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IWC Portuguese Automatic vs GO Senator Observer

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Went to an AD last Friday to compare two pieces that I have been fantasizing over for a little while. I was hoping to compare the 500107 Portuguese Automatic (with blue hands, numerals and croc strap) to the GO Senator Observer with croc strap. The AD did not have the 07 Portuguese in stock, so I ended up using a similar model with golden hands and numerals instead, for comparison purposes. To me, these two watches are very similar, in that they are both interpretations of the same design theme (i.e., "observatory" or "deck" watches), both from highly reputable brands (with a slight exclusivity edge to GO, given their more labor-intensive production processes and smaller annual production).

Wanted to get your thoughts on the pros and cons for both, and I have posted below my impressions of both models, trying to make my mind up.

Attachment 2069730

Size-wise, the two are much more similar than their 42 mm (IWC) vs 44 mm (GO) would suggest. The GO, despite being a tad bigger at 44 mm, has slightly shorter lugs than the IWC, so the two fit about the same on my wrist, perhaps with a very slight advantage to the GO even. The bezel on the GO is a bit thicker, but overall dial dimensions are very similar, at least at regular viewing distances, with the IWC looking slightly larger. One thing that is clear: from the back, the IWC 50011 movement fills the case better than the GO Caliber 100-14, which looks positively puny in comparison. The fit and finish is superior on the GO, but the detailing is more microscopic, whereas everything is much more plain to see, more "in your face" with the IWC. Another difference, which I did not expect, is a rather hefty price difference between the two, at least at retail: the GO retails for CDN$10,800, while the IWC retails for almost $14,000, a whopping $3K difference. I have to say I was surprised by this, as these two watches go very much head-to-head in my view, in terms of quality, brand pedigree, etc., where the strengths and weaknesses of each brand offset those of the other.

Overall, I find it very difficult to choose between the two (and I would need to take a better look at the 500107 (blue) IWC before making a final choice.

GO Observer:

Pros: well balanced, refined, tasteful and understated expression of a classic design. Beautiful off-white dial, best "big date" in the business, beautifully shaped and perfectly tinted blued hands, exquisite fit and finish, overall refinement, excellent value/price ratio.

Cons: small movement, elements of finish more difficult to appreciate given tiny size of movement/parts, not so "special" movement by GO standards, slightly more austere design (dressier and not as versatile?), dial comparatively a bit smaller with shiny bezel that may be prone to scratches, smaller power reserve, inset pusher for date correction.

IWC Portuguese:

Pros: Clearer (huge!) dial with more pop and beautiful snailing on the subdials, arguably better dial/subdials proportions, 7-day reserve, slow-beat movement, beautiful (gigantic!) movement that fills the case perfectly, a tad sportier (more versatile?), date adjustment via the crown

Cons: More exhuberant design is not as dressy (could be a plus for some), thicker case/bulkier watch despite smaller diameter, hands more bland than the GO's, fit and finish of movement more pedestrian by a small margin, hard-to-justify price 30% price difference, blue colour of indices/hands more "in your face" than the GO's (at least based on pictures).

It is hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with any of those two watches. At the same price, I still can't pick a favorite, as they are both similar yet different in certain important areas at the same time. Surprisingly, as much as I've lusted for a Portuguese, I found myself drawn to the GO time and again, despite it being a bit more "plain". I guess that's where the GO's magic lies: it manages to play all the right notes without being overly "loud" about it. It does everything in a very restrained, tasteful manner, with elegance and flair, and flawless execution. Given the significant price gap, I think the choice may have made itself, however.

Do the experts around here no how much these respective pieces go for a regular "street" prices from preferred ADs or preferred vendors?

I understand that this is the IWC forum, so I would expect people to favor the Portuguese over the GO, but I was wondering if anyone would have insight as to the reasons why one might chose the IWC over the GO in spite of the significant price difference?

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Tough choice here. I am partial to IWC as a brand and lean toward the 5001 between these two. The only thing I don't like is the stark white date wheel that clashes with the warm silver dial. So I would personally choose the black dial 5001. I know that's a nitpicky reason, but it's just one of those things that annoys me. Looks like the date on the GO is done much better. Like you said, the date is plenty legible on the 5001, and I also agree that the movement is nicer in terms of filling out the case back better. In terms of price, I bet you could get a decent discount from an IWC AD.

 

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Agree on all counts. As regards the discount, the issue is that I can also obtain a similar discount on the GO, so the roughly $3K discrepancy would appear to remain, if I were to buy new. On the used market, the difference appears to be more along the lines of $500 to $1K, and yet while I can understand that someone would prefer either of the two based on individual tastes, I struggle to understand where the price discrepancy comes from, especially considering that it's far from insignificant!

 

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Canadian math has surprised me before (LOL - inside joke; please don't take offense). If the discount on both pieces is very similar indeed (call it identical?), then the differential erodes by the same percentage. E.g., if you manage to finagle a 33% discount on both, the difference will reduce to $2K "only". By the way, MSRP I saw quoted on-line is $11,800 for the GO and $13,600 for the IWC.

I don't know where the difference comes from, but assume that the 7-day movement in the IWC is more complex and thus more expensive than the GO's 2.3-day movement.

One more thing: did you take a good look at the dials? The GO-dial is all printed; the IWC has (more expensive) applied numerals and hour markers. Which do you prefer?

I get the impression that price is driving the decision - still, ask yourself which one you would pick if offered at the same price. That will make for an easier decision. The good news: with these contenders, there is no wrong pick.

Hope this helps. Good luck and keep us posted

PS - for me it was easy: I knew for many years that I (just) wanted the Portuguese and never even considered the GO-SO (or many other similar alternatives)

 

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Thanks for your thoughtful observation.

I don't know if the MSRP I saw at the boutique was erroneous, but it was definitely $10,800 for the GO. In any event, I take your point regarding the discount math! I'll chalk that up to the CAN/US exchange rate!

As for the movement complexity, the IWC movement is bigger. Makes it easier to cram a bigger spring/barrel in there. Not sure it is more complex; if anything, working on what is basically a small pocket-watch movement should be easier than on a smaller movement, all else being equal.

As for the dials, I get your point: the IWC dial has a couple features that are more intricate: snailing of the subdials, applied numerals, all of which are rational elements that SHOULD make me prefer it. I have to admit I like it quite a bit, too.

On the other hand, the GO's simpler, more subdued dial, as a whole, keeps drawing me to it in a way that is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The genuine heat-treated blued hands are also better looking (and authentic!) compared to the flashier blue on the Portuguese (at least if the Port Chrono, which was there in the flesh for me to see, and the web pictures of the 7-day auto are anything to go by).

Can anyone confirm whether the blue colour on the hands and applied numerals of the 500107 are from heat treatment, or from anodizing or another process to give the same look?

 

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