Given the number of times IWC has descended on Portofino – for each launch in its eponymous collection – the brand should soon be entitled to its commemorative plaque on a wall of this tiny village, situated along the coast from Genoa, on the Italian Riviera. It could read something along the lines of “To our Swiss watchmaking friends IWC, in grateful recognition.” A homage indeed, considering the brand was established in 1868 by Florentine Ariosto Jones, an American from Boston. And that it now belongs to the Richemont group whose main shareholder is South African. But after all, Portofino is long accustomed to welcoming the most cosmopolitan visitors. The symbol of Italian easy living, since the 1950s it has been a magnet to celebrities from all over the world, among them Maria Callas, Ingrid Bergman and Clark Gable. It’s said that Jackie Kennedy, as well as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, felt especially at home in this picturesque resort, on the Gulf of Tigullio.
This must be true for IWC too. After taking up residence there in 2010, under the photographic eye of Peter Lindbergh, the brand returned this year for a prolonged stay, during which it prepared the promotional campaign for its new Portofino watches, orchestrated by a certain… Peter Lindbergh. Four years ago, the objective was to breathe new life into this classically elegant range, first launched in 1984 and reimagined with new models – not least the Portofino Hand-Wound 8 Days – driven by the 59000 family of calibres. At the 2011 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, the brand even recreated the atmosphere of an Italian piazzetta, Portofino style, complete with Vespas and movie stars, so aficionados might soak up the sweet Italian life.
A modern interpretation of luxury
IWC didn’t bring quite so much Italian flavour to Watches&Wonders, Fine Watchmaking’s rendezvous with Asia, held late September in Hong Kong. But the spirit of Italy was very much present, particularly as IWC chose the event for a launch of no small significance: that of its latest watches for women which fit comfortably into what else but the Portofino collection. The Portofino Midsize collection comprises three models – Automatic (hours, minutes, date), Automatic Moon Phase, and Automatic Day & Night (24-hour display, second time zone) – with seventeen versions in all. Each has a 37mm case and most are set with diamonds on the case and/or on the bezel. Fans of the brand who attended the unveiling were told how this new Portofino Midsize is “a modern interpretation of luxury.”
And were anyone in any doubt that luxury is never more appreciable than with a healthy dose of farniente thrown in, IWC’s promotional film immerses viewers in the atmosphere of Portofino, this time in the company of Carte Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz and Zhou Xun. The arrival in a Mercedes convertible is irresistible, the speedboat ride thrilling, the aroma of coffee drunk alfresco so pungent as to fill the screening room, and the five stars’ tuxedos suitably impeccable to match their Portofino Midsize. All to the sound of a suavely sung canzonetta, driving home the message that the Portofino brings Italy to the wrist… the Italy of the classical Renaissance canons that are revived in the pure, scintillating line of a Portofino watch. Let the village council take note, that commemorative plaque is long overdue!