A Guide To Buying The Perfect IWC Portofino

The IWC Portofino is a diverse collection of exceptional timepieces. With hand-wound, automatic, chronograph, moon phase, and even tourbillon models, the Portofino is as eclectic as it gets. Despite having a great variety of models, the IWC Portofino collection adheres to tradition as its cornerstone concept. IWC is a Swiss watchmaking brand renowned for its excellent quality and timeless designs. In this guide, we will help you discover all you need to know about the IWC Portofino. Furthermore, we will also take a look at some of the different pieces in the series and find out which Portofino truly belongs to your wrist.

History of the IWC Portofino

IWC Portofino Rear Case
Image By: IWC Schaffhausen

The story of the IWC Portofino began in the 1980s when watchmakers around the world were still recovering from the quartz crisis. While other brands were looking for modern ways to remain relevant in changing times, IWC decided to look further into the past. Instead of looking for contemporary methods to create new timepieces, the brand stuck to more conventional roots by seeking inspiration from an ageless design that has proven itself time and time again. For this, they looked to one of the most prolific watchmakers in history, Jean-Antione Lepine. Lepine is well-known for his signature 18th-century pocket watch. His iconic timepiece stands as one of the most recognised watches ever made and features a design that remains a classic from generation to generation. Preparing for their future by looking into the past, IWC knew that they were onto something potentially game-changing. Through extensive deliberation and expert craftsmanship, the Swiss brand was able to develop the IWC Portofino.

IWC Portofino Models Throughout the Years

1980s

IWC introduced the Portofino collection in 1984. Their first model, the IWC Portofino Ref. 5251, was a sleek and elegant timepiece showcasing a vintage look with horological elements attributed to Jean-Antione. Taking influence from his famous pocket watch, the Ref. 5251 sported an oversized case and a plain white dial with Breguet hands, Roman numerals, a seconds display, and a moon phase indicator. With all these things put together, the IWC Portofino Ref. 5251 had the appearance of a classic pocket watch for the wrist. What made this timepiece particularly unforgettable was its moon phase function. Bearing a golden moon by the 3 o’clock position that strikingly contrasted the white surface, the dial of the Ref. 5251 resembled that of a freshly cooked sunny-side-up egg. As a result, collectors started nicknaming this premiere piece “The Fried Egg.”

In 1988, IWC added two more models to the Portofino, namely, Ref. 3730 and Ref. 3731. These two watches housed an innovative movement known as the Caliber 631 or the “Mechaquartz.” The Caliber 631 was a hybrid movement conceived by the creative minds of Jaeger-LeCoultre. While it was technically a quartz movement, the Caliber 631 came equipped with mechanical chronograph functions. The Ref. 3730 and Ref. 3731 featured a handy rotating date display located at the outer rims of their respective dials. 

1990s

Five years later, IWC created a classic dress watch that was more minimalistic than its previous offerings, the Ref. 2010. This 1993 model was one of the smallest Portofino models IWC ever made. It displayed a modest aesthetic with gold stick hands and hour indices. Underneath the Ref. 2010 was IWC’s Caliber H/849 — a flat hand-wound movement that was only 1.85mm thick. This watch underwent production from 1993 to 2005.

In 1995, IWC engineered the Ref. 3050 Romana Perpetual Calendar, the collection’s first perpetual chronograph. This was one of the slimmest perpetual chronographs ever produced and was in the foreground of IWC’s shelves until 2001. It highlighted a hand-wound movement and a timeless design beloved by all.

2000s

The IWC Ref. 3533 Portofino Automatic is a model developed with IWC’s community. By garnering feedback from their audience during the 1990s, IWC created a traditional Portofino with a more sizable case. The Ref. 3533 bore a design similar to the collection’s Ref. 2010, but with very different specifications. The Portofino Automatic Ref.3533 highlighted an automatic caliber with new complications such as central seconds and a date function at 3 o’clock.

2008 marked the brand’s 140th anniversary. To commemorate the momentous occasion, IWC released an exclusive collection featuring re-editions of their most coveted watches. Among those timepieces was a tribute to the very first Portofino, the Portofino Vintage. While bearing the Ref. 5251’s iconic elegant design, the Portofino Vintage showcased IWC’s in-house Caliber 98800, which relocated the moon phase indicator to the 12 o’clock position and the seconds display to 6 o’clock. Watch enthusiasts were delighted to see the return of the moon phase indicator. Additionally, IWC offered the new Portofino Vintage with an exhibition-style caseback for wearers to view the movement at work.

2010s

In 2011, IWC established the Ref. 5101 Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days. Bearing the brand’s newest hand-wound caliber, the Ref. 5101 stands at the forefront of IWC as the flagship model of the Portofino line. The dial of the new IWC Portofino displays several chronograph complications such as a date function, a seconds display, and a power indicator. Although it has numerous robust features, the dial bears a clean and uncluttered look, promoting easy readability. Underneath the dial is the IWC-manufactured Caliber 59210. Possessing the brand’s latest technology, the Caliber 59210 features a power reserve that can last up to 192 hours or eight days. With such a brilliant innovation, wearers of the Ref. 5101 would only have to wind this luxurious timepiece once every week. Exceptional and sophisticated all around, the Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days is one of IWC’s most capable and popular Portofino models ever.

Three years later, IWC crafted the latest edition to the Portofino collection, the Portofino Automatic 37. The Portofino Automatic 37 brings a slew of wonderfully crafted, mid-sized three-hand models to the IWC Portofino collection. Its case measures 37mm in diameter, which is perfect for those with more slender wrists. Through this timepiece, the Portofino collection once again expands its variety. With two-button chronographs, moon phase watches, quartz movements, automatic movements, two-hand models, and now three-hand models, the Portofino was nothing short of diversified. In 2017, IWC created their latest in-house chronograph caliber, which was the Caliber 59800. The new movement featured a moon phase indicator along with IWC’s ground-breaking eight-day power reserve. Holding IWC’s latest horological innovations, the brand then integrated the Caliber 59800 into their Ref. 5101s models in the same year.

On their 150th anniversary in 2018, IWC brought the spotlight back to the Portofino Automatic by unveiling a limited edition variant known as the IWC Portofino Automatic 150 Years. This upgraded automatic wristwatch showcases an eye-catching blue lacquer-finished dial with a sleek rhodium-plated handset. IWC limited this exclusive version of the Portofino Automatic to 2000 models. Sheltered by a 40mm stainless steel case, the Portofino Automatic 150 Years suits the wrists of both ladies and gentlemen. The showcase, however, didn’t stop there. A year later, IWC introduced a luxurious edition of the IWC Portofino Automatic, which featured a petite 34mm 18K gold case with 104 diamond studs encrusted around its surface. Accompanied by an embossed silver-plated dial, this new 34mm automatic timepiece is now the most prestigious ladies’ model in the IWC Portofino line.

Exploring the IWC Portofino Family

The IWC Portofino line is home to all kinds of timepieces. Ranging from automatic watches, moon phase watches, chronograph watches, and more, you definitely won’t be running out of choices with the IWC Portofino. But with so many variations, it can be quite the challenge to pin down the ideal watch for you. Rather than going through every single model in the collection, we have hand-picked a few timepieces that truly embody the heritage and core aspects of the IWC Portofino.

Prices for the IWC Portofino start at $4,900 USD and increase from there. Depending on the model, the materials used, and the features offered, a brand-new Portofino can cost you up to $58,000 USD. While prices for the IWC Portofino aren’t strictly top-of-the-line, you would still get more value for your money if you purchased a model from the pre-owned market. 

IWC Portofino Automatic Watches

The Portofino collection primarily consists of classic automatic watches. With a timeless look and a highly recognisable build, the IWC Portofino Automatic stands out as an excellent tribute to the vintage pocket watch of a bygone era. Each Portofino Automatic holds a black, white, or blue dial and uses stainless steel or 18K 5N rose gold for its case.

IW356504 Portofino Automatic
IWC Portofino

The IWC Portofino Automatic IW356504 is one of the most alluring and talked-about timepieces in the entire collection. With an exquisite 18K 5N rose gold case, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and a minimalist silver dial, the IW356504 brings back an ageless aesthetic with a modern twist. Underneath the dial is an automatic IWC 35111 Caliber. Carrying some of the latest technologies of IWC, the 35111 Caliber consists of a self-winding mechanism and a substantial 42-hour power reserve. IWC also pairs the IW356504 with a comfortable dark brown alligator leather strap.

What makes this model truly unique, apart from the high-quality materials used, is its one-of-a-kind case back. When you look at the back of this watch, you can see a beautiful engraving of the Ligurian coast in all of its glory. Delicately carved, down to the smallest detail, the panoramic view perfectly captures a moment in Portofino frozen in time for all to admire. With a water resistance of 30m, the IW356504 Portofino Automatic retails at $12,800 USD.

IW356502 Portofino Automatic
IWC Portofino

For an automatic wristwatch with a more budget-friendly price, look no further than the Portofino Automatic IW356502. Unlike the IW356504, the case IW356502 is made from high-quality stainless steel. Furthermore, this version of the Portofino Automatic contains a stark black dial that satisfyingly contrasts against clean silver indices and hands and a stainless steel caseback. As a more affordable variant, the caseback of the IW356502 does not feature the Portofino engravings that can be seen in the collection’s more luxurious timepieces. All in all, the IW356502 costs $4,900 USD.

IW459401 Portofino Automatic Moon Phase
IWC Portofino Automatic Moon Phase

The IWC Portofino collection also features some automatic models with moon phase indicators. One of the most popular variants is the IW459401 Automatic Moon Phase. What sets the IW459401 apart is its moon phase indicator, which is run by an automatic IWC 35800 Caliber. With this added complication, the IW459401 becomes a more robust timepiece while still sporting a nostalgic vintage design. This IWC Moon Phase watch utilizes a hardy stainless steel case and sapphire glass to protect the entirety of the model. The IW459401 sells for just $6,900 USD.

IWC Portofino Automatic Chronographs

The IWC Portofino also offers an attractive selection of automatic chronographs. While bearing multiple complications that allow you to keep track of the various aspects of time, the Portofino chronographs still retain the neatness and timelessness that this prestigious collection is known for. The Portofino Chronograph can come with a white, black, or blue dial, and is housed in a 42mm case made from stainless steel or 18K 5N rose gold. 

IW391027 Portofino Chronograph 
IWC Portofino Chronograph

The IW391027 Portofino Chronograph is an elegant timepiece with a sophisticated look. Crafted with the utmost care, it bears a clean and crisp design throughout its structure. The IW391027 comes in a sizeable 42mm stainless steel case paired with a classic dark brown alligator leather strap. Inside the round steel case is a clean, uncluttered silver-plated dial. Apart from the usual hours, minutes, and seconds functions, the dial also contains a few chronograph complications and a handy day and date window. Accompanied by sleek rhodium hands and indices, the dial is protected by a layer of sapphire glass. The IW391027 is operated by IWC’s 75320 Caliber. Held by 25 jewels, the 75320 Caliber is a self-winding, automatic movement with a power reserve that can last up to 44 hours. Covered by a stainless steel caseback, the IW391027 sells for $6,100 USD.

IW391035 Portofino Chronograph
IWC Portofino
Image By: IWC Schaffhausen

Compared to the IW391027, the IW391035 Portofino Chronograph is a more luxurious variant. The timepiece has similar functions and dimensions to the IW391027 but uses a sensual 18K 5N rose gold case. Additionally, the IW391035 sports a striking royal blue dial that perfectly compliments its golden hands and indices. Located at the back of the timepiece is a rose gold caseback that showcases the artful engraving of the Portofino harbour. Since it is made from more exotic materials, the IW391035 Portofino Chronograph is slightly costlier, retailing at $16,800 USD.

IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Watches

This line of IWC Portofino timepieces is quite possibly the most popular among watch enthusiasts. Featuring IWC’s revolutionary eight-day power reserve, the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound boasts an impeccable design and practical innovations. Portofino Hand-Wound timepieces come in three forms: Original, Moon Phase, and Tourbillon Retrograde.

IW510104 Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days
IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days
Image By: IWC Schaffhausen

The IW510104 Hand-Wound Eight Days is arguably the most iconic modern-day watch of the Portofino collection. The IW510104 comes in a 45mm 18K rose gold case paired with a dark brown alligator leather strap. Its dial features a slate-colored surface that contains golden hands and Roman numerals, complete with a power reserve indicator, a seconds display, and a date window. The watch runs on IWC’s highly capable 59210 Caliber. This in-house automatic caliber is capable of winding itself through the natural movement of the wearer’s hand and is capable of powering the IW510104 for eight whole days. Sealed by a see-through sapphire rear case, the IW510104 Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days is worth $19,800 USD. Another version of this Portofino comes with an additional moon phase indicator at the 12 o’clock position and costs $23,900 USD.

IW510103 Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days
IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days

If the IW510104 is too extravagant for your tastes, IWC also offers a subtler, more affordable version with similar specifications. Priced at $9,900 USD, the IW510103 Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days uses durable, scratch-resistant stainless steel to make its case. Its cool silver-plated dial showcases an analog layout, with a gold-toned set of hands and indices. This watch features the exact same complications that you can find in the slate dial of the IW510104. In general, the IW510103 bears capabilities and functions identical to more expensive variants of the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days watches, including the whopping eight-day power reserve.

Brand-new vs. Pre-owned

Once you decide to buy an IWC Portofino watch, your choices will boil down to whether you want a timepiece that is either brand-new or pre-owned. Both sides have their respective sets of pros and cons. Pre-owned watches are almost always more affordable than brand-new models. That said, it is pivotal to take into account all the aspects of the timepiece when discussing its price. A few factors that apply in this discussion include Portofino’s overall condition, the presence or absence of its original box and paperwork, and whether the whole piece still retains all its original parts.

Generally, pre-owned Portofino timepieces can help buyers save up to 50% of their total budget. If you look hard enough for a second-hand Portofino, it is possible for you to find sellers who offer IWC Portofino watches with prices as low as $3,700 USD, although you have to be careful to double-check the authenticity of the watch and the condition it is in.

Of course, buying a brand-new IWC Portofino from an authorized dealer eliminates all possible worries. However, each watch bears a value that runs the risk of depreciating over time. While Portofino watches resell quite well, it is crucial to consider all your options so that you invest in the right timepiece. If you know where to look, purchasing a pre-owned timepiece could be the better option compared to buying a Portofino that is brand-new. Having that choice allows you to own a fantastic IWC Portofino watch of nearly the same quality for a more budget-friendly price.

Final Thoughts

For thirty-seven years, the IWC Portofino has continued to be one of IWC Schaffhausen’s most outstanding collections. With its natural looks, gorgeous structure, robust features, and the public’s undying demand for classic watches, the Portofino holds an impressive reputation among men and women alike. By retaining the brand’s core values, the IWC Portofino collection establishes itself as a permanent member of the IWC family to look out for.

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Featured Image By: IWC Schaffhausen

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