IWC’s Portugieser line of watches has always been recognized as some of the best everyday watches. The model line brings classic layout to a sporty case dimension to form a sort of hybrid timepiece that is equally comfortable in many environments. The Portugieser Yacht Club Moon and Tide, reference IW344001 represents one of the latest additions to the Portugieser family, contributing new complications to the celebrated model line.
The IWC Portugieser collection was introduced in 1939 with the reference 325. Two Portuguese businessmen, Rodrigues and Antonio Teixeira, approached International Watch Company, proposing the construction of a stainless steel watch with marine chronometer precision. Subsequently, the reference 325 was born. Then considered a robust sports piece, the 325 was produced into the 50s, when the output began to sharply decrease for a variety of business related reasons.
Interestingly, IWC made many extra cases for the 325 which remained unused by the end of production. In the 1970’s, a Swiss retailer requested that IWC make a series of pieces utilizing the original cases that remained. The brand agreed, maintaining the original styling of the 325 but updating the movement to the caliber 982, which was significantly more refined than the caliber 98 of old, which had been better suited for a pocket watch than a wrist watch. After the success of this run, IWC ran a series of production runs for different European markets, including in 1979 for Germany and a 1993 limited edition in honor of the 125th anniversary of IWC. The 325 captures an essential portion of watchmaking history— the transition from pocket watches to wrist watches. Pieces like the 325 demonstrated the overall movement of the industry away from large pocket watches and towards wrist watches that provided the same chronometric precision and complication.
Since the Portugieser’s rebirth, the model line has exploded into arguably the brand’s most recognizable design (up there alongside the Pilot models). In 2020, IWC launched the model we are covering today, the Yacht Club Moon and Tide reference IW344001 in 5n red gold.
The IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Moon and Tide, reference IW344001, is an interesting amalgamation of elements. Carrying the history of the Portugieser model line, with the sporty sizing of 44mm, strong lug presentation, and crown guards, the piece is simultaneously quite refined in some of its finishing details. Fashioned from solid gold with gold hands and applied indices, the piece is reminiscent of say the Rolex Submariner in yellow gold— it’s a robust design and history, but a luxury set of appointments and finishes. This versatility is both an attribute and a detractor depending on your preferences.
Most interesting with this model is the unique combination of complications present on the piece. Displaying the moonphase in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and a low/ high tide indicator, the piece is the perfect companion for a mariner who enjoys mechanical complications. The strap is incredibly solid, made to resemble a rope texture (yet another nod to sailing), and is seamlessly custom integrated to the case. The strap is outfitted with a deployant clasp, an attribute that is particularly helpful on heavier watches like the Yacht Club. The case flanks are brushed and contrast with a polished bezel. The brushed finish continues to the sides of the lugs, with the dial side of the lugs also receiving high polish. IWC’s dial is a rich blue sunburst that adds to the warmth of the red gold case and further accentuates the nautical theme of the piece.
Beyond the complications and adaptations made to accommodate them, the piece maintains the identity of earlier Portugieser models, with classic leaf-style hands (lumed in this case), arabic numerals, and large dial alongside a minimalist bezel. This design formula helped make the Portugieser a success in the past, and continues to attract a diverse collector pool in the modern era.
IWC’s Moon and Tide reference IW344001 is powered by the automatic winding caliber 82835. The 82835 is well spec’d, with 60 hours of power reserve, but brings a considerable feature that many remain wholly unaware of: the Pellaton winding system. Developed by Albert Pellaton, the technical director of IWC until 1966, the unique mechanism uses a series of pawls to transmit the energy from the rotor to the mainspring. The most immediate benefit of the system is significantly greater resilience against shocks and vibrations, interference that can hurt the delicate gear train. It is always exciting to own a piece that incorporates a key development of that brand’s history. Owning an IWC with the Pellaton is analogous to a Breguet watch with a tourbillon— it’s special.
IWC chose to skeletonize the bridge structure on the movement side in order to provide greater visibility into the componentry of the movement. This is certainly a more obscure method of skeletonization than say a skeleton dial, but it is quite an interesting approach that yields practically the same results without interfering with the dial side of the piece. Skeleton watches are polarizing — some love them, some hate them — but a skeleton movement doesn’t drastically impact the overall presentation of the watch when the dial is unaffected.
The automatic winding rotor is inlaid with a rose gold medallion bearing the IWC branding. In equally sophisticated fashion, the base of the caliber is made from brass, consistent with tradition. The piece includes hacking seconds and IWC’s proprietary shock absorption system.
Versus the Competition
The most natural alternatives to the Yacht Club Moon and Tide reference IW344001 would be both of Rolex’s Yacht Master model lines. Fashioned from Rose Gold (options are available in white gold as well), the Yacht Master reference 126655 confers the same mix of precious metal and sports spec mentioned earlier. The Yacht Master is likely the archetypical representation of a luxury yachting watch.
Alongside the Yacht Master, the Yacht Master II is an equally common option. Also made from solid gold, the Yacht Master II provides a regatta timer chronograph with countdown mechanism. If you plan on timing races, this watch is the one for you. Of course, the IWC Yacht Club affords an entirely different set of complications, but if you are seeking out a recognizable regatta timer, this is the model to go for.
For an entirely different take on the regatta timer, consider Richard Mille’s 50 piece limited edition RM 60-01 “St. Barth”. It’s a flyback chronograph with UTC function and 50 hours of power reserve. Made from titanium, this watch is nothing like the others, but is equally interesting, as one of RM’s only watches not to use the typical tonneau case shape.
The collector that appreciates this type of watch likely enjoys sailing and/ or yachting. Some will actually use the complications present, exploiting the high and low tide indications as well as the moon phase in different hemispheres to help in navigational decisions. Seeing as most sophisticated modern ships provide this information equally, if not, more accurately, it is more likely that this watch is appreciated more for its ties to the nautical world than for its practical utility as a tool.
Marine associations aside, the piece is equally wearable and interesting for a complete outsider. If you like larger wrist watches or obscure complications, the rose gold 44mm timepiece is quite charming on its own.
The IWC Portugieser is one of the most successful design languages in the industry. Since its introduction, the Portugieser collection has grown to include a variety of complications, from chronographs, to perpetual calendars, to minute repeaters, to annual calendars. Each watch has its own character, but unique complications such as high and low tide indication and dual moon phases are the types of elements that watch collectors obsess over. Even if the complication is never used, the knowledge that a mechanical solution has been created to address the need for such information is the underlying philosophy that keeps collectors engaged and enthusiastic about watchmaking in the first place.