Skip to main content

​IWC Portugieser vs. IWC Aquatimer: Key Similarities and Differences

13th Aug 2020

The Portugieser and the Aquatimer are two of the most desirable wristwatches made by Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen. Both are fully capable date- and time-tellers made with the most advanced Swiss movements and the most meticulous manufacturing techniques, always finished by hand. Both are deeply rooted in IWC’s history and contribute to the brand’s well-revered watchmaking legacy.

IWC Portugieser vs. IWC Aquatimer

IWC Portugieser IW500712 | IWC Aquatimer Chronograph IW376805

But these are two singular watches for distinct purposes and occasions. Let’s compare and contrast these two standout timepieces by one of the luxury watch world’s most innovative forerunners.

IWC Portugieser

Style: Classic, dressy, elegant

Year Debuted: 1939

Diameter: 40-43mm

Unique Features: Large, rounded case with relatively simple design and easy-to-read face; Date function at 6 o’clock

Cost: $6,300-$70,000+

IWC Portugieser Chronograph IW371611

IWC Portugieser Chronograph IW371611

The IWC Portugieser (German for “Portuguese”) was conceived in 1938 when two Portuguese merchants came to IWC and requested a large, precise wrist watch modeled after a pocket watch. The result was, of course, the now-iconic IWC Portuguese (reference 325). Marked by its oversized face and easy-to-read dials, it also featured a pocket watch signature never before seen on a wristwatch—the railway-track-style chapter rings that made the face even easier to read.

Following its debut in the late 1930s, IWC produced a number of styles in the Portugieser’s honor. Among the most popular watches to bear its name is the Portugieser Chronograph (reference 3714), which debuted in the 1990s and has grown to become one of most successful post-quartz watches ever, according to Hodinkee. In the year 2000, IWC chose this model to debut its new in-house movements, including the caliber 5000.

Discover More IWC Watch Options

IWC Aquatimer

Style: Diver, sporty, technical

Year Debuted: 1967


Unique Features: Water-resistant, rotating timing bezel, date function at 3 o’clock

Cost: $4,300-$50,000+

IWC Aquatimer Chronograph IW379502

IWC Aquatimer Chronograph IW379502

As the flagship IWC diver, the Aquatimer debuted in 1967 (reference 812) equipped with the watchmaker’s in-house caliber 8542 and the vaunted Pellaton winding system. It featured an internal, rotatable bezel for adjusting diving time, which was operated by a second crown at 4 o’clock. It was water-resistant to 200 meters and featured a date function at 3 o’clock. Style-wise, the Aquatimer is classic yet fully dynamic with a sporty look.

For the next 50 years after the timepiece’s original release, IWC would debut a handful more Aquatimers, including the Porsche-designed Ocean 2000 from 1982, which was the first Swiss wristwatch with an all-titanium case. In 2017, for the 50-year anniversary of the original Aquatimer, IWC released a special Date-Month edition featuring a cool exhibition caseback displaying the self-winding movement. Though this edition features the impressive 89802 caliber and a debut material known as Certanium, it’s only water-resistant up to 100 meters, half the depth of the original.

Which Should You Choose?

The truth is that the Portugieser and the Aquatimer both have strong advantages and both shine in their own unique ways. The Portugieser is dressy, classic, and handsome. With its nod to the pocket watch, this is a chronometer for lovers of historical horology and timekeeping elegance. It pairs perfectly with a well-tailored suit. The Aquatimer is robust, purpose-built, and capable. With submersible performance and a built-in timing bezel, it’s the watch for sport and play.

While the Portugieser is undoubtedly one of IWC’s most popular models, the Aquatimer has somehow managed to fly under the radar, to some degree, making it a bit rarer and more exciting for watch aficionados and collectors. Though the price tags are comparable, the Portugieser does ring up for a higher price—perhaps due to its enduring popularity—which means it costs more up front, but also that it may earn you more should you decide to sell it down the road.

One of Each

Let us say that if you’re choosing this class of watch by IWC, you cannot go wrong with either model or any style. And whether you’re a watch collector or a casual wearer, there will certainly be occasions to show off both the Portugieser and the Aquatimer. Be sure to explore our collection of new and pre-owned IWC watches to view these two options in-depth.