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Pre-SIHH 2016: IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watches and the entire revamped line of Pilot’s Watches.

by Peter Chong on January 4, 2016

This year, IWC revamps its Pilot Watch collection with the new Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch, the new entry level Mark XVIII, and an automatic Pilot Watch Automatic 36. Also new in the lineup will be a Timezoner Chronograph. And revisions to the other watches in the Pilot’s Watch lineup as well. 

 

At press time, we only have photographs and details on the Big Pilot’s Heritage watches. We will be bringing to you live photographs and full reviews of all the watches which are announced when we get our hands-on session during the SIHH.

 

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 and 48

 

The Big Pilot’s Heritage is a homage to the original IWC Big Pilot Caliber 52 T.S.C. (Tirette
Seconde Centrale) with a large center seconds hand made by IWC from 1940. The new Heritage watches are available in two sizes: one 55mm which is the same size as the original, and a more modern 48mm version, both featuring subsidiary seconds hands instead.

 

 

The 55mm version is on the left and the 48mm version is on the right. The design aesthetics are very similar in both the watches, and unless we put them side by side, it is not easy to pick out the proportions on the face of the watches to differentiate.

 

The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 (Ref. IW510401) is in a titanium case and still weighs some 150g (vs the original’s 183g stainless steel case). The smaller Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 (Ref. IW510301) also has a titanium case and weighs about 120g.

The original idea for a huge watch was so that the movement could be as big as possible. Big movements, especially in the 1940s were more accurate and this was needed for navigation. Also, the dial could be larger, more legible because the markings and numerals could be larger to offer better clarity. The dial design was based on cockpit instruments, and the black dial with radioactive luminescent coating was the order of the day. For the new release, the ubiquitious Super-LumiNova® is used on the chapter ring, Arabic numerals and propeller like hands.

The 48mm watch is designed more for modern aesthetics of wear comfort...a 55mm cased watch will prove to be too large for daily use for most.

The 48mm watch is designed more for modern aesthetics of wear comfort…a 55mm cased watch will prove to be too large for daily use for most.

 

The Big Pilot Heritage 55 uses a hand wound caliber 98300. This same movement is used in the F.A. Jones Portugeiser, and is a slow beat movement which has a distinct vintage feel. .

The smaller Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 (Ref. IW510301) uses the IWC calibre 59215. This is a faster beat movemnet at 28,800 bph. This is the same eight day movement used in the Portuguese Hand-Wound Eight Days. This has a power reserve display on the rear, visible through a porthole on the case back.

Both watches are in titanium cases with the classic IWC soft-iron inner case as protection against magnetic fields. Interestingly the Big Pilot Heritage 48, with its porthole is also so equipped with the soft-iron inner case.

Also of interest is the crowns of both models are fitted with a friction clutch, which slips when the watch is fully wound.

 

 

The larger 55mm IWC Big Pilot Heritage is limited to 100 pieces, and the smaller sibling at 48mm will be limited to 1000 pieces.

The larger 55mm IWC Big Pilot Heritage is limited to 100 pieces, and the smaller sibling at 48mm will be limited to 1000 pieces.

 

The IWC Big Pilot Heritage 48 on a promotional image from IWC.

The IWC Big Pilot Heritage 48 on a promotional image from IWC.

 

Other IWC Pilot  watches also announced for 2016 include three unlimited Pilot’s Watches with a midnight blue dial: the Big Pilot’s Watch (Ref. IW500916), the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph (Ref. IW377714) and the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII (Ref.IW327004).
Also new is the entry level Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII (Ref. IW327001/IW327002/IW327011) in a calfskin strap or stainless steel bracelet. Unlike its predecessor, the Mark XVII, it no longer features the triple date display. This provides more space on the dial and the watch appears cleaner, despite the fact that the diameter of the case, at 40 mm, is one mm smaller compared with the previous model.

Also new, the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph (Ref. IW395001) uses tech from three other existing IWC watches: the city ring from the Pilot’s Watch Worldtimer; a sprung rotating bezel, which cannot be moved inadvertently; and, from IWC’s latest Aquatimer generation, and the external/internal rotating bezel mechanism that transfers the rotational movement to the inside of the watch. The result is a world time watch that shows its owner a new time zone and the time of day together with the 24-hour display and the new date with a simple twist of the wrist.

The Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN (Ref. IW502001) now features a case diameter that has shrunk to 46 millimetres. The small, signal red aircraft silhouette is deleted in favor of a clean, uncluttered watch face. The Top Gun logo is engraved on the case back and more discreet than the old, colored imprint. For the TOP GUN  watches, the black soft straps have been exchanged in favour of sporty straps made of embossed black calfskin.

The Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN (Ref. IW502902) is updated with an embossed calfskin strap, the only real modification compared with last year’s model.

On the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN (Ref. IW389001), the triple date display was abandoned and the ceramic case reduced from 46 to 44 millimetres. It is equipped with the IWC-manufactured 89361 calibre, and the chronograph displays stopped minutes and hours on the subdial at “12 o’clock”. This is significantly more user-friendly than the old aggregate timing.

The diameter of the ceramic case of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Miramar (Ref. IW389002) is now reduced to 44 millimetres, and IWC has also fitted the model with a simple date display. The combined hour-and minute counter can be read like the time of day and is much more convenient than the conventional solutions.

A new addition to the Pilot’s Watch squadron is the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII TOP GUN Miramar (Ref. IW324702). The 41-millimetre timepiece is based on the traditional observer’s watches, where the main priority is optimum legibility of the seconds and minutes. Another new feature is the sporty strap made of embossed green calfskin.

The Big Pilot’s Watch Spitfire (Ref. IW500917) now also comes in 18-carat red gold.The hands, cone-shaped crown and back of the watch are also made of red gold. Case diameter is 46-mm. The dial is reworked.

The Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar DigitalDate-Month Spitfire (Ref. IW379108) in stainless steel remains a highly regarded member of the IWC Spitfire family in 2016. It is virtually unchanged and features unusual complications such as the large digital date and month displays and the perpetual calendar.

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire (Ref. IW377719) now has a new, simple date display; a day display is now integrated into the dial. Another new feature is the elegant stainless-steel bracelet.

Georges Kern sums up the highlights of the 2016 collection: “With the sheer choice of models in the Pilot’s Watch collection we’re also appealing to watch lovers who have until now dismissed the idea of an IWC watch. With the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 and the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, we have widened the range of models in the entry-level segment. At the other end of the scale, we’ve created sizeable, authentic observer’s watches that resemble the historic original but are more in line with modern ideas of comfort. Between these two extremes, we offer our customers innovative complications like the Timezoner, elegant classics like the Pilot’s Watch Spitfire and imaginative details like the rotor in the annual calendar. With the polished bezels, the Santoni alligator leather and calfskin straps and the partly polished stainless-steel bracelets, the new Pilot’s Watch collection has become even more attractive and elegant.”

 

Sidebar: IWC’s Flieger watch heritage

We reproduce the press release which contains quite a bit of interesting information on the heritage of IWC flight watches with historical details.

PILOT’S WATCHES SINCE 1936
The very first IWC Pilot’s Watches of the 1930s and 1940s set technical benchmarks, and their dial design determined the overall appearance that has remained so distinctive to this day. During the pioneering days of aviation, most pilots had to navigate with the help of pocket watches, because
special wristwatches for pilots were still few and far between.
By contrast, the first Special Pilot’s Watch, built by IWC in 1936, already featured a rugged glass, a rotating bezel with an arrowhead index for instantaneous legibility and an antimagnetic escapement, together with highcontrast, luminescent hands and numerals.
From 1940, IWC started producing the Big Pilot’s Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) in accordance with military specifications It featured an IWC-manufactured watch movement

and large seconds hand. With a case measuring 55 millimetres in diameter and weighing in at 183 grams, until 2016 it was the most voluminous wristwatch ever made by IWC. In terms of precision, it met chronometer standards as well as the technical demands placed on a military navigation or observer’s watch back in those days. This instrument look was the inspiration for IWC’s design of the Mark 11 with its hand-wound 89 calibre, produced from 1948 onwards. This, the best known of the Pilot’s Watches from the Schaffhausen-based manufacturer, was originally built for the Royal Air Force and used for more than 30 years. Its movement is enclosed in a soft-iron inner case to shield the movement from magnetic fields.

Editor’s note: The Mark 11 is one of the most iconic military watches ever produced, and is equipped with the magnificent hand-wound 89 calibre. A watch which is much sought after by vintage collectors. The Mark 11 was succeeded by the Mark XII, which also turned out to be a highly sought after watch, and at one time was the darling of the only internet forum in existance then: www.timezone.com. It featured the IWC Calibre 884/2, was an IWC-finished Jaeger LeCoultre Calibre 889/2.
In 1988, the Pilot’s Watch tradition was taken up and perpetuated by the Pilot’s Chronograph. This was followed in 1992 by the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph with a splitseconds mechanism and automatic winding. In 1994, the Mark XII Pilot’s Watch succeeded the Mark 11. As was to
be expected, it was a state-of-the-art timepiece featuring an automatic movement and date display.

That same year, with the unveiling of the Pilot’s Chronograph Ceramic, IWC set two trends in motion that were later to be taken up gratefully by the watchmaking industry. Firstly, there was the exciting design of a pilot’s watch that was completely black. Secondly, it was the first time this model from IWC had been made with ceramic, which is enormously difficult to machine. In 1998, the Pilot’s Watch UTC – where changesto both the time and date can be made via the crown – was IWC’s reaction to growing mobility in an increasingly globalized world.
In 2002, IWC re-established its Big Pilot’s Watch tradition when it unveiled an enormous timepiece with a 7-day movement and Pellaton automatic winding system, the design of which was clearly inspired by its even-larger forebear launched in 1940

.
In 2003, IWC began producing a Pilot’s Watch series named after the legendary British aircraft, the Spitfire. The outstanding role played by the most successful British fighter and reconnaissance plane of all time in the Battle of Britain granted the aircraft – of which more were built than any other British plane – lasting cult status in its home country. In its day, the Spitfire was a technological masterpiece
of timeless elegance and became the model on which the eponymous IWC watch family was based.

Since 2006, IWC has been honouring the life’s work of French poet and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry with special editions of its Pilot’s Watches. Saint-Exupéry was already a legend in his own lifetime. People are fascinated as much by his books, which have been translated into more than 50 languages, as by his adventurous life and his inherent passion for flying. During the Second World War, he was a fighter pilot against the occupying German forces. On 31 July 1944, Saint-Ex, as he was fondly referred to by his admirers, climbed into the cockpit of his Lightning P-38 to carry out a reconnaissance mission over occupied France. He never returned. In 2003, wreckage from his Lightning was salvaged from the Mediterranean near Marseilles.

In 2007, the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition TOP GUN joined the other members of the IWC Pilot’s Watch squadron. It takes its name from a special training course offered by the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor, better known by its legendary accolade Top Gun. Anyone who successfully completes this course is part of a tiny elite comprising the best-trained, fastest-reacting and most courageous pilots in the world. The demands placed on the young pilots are no less exacting than those on the materials that propel them above the clouds at supersonic speeds – materials that cannot afford to show any sign of weakness. This is another reason why the designers chose two materials that IWC was the first manufacturer in the world to use in watchmaking: high tech ceramic for the case and titanium for the case back and controls.

IWC Schaffhausen declared 2012 another Year of the Pilot’sWatches. With five new models at a stroke, the TOP GUN collection established itself as an independent line within the IWC Pilot’s Watch family. Inspired by the spirit of the Top Gun flying school in Miramar, California, two Miramar models in the TOP GUN collection were the first to feature an authentic military design. With its modernized look, new features and IWC-manufactured movements, the Spitfire squadron prepared for a vertical take-off. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Classics collection appeared with five models in the authentic cockpit design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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