The year was 1994. Bill Clinton was in the White House, Major League Baseball was on strike, O.J. Simpson was a murder suspect, and grunge ruled the pop charts. Meanwhile, in the luxury watch world, the revitalized International Watch Company was making history, albeit somewhat quietly, with the release of its first Pilot’s Watch with a case made of black zirconium oxide ceramic, the now-legendary Reference 3705 Fliegerchronograph. Nicknamed the “Black Flieger” (German for “aviator”), the model did not set the market on fire at the time: only about 1,000 pieces were produced and the reference was discontinued a few years later. It eventually caught the attention of the watch-collector community of the 21st Century, however, becoming a coveted cult classic largely due to its rarity and distinctive look. This year, IWC has finally resurrected the model in a limited edition, with noteworthy contemporary updates of a new in-house movement and a case made of IWC’s proprietary Ceratanium alloy.
All in all, and sure to whet the appetites of purists, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705” is in most regards a faithful replica of the Nineties classic, with a few notable exceptions, both exterior and interior. The 41-mm case is constructed not of the original’s black ceramic but of Ceratanium, an in-house-developed composite of ceramic and titanium, boasting the hardness and scratch-resistance of the former while retaining the latter’s lightness and unbreakability. The same material is used for the crown, both chrono pushers, and the pin buckle. The matte black dial’s layout slightly rearranges the subdials from the vintage model: small seconds are now displayed at 6 o’clock, while 30-minute and 12-hour chronograph totalizers appear at 12 and 9 o’clock. The day and date display at 3 o’clock remains the same, and the white orientation triangle at 12 o’clock now features the two dots on either side, as on classical aviators’ watches of yore. The convex sapphire crystal has double-sided nonreflective treatment and is secured against drops in air pressure that might occur in a cockpit.
Behind the solid Ceratanium caseback, and protected from the ill effects of magnetic fields inside a soft iron inner cage, is the IWC manufacture Caliber 69380, replacing and superseding the outsourced Valjoux 7750 that ticked inside the Ref. 3705. Used in high-end chronograph watches throughout IWC’s modern collection, the self-winding movement is equipped with a column-wheel chronograph mechanism, a 46-hour power reserve, and IWC’s innovative, bidirectional pawl winding system. Running in 33 jewels, the caliber beats at a balance frequency of 28,800 vph and includes a hacking seconds mechanism.
The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705” comes mounted on a black calfskin strap and — like its historical predecessor, but in this case by design — will be limited to just 1,000 pieces, all sold exclusively through IWC’s website.