As IWC’s year-long celebration of its 150th anniversary, marked by the release of its limited-edition Jubilee models, winds down and the 2019 SIHH watch fair looms, the Schaffhausen-based watch maison turns its focus back to its most historically significant and iconic timepiece collection, its Pilot series. This week, we’re able to show you a preview of several significant new models from three sub-brands within the series, the Spitfire, Top Gun, and Le Petit Prince, each of which represents a first for the brand.
From the Spitfire series, with designs influenced by IWC’s legendary Mark 11 aviators’ watch and paying visual tribute to the famed World War Ii-era British fighter planes, come two highlight pieces. The newly revamped Pilots’ Watch Chronograph Spitfire, described by IWC as the “backbone” of the line, is the first IWC Pilot’s Watch chronograph to contain an in-house movement from the company’s 69000 series of calibers and has also been slimmed down in diameter from previous models to a more contemporary and wearable 41 mm. The self-winding, high-precision chronograph movement — Caliber 69380, to be precise — has a classical column-wheel design and displays elapsed hours and minutes on subdials at 9 and 12 o’clock, the day and date at 3 o’clock. Its double-sided pawl winding system, an IWC technical hallmark, enables the movement to amass a power reserve of 46 hours. The case is made of bronze, harmonizing with the olive green dial and brown calf leather strap for a retro-chic vintage-military look. Its price will be approximately $6,250 (all pricing is not finalized and subject to change).
The Spitfire family also hosts a special limited edition devoted to pilots Steve Boulbee Brooks and Matt Jones and their planned IWC-sponsored flight around the world in a vintage Spitfire aircraft. The Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight” is distinguished as the first IWC watch to incorporate the brand’s patented, wearer-friendly second-time-zone mechanism into an in-house-made, automatic movement, dubbed Caliber 82760. This mechanism allows quick and easy re-setting of the time, along with the date and 24-hour hand, in a single motion. The wearer simply presses the city-ring bezel down, turns it so the city representing the desired time zone is at 12 o’clock, and release. Both the hour hand and the small, red-tipped 24-hour hand will move synchronously with the turning of the bezel, and the date display will also change accordingly, either forward or backward. Furthermore, the 24-hour hand, which indicates the time on an inner ring, ensures that the wearer always will know whether it is day or night in his selected time zone. The advance of the minute hand, and all the watch’s other functions, are unaffected while changing time zones.
The movement, which is hidden beneath the special engraved back of the 46-mm stainless steel case, boasts IWC’s Pellaton winding system, enhanced with wear-resistant ceramic parts, and a power reserve of 60 hours. Like all the Spitfire models, the Timezoner’s dial echoes the look of the vintage plane’s dashboard instruments, and the military green textile strap evokes the interior of its cockpit. Limited to 250 pieces, the watch will be priced at approximately $12,400.
IWC expands its Top Gun family, launched in 2007 in collaboration with, and dedicated to, the U.S. Navy’s Strike Fighter Tactics Program, with the first-ever (believe it or not) all-black Pilots’ Watch. The Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium (approximately $15,000) is also the first timepiece in the Pilots collection to use Ceratanium, a patented composite material that combines the light weight and toughness of titanium with the hardness and scratch-resistance of ceramic, for its 44-mm case. All the major exterior components, including the chronograph push-buttons and the pin buckle on the rubber strap, are made of the material, which also brings notable corrosion resistance and hypoallergenic properties to the table.
Inside the case, protected by the family’s familiar engraved, Top Gun-branded solid caseback, beats IWC’s Caliber 79230, based on the ETA 7750, which powers a chronograph with an integrated split-seconds mechanism allowing the timing of simultaneous evens of short duration (hence “double chronograph”), and storing a power reserve of 44 hours. On the dial, the hands and indices are also black, albeit coated with luminous material for nighttime visibility. The sturdy, aviation-style strap combines a rubber base and a textile inlay.
On the highest echelon of haute horologerie, the new Pilot’s Watch collection offers the Big Pilot’s Watch Constant Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” (approximate pricing: $235,000), the latest piece in the sub-brand inspired by French pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and the title character of his most famous work. Continuing with the “firsts” theme of this year’s models, it is the first Pilots’ Watch with a constant force tourbillon and the first housed in a case made of “hard gold,” a rose-gold alloy manufactured in a process that renders it substantially harder and 5 to 10 times more wear-resistant than traditional rose gold. The case, whose big, vintage-look onion crown is also made of the new alloy, is an expansive 46.2 mm in diameter and water resistant to 50 meters. It is fitted with an arched-edge sapphire crystal, underneath which lay a brushed blue dial with rose-gold hands and appliqués.
The main horological event, of course, is inside the case, IWC’s manufacture Caliber 94805, which debuted last year in a Portugieser model in the Jubilee collection. The manual-winding movement combines a constant-force tourbillon with a “perpetual” moon-phase display — meaning the latter will only need to be adjusted by one day after 577.5 years. In addition to the patented constant-force mechanism, which transmits completely even impulses to the mechanism and works in conjunction with the tourbillon to achieve an exceptionally high level of precision, the movement also stores an exceptionally long power reserve — 96 hours, or a full four days, as can be observed on a dial-side indicator at 4:30, which joins the large tourbillon cage at 9 o’clock and the moon-phase display between 12 and 2 0’clock which, in this version of the timepiece, includes a figure of Exupery’s “Little Prince” astride the lunar surface. The rarest of the new collection to be revealed thus far, the Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” is limited to just 10 pieces.
Keep following WatchTime.com, and our social media channels, for more SIHH previews and for more coverage of the complete 2019 IWC Pilots’ Watch collection, which will be unveiled at SIHH 2019 in Geneva.