By Maria Doulton in London
IWC Schaffhausen is launching a new range of three Portofino midsize watches that capture the timeless glamour of the Italian Riviera. The new automatic IWC Portofino watches combine the classic 30-year-old round case design with useful functions such as a second time zone and a Moon phase display as well as a new date display model.
However, the latest members of the Portofino family transcend the merely practical aspect of time telling and are presented with luxurious trimmings. Available with diamond-set bezels and indices, gold cases, mother-of-pearl dials and a vast selection of supple leather straps by Italian shoemaker Santoni, IWC Portofino watches have never looked better.
To celebrate the launch, the team at IWC commissioned the famous photographer Peter Lindbergh to take a series of photographs in and around the picture-perfect Italian seaside town of Portofino, entitled "Timeless Portofino". Amongst the pavement cafés, quays and gently faded, sun-dappled palazzos, a group of friends is captured in black and white, enjoying the late summer sun.
On closer inspection, we discover that on board the Riva speedboat are Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt and Zhou Xun, wind blowing through their hair. Waiting for them at the port, Ewan McGregor and Chrisoph Waltz pass the time in relaxed conversation, their IWC Portofino watches peeping out from under their sleeves.
Adding a further dose of Dolce Vita glamour, supermodels Karolina Kurkova and Adriana Lima bring their sinuous curves and pouts to the small Mediterranean town. To get an idea of the mood Linbergh has recreated with this stellar cast, think silk headscarves, an open-top 1960s Mercedes 290 SL and graciously arched eyebrows behind oversized sunglasses.
I am naturally drawn to the glamorous IWC Portofino Midsize Automatic Moon Phase watch, set with 174 diamonds shining out from the glossy black lacquer dial, bezel and lugs. An aperture on the dial at midnight shows a starry night sky in which the phases of the Moon are displayed. Another version of the Moon Phase has a shimmering, dark mother-of-pearl dial that, combined with diamonds against a red gold case, is mysterious and alluring.
"The use of diamonds and mother of pearl represents something of a renaissance in the history of our Portofino family," explains Christian Knoop, creative director at IWC Schaffhausen. "But our take on luxury is a modern one. For us, it is discreet and unpretentious. The Portofino from IWC has retained the clean lines for which it has become so well known and so popular."
The IWC Portofino Midsize Automatic Day & Night packs a nifty function into an elegant dial that reminds even the most well-travelled 21st century voyager that a mechanical watch is a trusty and distinguished companion. Teamed with a Milanese metal mesh bracelet, it is also practical for warmer climates. The gold Milanese bracelet is particularly luxurious with its soft sheen and highly tactile and flexible mesh.
The option of a Santoni alligator strap allows you to personalise your Portofino with a range of colours, each rich with the patina of repeated polishing by the Italian shoemaker Santoni. For a beautiful combination of Italian flair with Swiss perfection, I like the red gold version, with its brushed silver dial and diamond bezel set off with a dusty lilac Santoni strap.
When the Portofino watch was first launched in 1984, its slogan was: "The Portofino series by IWC. The daily enjoyment of wearing a little gold." I think today we can say that IWC's Portofino watches, like the best things in life, remain largely unchanged but that little bit better.
Read about IWC watches with mother-of-pearl dials