In the complex world of vintage watch collecting, only a handful of timepieces have kept a true iconic status through ages. Among these watches is one of the most important watches of its time : The IWC Portugieser Reference 325. With its timeless design and fascinating history, the Reference 325 has become the patient zero for the renowned Portugieser watch family, a long-lasting story to who we owe, several decades later, some of the most beautiful pieces made by IWC...
To understand the genesis of the famed Portuguese wristwatch, we must journey back to the times surrounding its creation : In the 1930s, the Swiss watchmaking industry, including IWC, faced economic and political challenges due to the political fluctuations in Europe. Switzerland being a neutral country depending mostly on exports, the economic situation was not so good, which lead to a huge decrease of sales between 1929 and 1932. So, like many other watch companies, IWC had to look for new markets and opportunities.
With that in mind, the brand started to launch a huge variety of unique designs, mostly Art-Deco inspired, but also enamel dials with shapes and geometric details. In parallel of those collections, IWC launched a curious pocket watch bearing the name "Portugieser", whose design was opposite to what they were used to do : The dial was very simple, functional and widely inspired from the modernist theories of Bauhaus.
According to IWC archives, it's in this context that the brand received a request from two Portuguese wholesalers, Rodrigues and Antonio Teixeira, looking to expand their business abroad. IWC's response was a bespoke watch that fulfilled their desired criterias... The IWC Portugieser 325.
Keep in mind for the future that even if we now use this number, the watch never really had an "official" name or reference number. The legend says one of IWC watchmakers reffered to the watch with this nickname, and the brand decided to stick with it!
The IWC Portugieser Reference 325 boasted a classic and modern design, ahead of its time : While the average standards for a wristwatch were comprized between 30 and 35 millimeters, this watch featured a 41,5mm diameter, something never seen before! The case was in three parts, with a grooved bezel and an oversized crown for ease of winding. There was a diverse range of dial variations, featuring arabic numbers and sometimes a sector dial.
As stated in Bauhaus theory, "form over function", the watch was one of the most legible pieces you could have on your wrist : The dial was minimalistic, the numbers were big with no frills and the small second was slightly oversized for comfort.
The Historical Importance of the IWC Reference 325
The scarcity of the IWC Reference 325 comes from its relatively low sales, particularly during its early years. The watch's large size, at a time when smaller diameters were prevalent, may have limited its appeal to some potential buyers.
The craziest thing with this watch however, is that it was produced in only 690 examples on over 40 years, and according to IWC Archives, the first series made between 1939 and 1951 were only made in 304 pieces!
Nowadays, finding a genuine 325 in good condition is almost impossible.
The IWC Portugieser Reference 325 stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of classic design and horological craftsmanship. Its historical significance, combined with its scarcity, has elevated the watch to an highly esteemed status among collectors. While its early years were marked by very limited sales, the Reference 325 has since found recognition and appreciation from IWC enthusiasts worldwide, and can be easily described as one of the most legendary IWC piece ever made... After all, this watch was decades ahead of its time, and it's because of this legend that IWC still makes the Portugieser today!