“The Navy Calls It Fighter Weapons School. The Pilots Call It Top Gun.”-Top Gun: Maverick. That’s how the movie begin! Just like how we were excited for the movie, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe certainly evoked our interest.
Pilot watches are aplenty in the market but one with the perpetual calendar? IWC has the answer along with a gorgeous white ceramic case. IWC has always been a favourite brand of the writer and we are excited to present one of their flagship watch. Here’s our take of it along with a cringe worthy comment from their boutique staff.
This IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Lake Tahoe was first announced in Watches & Wonders 2022. We covered a Quick Takes on that watch, which debuted the white ceramic, black dial aesthetic of the present review sample. While the 2022 release was a day/date watch with the chronograph, this novelty incorporates the perpetual calendar. We covered the release notes here.
Review: The New IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe has a retail price of SGD 59,500 at the time of review. Prices are inclusive of GST.
First Impression / The Case
IWC Schaufhaussen is the pioneer in the use of ceramic cases in watch making. This Lake Tahoe certainly came a long way from that. The colour of the case is inspired by white US Navy uniforms and the fascinating winter landscape around Lake Tahoe. A muted white with a mysterious shimmer: the ceramic color Lake Tahoe is inspired by white uniforms and the winter landscape around freshwater Lake Tahoe – a popular training area for naval aviators. IWC and Pantone® specified this color as IWC Lake Tahoe.
The white ceramic case is created in a complex manufacturing process in which zirconium oxide is mixed with other metallic oxides and sintered at high temperatures in an oven. The clever use of the ceramic case for a pilot’s watch is certainly right as the watch is less prone to scratches and lighter as compared to it’s steel counter part. Those are certainly important to a fighter jet pilot as a heavy watch would is a distraction and the scratch resistant crucial in the tight cockpit. (Though the writer wonders… Is it permissible to wear it in the cockpit or he just watched too much Top Gun? Enlighten us!)
On paper the 46.5mm case size was daunting for some, perhaps thinking it will never fit… Whether on the Chief Editor’s 7.5 inch wrist or the author’s 6.25 inch wrist, the watch looks just about right. Clicking in like the last remaining piece of puzzle. The gorgeous white ceramic case along with the colour coordinated rubber strap certainly screams for attention just like a matt white G63 AMG in the middle of Orchard Road. Perhaps a bit of an overkill, but it is a welcoming sight… Oh what a beaut! (Both the watch and the car)
Complimenting the white overall case and strap is a pitch-black dial and black hands with white Super-LumiNova®. The right use of colours enable this tool watch to remain highly legible which is when it comes to telling the time and the use of perpetual calendar which is important when it comes to a pilot watch as information needs to be registered within split second. The Big Pilot’s Perpetual Calendar retains the triangular index at 12 o’clock, a luminescent equilateral upright triangle with a dot on both left and right side which enables it to stick true to it’s heritage.
Behind the hour and minute hands, here are some of the details on the busy dial. Right below 12 o’clock position double moon phase display shows the moon as seen from the northern and southern hemispheres which is depicted by the plans on the right and left respectively, at 6 o’clock the month, between 7 and 8 o’clock the year, 9 o’clock the day of the week along with the seconds in the inner circle and finally at 3 o’clock the date and the power reserve in the inner circle. Oh wow, those are certainly ALOT of information on the dial but isn’t it such a wonder that everything can be adjusted through the crown?
The Movement: IWC Caliber 52615
Powering the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar is the IWC-manufactured 52615 caliber movement with a Pellaton winding system and a power reserve of 7 days movement. It is a movement that was originally developed in the 1980s by Kurt Klaus. Naturally, several mechanical and functional improvements have been implemented over the years. As a perpetual calendar, the mechanical movement automatically recognises the different lengths of the months and leap years and will require no manual adjustment until 2100. The special reductionist gear train that drives the northern and southern hemisphere moon phase in the dial is so precise that it will only deviate by one day after 577.5 years.
The finishing on the movement like all IWCs is certainly gorgeous in it’s price point. We really like it that the brand takes the extra effort to ensure that the finishing of the movement is punching above it’s weight in it’s segment.
However, while admiring the marvel of the movement in the boutique at Marina Bay Sands Singapore, one of the sales staff came up and surprised us with the comment: “Please be careful when winding the Perpetual Calendar, should the disc be displaced, it has to go back to the factory for a factory reset”. While we were appreciative of the caution, we were not entirely happy with the way he approached us. And also that this caution was to be applied when winding the watch. Curious comment indeed! Traditional grand levier perpetual calendars certainly needed some level of care while adjusting the time, especially one has to be cautious to only make date adjustments in the forward direction, and only between the “safe hours” of between 2pm to 9pm. And there are many stories on the web of IWC perpetual calendars requiring the watch to be returned to the factory if the date was reversed. But all is good, and this is perhaps a good reminder that the movement is getting a little dated as compared to the competition.
Unlike some of it’s other siblings in the Pilot range with the IWC EasX-CHANGE® strap, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe comes with a normal rubber strap that does not have the system. Granted that this is quite a disappointment at the lack of ability of quick change for the strap, the included rubber strap is certainly comfortable along with the deployant clasp that comes with it.
In the classical scene, there are several members in the competitive field of watches with perpetual calendars. But in a pilot style watch is certainly an IWC thing. Perhaps the closest we found is the Breitling Super Chronomat 44 Four-Year Calendar, which features Breitling’s Four-Year Calendar which they describe as a semi-perpetual calendar. See our detailed review for a discussion on this.
But let us tackle the remark we made earlier about the need for delicate handling of IWC perpetual calendars.
As discussed, the classical big lever perpetual calendars require some care when adjusting the calendar. And indeed the IWC perpetual calendar module is based on the classical design. But even as early as 1996, Ulysse Nardin introduced the Perpetual Ludwig, which boasts of a perpetual calendar which can be adjusted at any time, and in both forwards and backwards, all by only using the crown. The UN also dispenses of any of the small pin pushers on the case side for adjustments, and make all of the indications adjustable by just the crown. UN has released several watches to this remarkable piece of movement. Some examples are the Review of the UN Perpetual Ludwig 2017 revision and a one on one comparison of the 1996 model to the 2017.
And an even more excellent example is the Moser Perpetual Calendars, with the same ability to make adjustments at any time, in both directions, but also incorporates the Flash Calendar with instantaneous jumps of the indications. In 2023, it takes the guise of a concept style watch in Endeavour case with a magnificent enamel dial. We consider the Moser to be the pinnacle of the perpetual calendar design.
Let’s be honest, despite the very “welcoming” reminder in the boutique, the IWC fanboy in the writer has yet to be extinguished. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe (Oh gosh the name is certainly a mouthful) is something that we will recommend to buy if one has SGD 60,000 to spare. Why? The movement is certainly a marvel though we would recommend that you keep it on a watch winder to prevent the issues of displacement or overshooting of the date. What’s there to dislike about a pilot watch where all the details that is required to tell the time, day, date, month, year and power reserve is so crystal clear on the dial.