Among the many new releases from IWC’s flagship Pilot’s Watch collection in 2021, the most significant has indisputably been the Big Pilot’s Watch 43, which brought a new, more wearable 43-mm size to the aptly named line of oversized aviator-style timepieces. This week, the manufacture unveils the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Spitfire, offering it in two distinctive case materials and colorways, one in matte gray titanium with a black dial, the other in bronze with a military green dial.
The Spitfire editions of IWC’s Pilot fleet take their main aesthetic inspiration from the legendary Mark 11, the navigation watch the company developed for the British Royal Air Force in 1948; its name, appropriately, comes from the Supermarine Spitfire, a British military plane used by the RAF during and after World War II and now enshrined as one of the most notable aircraft in history. The watch’s functional, “mil-spec” (military specifications) design sets it apart from its brethren in the Pilot’s Watch family. Like their historical predecessor, the new watches feature highly legible dials, prominent conical crowns, and soft iron inner cages inside their 43-mm cases to protect the movements from magnetic fields, such as one would encounter in an airplane cockpit.
The grade 5 titanium case of the first model (Ref. IW329701, pictured above) achieves its dark matte gray tone from “an elaborate surface treatment in which the components are first polished and then sandblasted,” according to IWC. The black dial’s design echoes the look of the historical observation watches that also inspired the original Mark 11, with the minutes and seconds markers prominently displayed on the edge of the dial in white, surrounding a smaller hours ring with subtler gray numerals. (This arrangement made it easier for pilots to access the most vital information they needed to perform celestial navigation.) The watch has a solid titanium caseback (in contrast to the sapphire exhibition casebacks on the first round of Big Pilot 43 models back in April, and a nod to military functionality over luxury) and comes mounted on a brown calfskin leather strap.
Sporting a more traditional Big Pilot’s dial is the other model, Ref. IW329702 (above and below), whose case is made of a special bronze alloy used by IWC that contains aluminum and iron as well as copper. Its composition, according to the brand, makes it “around 50 percent harder than standard bronze,” as well as offering the other attributes that fans of the material have come to expect, such as exceptional biocompatibility and the tendency to develop a unique, wearer-specific patina over time. The hands on the military green dial are gold-plated to harmonize with the case’s warm hue, and like the hour markers are coated with luminous material. Titanium, rather than bronze, is used for the solid caseback which (as on its all-titanium sibling) features an engraving of the Spitfire plane. Buffalo leather is used for the matching green strap, offering a distinctive texture.
Ticking inside both Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Spitfire models is IWC’s manufacture Caliber 82100, which is equipped with the brand’s patented, high-precision Pellaton winding system and stores a power reserve of 60 hours in its fully wound mainspring. Attesting to IWC’s modern expertise in materials innovation and movement technology, several of the caliber’s components, including vital ones like the automatic wheel and the pawls that mesh with it, are made of zirconium oxide ceramic, a virtually wear-free material. Also a feature of both watches is their use of IWC’s EasX-CHANGE system that allows the wearer to quickly and easily swap between straps (alternates are sold separately) without using tools.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Spitfire is available now through IWC boutiques, authorized retailers, and online at IWC’s website, with the titanium model priced at $8,950 and the bronze version at $9,350.