IWC Schaffhausen launched its first Big Pilot’s Watch (52-Caliber T.S.C) in 1940; for 75 years, that historic timepiece has held the title of largest IWC watch ever made. This year, however, IWC releases one that eclipses it. The IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 — along with its slightly smaller little brother, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 — made their high-flying debuts this week at SIHH 2016 in Geneva.
When discussing watches available in two case sizes, one doesn’t usually hear the 48-mm version described by the brand rep as “the smaller of the two,” but that’s exactly what we heard today, so let’s start with that one. The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 has a case made of lightweight titanium, so despite its size it weighs in at a reasonable 120 grams. The watch (both watches, actually) has a dial with several new and subtle design features that make them more period-accurate: the triangle under the 12 o’clock position is is now in its original, lower position under 12 o’clock, the Arabic numeral “9” (omitted in favor of an index since 2002) is back, and the blued propeller-shaped hands are coated with beige Super-LumiNova. One nod to modernity absent in the original model is the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, which replaces the central seconds hand. However, the new model features a stop-seconds function for easy synchronization, as did the original. The large, cone-shaped crown is also an echo of that on the historical pilot’s watch, which would often need to be grasped by a military aviator’s heavily gloved fingers.
Matching, but not exceeding, the titanic dimensions of its historic predecessor, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 also boasts a lightweight titanium case and an in-house movement, IWC’s manual-winding Caliber 98,300. Perhaps fittingly for a timepiece that is even more true a direct descendant of the classic vintage version, it is even more exclusive, produced in a limited edition of only 100 pieces worldwide.
Aside from the size, exclusivity, and movement, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 possesses mostly all of the attributes of its little brother, except for two notable features: the small seconds subdial does not also contain a date window, and the caseback does not have the small viewing window of the 48-mm version (nor the 192-hour power reserve that it displays). But this is a small price to pay for period accuracy, no?