IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar Reference 3541: An Oft-Forgotten Eternal Gem
by Martin Green
IWC is a brand with a rich history, and it is in the fortunate position that each of its collections has an almost equal share in building this history.
Throughout the decades, IWC has used a clever mix of evolution and revolution to secure its position in the market. One of those revolutions was the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar, which turned IWC’s master watchmaker Kurt Klaus into a legend when he developed a clever perpetual calendar module that could be mounted on top of the Valjoux Caliber 7750 automatic chronograph movement in use at IWC.
This resulted in a very cost-effective way to create a perpetual calendar with an added chronograph, which is quite a distinguished combination of complications. But there was more. The module Klaus developed could be re-set and adjusted using the crown, so there was no need to place correctors on the side of the case, resulting in a cleaner design. The watch showed the day, date, month, moon phases, and the year in four digits, which further enhanced its appeal.
The great thing about developing modules is that they can often be applied to different base movements with only a few adjustments. IWC did this as well, and Klaus’ perpetual calendar module was also added to an ETA 2892-A2, turning it into Caliber 37582. While some purists might complain that such a creation is not as noble as a purpose-developed manufacture movement with a perpetual calendar, the truth is that Caliber 37582 is a very good proposition. The ETA 2892-A2 is known for its robust construction and precision and it is even relatively thin, making it the perfect engine for the perpetual calendar module.
One of the watches in which IWC used this movement is the Portofino Perpetual Calendar Reference 3541, a timepiece that spends much of its time in the shadow of the Da Vinci but offers a cleaner look in a smaller package. With a diameter of 35 mm it can’t hide its age, but one would be wise not to discard it simply based on this number. Using that 35 mm to its advantage, the Portofino Perpetual knows how to impress.
A case for perpetual beauty
The shape of the gold case is somewhat reminiscent of the Louis Vuitton Tambour, an impression amplified by the crown, which is placed more toward the case back as this is a modular movement. It actually suits the watch, and since the crown is modest in size it does not negatively affect the wearing comfort.
While the Portofino Perpetual is a true dress watch, IWC doesn’t hide its hallmark technical approach, equipping it with a screw-down case back and crown. The case is very smooth and remains that way as no calendar correctors had to be fitted. This elevates not only the beauty of the watch, but also makes it very easy to use. As long as you don’t fast forward too much, nothing can happen.
The Portofino Perpetual Calendar also offers a few surprises on the dial. IWC made the moon phase disk in aventurine, where its deep blue color and sparkles represent the night sky, while the moon is printed in gold.
The dial has a milky shimmer, telling experienced watch collectors all they need to know: it is made of enamel. A closer examination also shows a different finish on the dial and the subdials, which are outlined in gold, providing a subtle difference in height and making the dial very pleasant to look at while enhancing legibility. Blued hands ensure that there is no guessing what they are pointing to, and despite its smaller diameter the Portofino Perpetual is surprisingly easy to read.
IWC welded the lugs relatively close to the case back, giving the watch a more prominent look. As the case back is nearly flat, the wearing comfort is very high. IWC also opted to fit this watch with a charming buckle instead of an often bulkier folding clasp. It suits the watch, and even gives it a sense of modesty, which is surprising as it is so rich in details.
On the wrist it is a joy to wear, with its smaller size also giving space for the strap to interact with the watch and change its character in a subtle way. It is very easygoing and looks great on anything from the traditional brown alligator to a dark blue nubuck strap – or even gold-infused cork as is currently strapped to this particular model that was originally delivered to the Italian market.
While the Portofino Perpetual never caught the spotlight in the same way that the Da Vinci still does, it is one of those delicacies from IWC’s past that you cannot help but appreciate. The combination of a very reliable movement with Kurt Klaus’ perpetual calendar module gives the watch something that few other timepieces can offer.
It is as charming as it is easy to use, and while a more modest movement may power it, I count that more as a pro rather than a con.
Special thanks to Tempo Roma for making the IWC Portofino Perpetual available for this article.
Quick Facts IWC Portofino Perpetual Reference 3541
Case: 35 x 10.15 mm, yellow gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 37582, based on ETA 2892-A2, with IWC perpetual calendar module, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with date, day, month, year, and moon phase
Year of manufacture: approx. 1998