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The IWC Portugeiser Automatic Ref. 3531
On September 24, 2002
The IWC Portugieser Automatic
In the late 1930′s, IWC received an order from a Portugese customer for a wristwatch the same size and accuracy as a pocket watch. It was delivered, in a steel case. In 1995, IWC released the first contemporary Portugieser, the Ref. 5441. Using the calibre 9828–a 19 jewel “pocket savonnette” movement with a diameter of almost 38mm–it was a very large watch at 43 mm and a thickness of approximately 10mm. It was also priced at US$12,500 in rose gold. The 9828 was derived from IWC’s own older 982 calibre, and is shown in figure 1. It is a beautiful, classically finished movement. The watch quickly became a collector’s item and difficult to obtain.
Because of the size, cost, and rarity of the original–and some might say, real–Portugieser, IWC recently released some smaller Portugiesers, including the Ref. 3531 in either red gold or steel. At a diameter of 35mm and thickness of 8mm, it is a more conventionally sized watch. In the steel version reported on here, the watch carries a retail price of US$4,995. The 18K version is US$7,995.
What the Ref. 3531 shares with the original Portugieser is the styling of the dial, which is almost identical in detail; the styling and details of the case; and the sapphire back. What it does not share is the movement.
Out of the box, the watch showed excellent performance. In daily use, it consistently gained only a second or two a day. Figures from two consecutive days on the Elma Watch-matic timer demonstrated that the watch had been carefully adjusted at the factory. The figures below are the average of the two tests. All rate figures are in seconds per day. Beat error is shown in milliseconds of difference between the contact of the pallet fork with the balance pin and contact of each pallet jewel with the escape wheel. Amplitude is shown in degrees of arc of travel in each direction of balance rotation (averaging the two directions).
Most noteworthy was the very clean trace, the relatively small variations of rate, beat, and amplitude between positions (with horizontal positions typically faster), and the excellent performance in the normally untested position, crown right. The crown right position is sometimes used to “put” errors that cannot be otherwise eliminated from tested positions. The beat was properly set, and the amplitude was strong in all positions (270 degrees would normally be considered minimum acceptable amplitude in the dial up position).
The case is very similar to the original Portugieser, though in smaller dimensions. The bezel is narrow, and includes an unusual, small, deeply convex section. The crystal is slightly domed, and unlike that of the original Portugieser is sapphire (the original had a plexi). The snap-on back also includes a sapphire porthole. Rated to a water resistance of 3 ATM (30 meters), the watch, surprisingly, has a “fish” symbol on the crown. The brushing of the case sides gives the case an element of refinement that is important in the overall effect.
THE DIAL AND HANDS
The 3531 uses a dial almost identical to the original Portugieser. Classically silvered, it uses a sunk
I find the Ref. 3531 a handsome classic watch, very much in the IWC tradition. It uses a first rate, distinctively finished movement. I believe that the stamped dial is its single failure, though not a fatal one in my opinion. At a retail of US$4,995, the watch is too expensive, regardless of the dial. For example, the wonderful (and much more complex) JLC Reserve de Marche with its 45 jewel caliber 928 lists for US$200 less (US$4,800) in a comparable steel case. At a typical discount price of about US$3,000, however, the 3531 is a reasonable buy. While it is not mechanically unique in any way, it is of very high quality, it reflects a piece of IWC tradition, and its particular aesthetics are not available elsewhere.