IWC: Surprisingly Affordable

Posted by Jason Swire on December 08, 2020

Schaffhausen-based International Watch Co is a manufacture with a rich history, founded by an American watchmaker named Florentine Ariosto Jones way back in 1868. Now a subsidiary of the Richemont group, IWC is the most aviation-focused of the groups’ brands and arguably its best producer of luxury tool watches designed to be worn every day. That being said, IWC certainly does occupy the “luxury” end of the Swiss watch spectrum with their entry-level, time-only pilot watches clocking in around the $5,500 USD mark at retail. 

Thankfully the used market prices for IWC can be substantially lower than retail, and if you know which models to shop for you can pick up a handsome dress watch, a robust diver, or a traditional pilot’s watch from the storied manufacture at a far more palatable price point. 

Portofino Automatic reference IW356501

Dealer Average

$4,067

Market Average

$2,983

Price Confidence

Watch Overview Browse Listings

Dealer Average

$4,067

Market Average

$2,983

Price Confidence

Model Specifications
Crystal Sapphire crystal
Power Reserve 42 hours
Water Resistance 30 meters
Case Diameter 40 mm
Movement Caliber 35110
Case Material Steel

A silver-dial dress watch on black alligator leather should be the mainstay of any watch collection, and a top contender for this coveted spot in your watch box is the IWC Portofino Automatic. The Portofino avoids that most common pitfall of all dress watches – being boring – without compromising on the classic minimalism required of a more formal timepiece. With a discreet colour-matched date wheel at 3 o’clock and Arabic numeral minute markers the Portofino provides more utility and legibility than a traditional dress watch, making this more of an everyday watch that can easily fulfil black tie duties or be dressed down with a brown calfskin strap to pair with some jeans and a polo. 

Don’t let the dial diameter of 40mm deter you from the Portofino, as the compact lug-to-lug width of 45mm and a slim 9.2mm girth makes this wear just as well as most 36mm dress watches. Powered by the IWC Calibre 35111 (a modified and rebranded Sellita SW300-1), with a modern 4Hz beat rate and 42 hours of power reserve, this watch should serve as a reliable and robust timekeeper as well as being relatively inexpensive to service. My only qualm is the rather paltry water resistance rating of 3 Bar, aka “splash-resistant”, which limits the versatility of this watch.

Aquatimer Chronograph Galapagos reference IW376705

Dealer Average

$4,278

Market Average

$3,323

Price Confidence

Watch Overview Browse Listings

Dealer Average

$4,278

Market Average

$3,323

Price Confidence

Model Specifications
Crystal Sapphire crystal
Water Resistance 100 meters
Case Diameter 44 mm
Power Reserve 44 hours
Case Thickness 15 mm
Movement Caliber 79320

Celebrating IWC’s partnership with the Charles Darwin foundation is this utterly cool Aquatimer whose stainless steel case has been coated in vulcanized black rubber. This treatment should help resist scratches as well as providing a unique tactile experience, plus the addition of rubber makes the uni-directional divers’ bezel highly grippable even with wet fingers. The monochromatic colour scheme is eminently legible, even with the added functionality of both a chronograph and a day-date indicator at 3 o’clock.

The rather imposing dial diameter of 45mm could be deal-breaker, depending on your wrist circumference, but much like the Seiko Tuna this Aquatimer wears better than its diameter would suggest thanks to a restrained 51mm lug-to-lug width. By way of contrast, the Omega Seamaster Professional Diver 300M with its 42mm dial clocks in at 50mm lug-to-lug. The extra dial diameter on the Aquatimer helps it pack in as many functions as it does without appearing cluttered. Water resistance is also very capable at 12 Bar (120 meters) making this eminently suitable for water sports or recreational diving. Powering this watch is the IWC Calibre 79320, which is a modified version of the Valjoux 7750, a tried-and-tested workhorse movement with 44 hours of power reserve.

Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire reference IW326801

Market Average

$3,580

Price Confidence

Model Specifications
Crystal Sapphire crystal
Water Resistance 60 meters
Case Diameter 39 mm
Case Thickness 10.8 mm
Power Reserve 72 hours
Movement Caliber 32110

Aviation timepieces are a core strength of IWC as a brand, and within their pilot’s watch collections the Spitfire models deserve special attention. This reference is a time and date only model that distils the aviation theme down to its essence, a robust timekeeping instrument where form follows function. Broad lume-filled hands and large Arabic numerals make this a highly legible watch under all conditions. With 6 bars of water resistance the Spitfire isn’t exactly a diver, but it should be perfectly resilient against a dip in the pool or for wearing on the beach. The 39mm diameter and 10.8mm height makes this a watch wearable by basically anyone, and a soft-iron inner cage also serves to protect the movement against magnetism.

While the previous two references both utilize reliable but commonplace outsourced movements, the Pilot’s Watch Spitfire is the first IWC watch in this list to provide a true in-house manufacture movement. This provides a slew of benefits over its ETA-powered brethren, including an impressive 72 hour power reserve, an escape wheel and pallet fork made of anti-magnetic and wear-resistant silicon, as well as a bi-directional pawl winding system that should keep the mainspring topped up while strapped to the wrist of even the most desk-bound of wearers. 

Ingenieur Automatic Black reference IW323902

Market Average

$3,994

Price Confidence

Model Specifications
Crystal Sapphire crystal
Movement Caliber 30110
Water Resistance 100 meters
Case Diameter 40 mm
Case Material Steel

The Ingenieur is perhaps the most criminally underrated of all of Gerald Genta’s designs, a steel sports watch with integrated bracelet with two fewer zeros in its price tag than its siblings the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus. If dropping new-car amounts of money on a watch seems just a tad excessive to you, the Ingenieur provides the look and the heritage for one-tenth the price.

In a few ways the Ingenieur even manages to one-up its blue-blooded brethren. A classic Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin offers 5 Bar water resistance, compared to the much more robust 12 Bar resistance enjoyed by the Ingenieur. The original Ingenieur started life back in 1955 as a watch designed for the scientific community, and as a result offered increased magnetic resistance in the form of a soft-iron inner cage around the movement, which is still a feature for this modern reference. Magnetism is more prevalent than ever in daily life, and while a Royal Oak or Nautilus might suffer from a chance meeting with a handbag clasp or a tablet cover, the Ingenieur has no such weakness.

Dial diameter on this reference is a nicely wearable 40mm, with a thin 9.9mm girth and 48.5mm lug to lug span. Powering the watch is the IWC Calibre 30110, a modified ETA 2892-A2 with 42 hours of power reserve and a 4Hz beat rate. While I could wish for an in-house calibre here, the truth is that the ETA 2892-A2 is a fine movement in its own right and will be far cheaper to service in the future than a proprietary calibre.

Portugieser Chronograph reference IW371491

Dealer Average

$6,067

Market Average

$4,878

Price Confidence

Watch Overview Browse Listings

Dealer Average

$6,067

Market Average

$4,878

Price Confidence

Model Specifications
Crystal Sapphire crystal
Water Resistance 30 meters
Power Reserve 44 hours
Case Diameter 40.9 mm
Movement Caliber 79350
Case Thickness 12.3 mm

If aviation is the first of IWC’s key design pillars, the Portugieser collection is certainly the second. This collection made its beginnings way back in the 1930’s when a wholesaler in Lison, Portugal approached the International Watch Company with a request for a wristwatch with high legibility and the precision of a marine chronometer. The only way to achieve this at the time was to use a pocket watch calibre, which resulted in a 43mm stainless steel case which was huge by the standards of the time, when most men’s wristwatches were 30-35mm in diameter. The collection was later reprised in the 90’s when consumer tastes had evolved to appreciate larger watches, and the Portugieser has been an IWC icon ever since.

This particular Portugieser Chronograph reference is frankly nothing exciting from a technical standpoint. It utilizes the IWC Calibre 79350, which once again is a modified Valjoux 7750, and offers a mediocre 3 bar water resistance. The case is a nicely wearable 40mm by 12.5mm with a lug-to-lug span of 47.8mm, which is actually smaller than the original 1930’s reference. The real joy in this Portugieser is not in its specs, but rather in its sheer unabashed good looks.

Of all of IWC’s chronographs I find this reference to be perhaps the most beautiful. The blue dial has a sunburst finish which plays with light, while the sub-registers at 12 and 6 o’clock feature a concentric snailed finish as a point of contrast. The delicate leaf-shaped hour and minute hands are elegant yet legible, and the dial layout is both vertically and horizontally symmetrical with the two chronograph sub-registers mirroring each other, as well as two lines of text for “chronograph automatic” on the left reflected with two lines of branding in “IWC Schaffhausen” on the right. This is just a wonderfully designed watch, worth forgetting to nitpick over movement specs for a moment and just appreciate.

Featured watches

Recent Articles

New Watch Alert: Citizen, MING, Harry Winston

Posted by Robert Farago on January 20, 2021

Panerai: Surprisingly Affordable

Posted by Jason Swire on January 13, 2021

New Watch Alert: Halter, BALL, Lüm-Tec

Posted by Robert Farago on January 13, 2021

Subscribe to WatchCharts Weekly

Read about our coverage of the watch market, new watch releases, infographics, and more!

Never miss a deal. Get our app!

- OR -

Text me the FREE download link

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.