review

Gentleman Sailor: Testing the IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph

IWC launched the Portugieser Yacht Club in 2010 into the sporty yet elegant world of sailing. For 2020, the nautical chronograph model has a classic look and a steel bracelet upgrade. We give it a thorough review in this feature from the WatchTime archives.

The new IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph is a watch you can wear with confidence anywhere at the marina. A first glance shows that the third generation of the sportiest Portugieser model, our test watch, is designed to be both a nautical timepiece and a luxury accessory. The first impression of this IWC diving watch is confirmed upon closer inspection of its polished and satin-finish case, sunburst blue dial and brightly polished hands. Every component is flawlessly finished and worthy to be part of the supremely elegant Portugieser collection. 


For the first time in its 10-year history, this Portugieser Yacht Club boasts a steel bracelet rather than a rubber or leather strap — a sturdy but elegant IWC steel bracelet with brushed outer links and polished inner links. Shortening the bracelet involves simply pressing a button on the back of each row of sturdy links to remove it. Unlike simpler bracelet designs, using screws or hammering is not needed. 




Inside the safety folding clasp of this IWC diving watch, there is also a quick extension piece that quickly and easily lengthens the bracelet by up to 7 mm. Pressing the polished ‘IWC’ button on the outer bar of the clasp extends the bracelet in seven increments — without ever removing the watch from your wrist. Two safety buttons round out the sturdy and well-designed folding clasp. 


Detailed Modifications 


In addition to the bracelet, the dial has also been updated. The central chronograph hand is now steel-grey instead of red, and the date window has been shifted from the 3 o’clock position to the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. Both changes enhance the elegance of the Yacht Club and were well received by our editorial staff. 


The elegant impression is diminished, however, by the enlargement of the already considerable stainless-steel case from 43.5 mm to 44.6 mm. Our editorial staff admitted that no one among them had a wrist to match its substantial dimensions. 


Even so, the large, heavy watch is quite comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically shaped sloping lugs and a supple steel bracelet. Unfortunately, the flexibility and adjustability of the IWC’s bracelet results in relatively large gaps between the links, which can catch and pull hair. 





Proven Technology 


Components taken from earlier generations of the Yacht Club include the sturdy and powerful in-house movement, Calibre 89361, with many excellent features like a 68-hour power reserve; a traditional column-wheel control mechanism; the brand’s own exceptionally efficient Pellaton dual-pawl winding system; a free-sprung, temperature-resistant Glucydur balance wheel; and a flyback function for the direct restarting of the running chronograph. It can also show off beautiful decorative finishes, gold-enhanced engraving and a gold IWC medallion on the skeletonised oscillating rotor.


Another feature of the in-house movement of IWC diving watch is the combined 12-hour and 60-minute counter in the upper half of the dial, which is intended to show elapsed time intuitively, as on a clock. The combined counter is too small for everyday use, however, and its markings are too fine to read elapsed time to the minute quickly and easily. The chronograph seconds track around the dial is also extremely fine, and the central chronograph seconds hand is insufficiently long to fully reach it. In sum, it’s a mixed bag, with clearly legible time and date, and elapsed time that is much more difficult to read. 


Accurate Rate 


Our rate test revealed more about the Swiss movement. The electronic timing machine showed a negligibly small daily rate of +0.8 seconds, a maximum deviation between the positions of only 4 seconds and almost the same values when the chronograph is engaged. A two-week wearing test confirmed the small daily deviation with values between zero and +2 seconds — making our test watch a reliable partner for everyday use. 




In addition to the movement, another feature of the Yacht Club that hasn’t changed arouses mixed feelings — the pressure resistance of six bar that corresponds to water pressure at a depth of 60 metres. Although this may sound like a lot at first, the water resistance as it is tested under laboratory conditions is rather low for a nautical luxury sports watch linked to the world of sailing. Coming in contact with spray or waves means a watch should be resistant to at least 10 bar or 100 metres to ensure a certain degree of security in a variety of different environments. And even though this still isn’t a lot, it is the current standard for any water sports watch not explicitly designed for diving


Advice for boat owners is simply this: It’s better to wear this watch in the evening, below deck, or to dinner at the marina, and either take it easy onboard during the day or rely on a sports watch that is clearly defined as such. The new Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph is well equipped for normal everyday wear and light sports activities — and is the perfect gentleman sailor for social events on or below deck.

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