IWC extended its partnership with the U.S. Naval Aviation community in 2018 with the development of its first “Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor” watch, which was awarded exclusively to graduates of the Navy Fighter Weapons School “Top Gun” program. Today, the Schaffhausen-based brand unveils a version of the “SFTI” for the rest of us — with a matte black, tactical-look case and an in-house-made chronograph caliber.
The 2018 watch that inspired the new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI” was designed in collaboration with instructors at the Naval Air Station Leemore in California and featured a rugged case made of black ceramic. Its modern descendant, available to the public but limited to 1,500 pieces, uses a combination of materials for its 44-mm case: black zirconium oxide ceramic for the bezel and case middle and Ceratanium, an IWC-developed material combining ceramic and titanium, for its caseback and chronograph pushers. The ceramic ranks among the hardest substances on Earth, with a Vickers rating second only to diamond, and is both scratch-resistant and totally antireflective. Ceratanium, introduced in 2017 on an IWC Aquatimer model, boasts all the hardness and scratch-resistance of ceramic while also retaining titanium’s lightness and unbreakability; its distinctive matte-black surface also scores high for skin tolerance and corrosion resistance. The result is a watch that is both “stealthy” and robust enough, as IWC puts it, “to withstand the extreme strain that pilots experience in the cockpits of supersonic jets like the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The dial is also black, with luminous-coated black hands and a central chronograph seconds hand, which has the added aeronautical flourish of a jet-shaped counterweight. Ticking behind the Ceratanium caseback, engraved with a Top Gun logo, is IWC’s manufacture Caliber 69380. This high-precision, self-winding chronograph movement has a classical column-wheel design and records elapsed hours and minutes on subdials at 9 and 12 o’clock, and displays the day and date at 3 o’clock. Its double-sided pawl winding system, an IWC technical hallmark, enables it to amass a power reserve of 46 hours. As in other IWC Pilot’s watches, the caliber is protected from magnetic fields (like those in jet cockpits) inside a soft iron inner cage, and is equipped with a hacking seconds mechanism for precise setting.
Securing its military cred, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI” is presented on an olive green textile strap. It is priced at $9,150 and available now via IWC’s website.