Hands On: IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar

A straightforward take on a classic complication.

IWC has a suite of instantly recognisable models synonymous with the brand, namely the Pilot’s Watches and of course, the Portugieser. But one collection does get as much recognition as its peers, despite being almost 40 years old. Named after the famous seaside city in Italy, the Portofino was introduced in 1984 (though the inaugural model didn’t yet have the Portofino name at the time) as an oversized pocket watch-style wristwatch, something of a clarion call to persist with mechanical watchmaking after the Quartz Crisis.

Now the brand has revived one of the classics from the line with the Portofino Perpetual Calendar. At 40 mm in diameter, it’s the most compact of IWC’s perpetual calendars and is equipped with an in-house movement from the 82000 family.

Initial thoughts

The perpetual calendar is a sought-after complication for its utility but also its aesthetics, especially when it includes a moon phase, which adds a touch of romanticism to the design. IWC’s latest take on the complication is straightforward, practical, and priced reasonably enough. In fact, it’s essentially a visually-simplified version of the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42, which uses the same movement but inside a larger case.

While not revolutionary in technical terms, the Portofino Perpetual Calendar is a solid performer with a concise design. It retains all the features that made the 1990s original appealing but adds a few contemporary touches in both design and the in-house base movement.

The legible and neat dial has a restrained elegance, resulting in an orderly, legible appearance. Consumers of this particular complication often ask the same question: can the calendar be easily read, preferably within five seconds? The answer in this case is yes, although the calendar markings are small, though that is typical of a calendar that relies on sub-dials.

And the concise design also extends to the details like the sans serif typography used for calendar and numerals and the removal of the four-digit year indicator that was long standard for IWC’s perpetual calendars.

But its most important feature is arguably the case size. At 40 mm, it is the brand’s smallest perpetual calendar and compact even relative to the broader market. This means it is easily wearable on almost any wrist.

And it is also thinner at 12.7 mm compared to its Portugieser counterpart that clocks in at 13.8 mm, which arguably makes it more of a dress watch.

All that comes at a price that’s about US$1,000 less than its Portugieser equivalent. That does give the Portofino perpetual an edge in terms of value, though the Portugieser does offer a bit more in terms of the case and dial execution.

Streamlining the calendar

The new Portofino Perpetual Calendar is a reinterpretation of the ref. 3541 produced in the 1990s. It was powered by the cal. 37582, an ETA 2892 combined with the perpetual calendar module conceived by the IWC’s famous watchmaker Kurt Klaus. Known for its reliability and robustness, the ETA 2892 is also slim, making it the perfect candidate for his calendar module. As a result, the ref. 3541 was a compact watch at only 35 mm in diameter and about 11 mm high.

An example of the Portofino Perpetual Calendar ref. 3541 from the 1990s. Image – Antiquorum

Echoing the original in both simplicity and size, the new Portofino Perpetual Calendar is 40 mm in diameter, while the case height is 12.7 mm, including a domed crystal.

That’s slightly tall but a consequence of the relatively thick base movement, which is the in-house cal. 82650. And like most IWC models, it is available in steel or 18k pink gold.

The case takes its cues from the 1990s original, so it’s all rounded and mirror polished. It is uncomplicated in both form and finish, which also means it’s missing some of the finishing details that its Portugieser cousin has.

The dial is a fuss-free silvered affair that does away with anything superfluous in its design, giving it a clean aesthetic. Its hands and baton indices corresponding to the case metal for a clean look that’s almost monochromatic but livened up by the blued hands and moon phase.

At the same time, the numerals for the five-minute markers gives it a functional appearance, though the leaf-shaped hands bring a classical, retro feel.

Each of the calendar indications is in conventional sub-dials with pointers. And replacing the four-digit year display is a leap year indicator in the form of a small aperture within the day-of-the-week register.

At six o’clock is the moon phase display that will have the moon and stars either rhodium or gold-plated, depending on the case material. Unlike most moon phase displays that are accurate to a day in 122.5 years, this is driven by a “precisely calculated reductionist gear train” that results in a one-day deviation after 577.5 years.

Like most contemporary IWCs, the case shows off the movement through the sapphire back. The ETA-based calibre in the 1990s original has been swapped for IWC’s proprietary cal. 82650, first introduced in the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42 in 2020.

Part of the 82000 family of movements, the cal. 82650 is one of the brand’s smallest in-house calibres, but nonetheless retains the brand’s signature Pellaton winding system and a respectable 60 hours of power reserve. Notably, the pawls and wheel of the Pellaton system are made of black ceramic, rendering them wear resistant.

With open-worked bridges that reveal the gear train and winding mechanism, the movement is very much typical of IWC in terms of its aesthetic. In other words, it’s a relatively simple movement, but looks fancy in a good way.

The decoration is very much standard IWC. Though done industrially, the decoration is attractive in both form and colour. The open-worked bridges add texture to the movement, while the details like the bevelling and graining are done neatly.

The ceramic components of the Pellaton mechanism

Concluding thoughts

Priced at US$24,000 in stainless steel and US$33,500 in gold, the new perpetual is amongst the most affordable perpetual calendars in its present catalogue powered by an in-house movement, making it a value proposition for someone seeking a perpetual calendar that’s more sophisticated than the ETA-powered offerings at the entry-level of the category.

Key Facts and Price

IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar
Ref. IW344601 (steel)
Ref. IW344602 (5n red gold)

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 12.7 mm
Material: Stainless steel or 18k 5n gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: Cal. 82650
Functions: Pellaton automatic winding system with a perpetual calendar with display for the date, day, month, leap year, and a perpetual moon phase with central hacking seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 60 hours

Strap: Blue calfskin strap with buckle

Availability: Now at IWC boutiques, IWC.com, and retailers
Price: US$24,000 for stainless steel, US$33,500 for rose gold

For more, visit IWC.com.


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Kudoke Makes a Hollywood Debut in ‘Last Looks’

And the starring watch will soon be sold for charity.

Seeing an Omega Seamaster in the latest James Bond is hardly a surprise. Independent watchmakers, however, rarely get the same Hollywood opportunities that deep-pocketed brands like Omega do. But tiny German watchmaker Kudoke managed to make it to the big screen without a well-funded marketing campaign.

This story starts with American novelist Howard Michael Gould, who released Last Looks in 2018. A mystery novel centred on a disgraced detective, Last Looks was on its way to the silver screen shortly after publication with Charlie Hunnam and Mel Gibson in starring roles.

Dominic Monaghan’s character wearing the Kudoke Real Skeleton

A crucial Kudoke skeleton

While the filming Last Looks, the producers reached out to the husband-and-wife team behind Kudoke, Ev and Stefan, for a watch to be worn in a movie without providing much details. According to Ev, the email from the producers initially seemed to be a random piece of spam. After all, most watches with prominent placements in films are the result of hefty advertising budgets.

But then Kudoke received another email with the same request from another sender. This piqued their interest but left Ev and Stefan wondering why any producer would choose a watch most of the audience would never recognise?

Soon enough, the Kudokes were sent excerpts of the script. To their surprise, the watch was not merely an accessory, but it was a central part of the plot, a crucial clue for solving the mystery in fact. The Kudokes naturally wanted to know why the watch was given such a prominent role, and as it turned out, the novel was included a description of a Kudoke watch, specifically, a Kudoke Real Skeleton is mentioned on page 50.

The Kudokes then contacted the author, Mr Gould, who responded: “When I was researching the story, I knew that I wanted a unique and specific watch, to use as an important clue. I searched on the internet, and was struck by the incredible beauty of your watches.”

A scene from the film showing the watch

And so a Kudoke skeleton was dispatched to Atlanta where production was taking place. This was in the summer of 2019 and the movie was originally scheduled to be released in early 2020, but the pandemic postponed the premiere to February 2022.

The watch cast in Last Looks was a Kudoke Real Skeleton, a watch representative of the brand’s earlier works that mostly focused on elaborate skeletonisation and engraving.

The Real Skeleton was conceived as a memento mori, explaining the skulls and bones theme. The movement is based on an ETA Unitas 6498, but heavily reworked. Almost all bridges have been replaced with meticulously open-worked bone-shaped bridges. And on the front is a golden skull with two diamonds set into the eyes.

On the block for a good cause

Once filming wrapped, the Real Skeleton was returned to Kudoke. But Ev and Stefan decided to do some good with it. They contact Mr Gould to propose selling the watch to benefit charity and the author agreed. Both Mr Gould and the film’s star Mr Hunnam signed copies of the script and novel to accompany the watch.

The Real Skeleton worn in Last Looks as well as the signed book and script will be sold at Phillips’ New York watch auction taking place on December 10.

All proceeds from the sale will go to reforestation projects in the Kudoke’s native Germany. Amongst other reasons, the cause was chosen because Mr Hunnam played Charlie Waldo in the film, echoing the German word for forest, wald. And the cause is also personal for the Kudokes, as the lushly forested region where they are based has been hit by both drought and pests in recent years.

To register for the auction and bid on the Real Skeleton, please visit Phillips.com.


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