWC Portugieser: Navigating Through Time, is currently taking place in Singapore for those who are keen to revisit the history of the collection while checking out this year's novelties.
Curated by the IWC Museum in Schaffhausen, the retrospective show puts together nine pieces that defined and marked milestones in the lineage of the Portugieser family.
On show for the first time in South-east Asia is an IWC observation watch built for the British Royal Navy in 1943.
Visitors will also be able to view the Yacht Club Ref 811 from 1967 which housed a spring-mounted movement and was lauded for its elegance and durability; and the first Portugieser Chronograph from 1998 which has since gone on to become a brand icon.
IWC Portugieser: Navigating Through Time runs until Oct 25 at IWC's ION Orchard boutique before moving to the Marina Bay Sands' boutique from Oct 26 to Nov 8. Private walkthroughs are strictly by appointment only and online booking should be made beforehand at https://watches.iwc.com/NTT.