As is the trend now for so many brands with model-rich histories — think Cartier, Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre — “re-booting” a different range has become an annual activity. IWC is part of that tradition, having in recent years relaunched, for example, the Portofino and Portuguieser families. To the delight of a swathe of IWC devotees, this year it’s the turn of the pilots’ watches — not that they’ve been neglected. Periodic additions to the St. Exupery and Top Gun ranges have seen to that.

That said, 2016 is rife with new models. Fans of the pilots watches: get ready to be overwhelmed. The company has performed a complete overhaul of its contribution to the genre, with something like 20 new models or variants in the revised range, covering everything from small to large, three-hander to chronograph.

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Among them are the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watches in both 55mm and 48mm sizes; additions to the Antoine de Saint Exupery and “Le Petit Prince” catalogues including the Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition, ‘Le Petit Prince’ Big Pilot’s Watch, the Double Chronograph Edition ‘Antoine de Saint Exupery’ and even a Mark XVIII ‘Le Petit Prince’; smaller models; multiple time zone watches; new Top Guns and Miramars including Big Pilot, MK XVIII and chronograph versions, Spitfires and more.

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Perhaps the most important are the least complex and therefore the least expensive. The “Mk” series has done more for IWC’s continuing street cred — since the 1936, in fact — than any range it produces, on the basis that, from the Mk IX onward, they were genuine pilots’ issue, not civilian pieces in mufti. The new 40mm Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII (Ref. IW327001/IW327002/IW327011) is the range’s entry-level model, offered with a calfskin strap or stainless-steel bracelet. Unlike the Mark XVII, it no longer features a triple date display, the Mk XVIII possessing a cleaner dial than its predecessor. The Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 for smaller wrists, countered by all-new Big Pilot models for those who pooh-pooh the recent trend toward downsizing.

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Says IWC CEO Georges Kern, “In 2016, we’re widening our range to include smaller Pilot’s Watches in the entry-level segment, without neglecting our traditional heritage.” The Mark XVIII and Automatic 36 specifically address “women and men with slimmer wrists who have a penchant for elegance and understatement. At the same time, we’re producing the sizeable and authentic Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch, an observer’s watch that’s strongly reminiscent of the Big Pilot’s Watch of 1940. And finally, as every year, we have the exclusive ‘Antoine de Saint Exupéry’ and ‘Le Petit Prince’ collections. Their appeal lies in their original design ideas, such as the special annual calendar.”

The IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch ref. IW510301 in 48mm diameter case

At a special showing in November, IWC previewed the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 (Ref. IW510401) and the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 (Ref. IW510301), the numbers denoting the diameters. These continue the evolution of the oversized timepieces which began as ob­servers’ watches during the Second World War. Christian Knoop, Creative Director at IWC Schaffhausen, insisted that the Big Pilots “were true to the original – from the design of the dial and the colour of the luminescent numerals to the shape of the propeller-like hands and the riveted calfskin straps.”

And IWC enthusiasts wouldn’t have it any other way.

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