Among the most prolific of all the brands at SIHH, IWC has marked 2019 as the year of the Pilot’s Watch, and devotees will surely be overwhelmed. The sheer quantity of new models will leave the completist stunned, with variants galore and a plethora of choice with which to contend. In addition to those covered in the November preview, the following timepieces have also been announced, and we’ve learned more about IWC’s proprietary new material.
Top Gun has been a resounding success for the company, and – at 12-years-old – it’s still relatively youthful compared to the Mk series. New case materials dominate the Top Gun offerings for 2019, staring with the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph TOP GUN Ceratanium. This is the first with a Ceratanium case, a developed by IWC to be “as lightweight and robust as titanium and at the same time as hard and scratch-resistant as ceramic.” This also provides IWC with the opportunity to offer a watch case made from sand-coloured ceramic.
Ceratanium’s base material is a special titanium alloy, manufactured through multiple stages. Blanks are initially machined into the various case components’ final shapes, before treatment in a furnace, during which oxygen diffuses into the material, transforming the surface of the metal into ceramic. This ensures that the material has the hardness and scratch resistance properties of ceramic, while developing its matte black colour.
Unlike DLC, the ceramic surface of Ceratanium adheres permanently to the case material. Its matte black colour is the culmination of a five-year development process in a quest to satisfy customer demand for a “completely jet black watch.” For the 44mm Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph TOP GUN Ceratanium (Ref. IW371815), all case components, including the chronograph pushbuttons or the pin buckle, are made from Ceratanium.
Disarmingly attractive, and guaranteed to appeal to those fascinated by modern warfare in the Middle East, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert” (Ref. IW389103) is said to be the first watch with a case made from sand-coloured ceramic. Limited to 500 pieces, the 44.5mm watch is named for the desert that is home to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
IWC informs us that “the colour perfectly matches the uniforms worn by Navy pilots and is the result of a combination of zirconium oxide with other metallic oxides.” Inside is the in-house 69380 calibre. It’s a classic column wheel design, with a display for the day and date, supported by a power reserve of 46 hours.
Two additional models complete the new Top Gun line-up. The 44.5mm Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN (Ref. IW389101) is the first appearance in an IWC Pilot’s Watch model of a movement from the 69000 calibre family, the 69380, also seen in this year’s Spitfire models. Comprised of a black ceramic case, black dial, black hands, black textile strap, the watch features a display for the day and date at 3 o’clock. Elapsed minutes and hours are shown on the subdial at 12 o’clock and 9 o’clock, respectively. The red hand showing the small seconds at 6 o’clock’ adds a nice touch of colour.
A time-only model, the 41mm Pilot’s Watch Automatic TOP GUN (Ref. IW326901) employs an IWC-manufactured movement from the new 32000 calibre family. Its case is black ceramic, with stealth appeal assured through a black dial, black hands and black textile strap. The automatic 32110 calibre provides a power reserve of 72 hours.
Another first is achieved by the Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (Ref. IW392202). Here IWC has combined a perpetual calendar with a chronograph for the first time in a pilot’s watch. Limited to 250 examples, the 43mm watch comes in an 18K red gold case, fitted with a brown calf leather strap, and its heart is the perpetual calendar developed by Kurt Klaus in the 1980s.
This calibre 89630 movement automatically detects the different number of days in the month as well as leap years, and will operate until 2100 without needing adjustment. Its displays for date, day, month, moon phase and year are adjusted via the crown if the watch is not worn for a prolonged period. The moon phase display is integrated into the chronograph counter at 12 o’clock.
For the third family of Pilot’s Watches to be honoured by IWC, the legendary Spitfire fighter plane has again been chosen as its inspiration. The all-new Spitfire line oozes history, its namesake being the plane that helped vanquish the Nazis in WWII, while the design of the timeless Mk 11 is the basis for its look.
Inside the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Spitfire (Ref. IW503601) is a movement from the 52000 calibre family, the 52615 with Pellaton winding with ceramic components and two barrels. Also employed in the family is a calibre from the 32000 series, also for the first time. This is the 32110, driving two Spitfire automatics.
Says Christian Knoop, Creative Director at IWC Schaffhausen, of the Spitfire’s two different designs, “The colour scheme of the watch design, with its stainless steel case, its black dial and its green textile strap, is reminiscent of the cockpit of a Spitfire. The bronze case, olive green dials and brown calf leather straps give the other models a unique character. Over time, the bronze develops a special patina. The Spitfire is engraved on the back of the watches with a closed case.”
Starting with the aforementioned complication, the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Spitfire (Ref. IW503601) features said facility and is limited to 250 examples. It comes in a massive, 46.2mm bronze case, with olive green dial, gold-plated hands and brown calf leather strap. The 52615 movement has a power reserve of seven days and employs elements in its Pellaton winding system made from wear-resistant ceramic.
Its perpetual calendar automatically identifies different month lengths and leap years, requiring no adjustment until 2100. Good news for those who hate minuscule pushers accessed with a prod: all displays can be adjusted via the crown. Its moon phase display shows correct positions in both the northern and southern hemispheres and “takes 577.5 years to require adjustment by one day.”
A smaller alternative for the previously-announced Timezoner for serious travellers is the 41mm Pilot’s Watch UTC Spitfire Edition “MJ271” (Ref. IW327101). This installs the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) function into an IWC-made calibre for the first time, in a series limited to 271 watches.
It’s on point fashion-wise thanks to its bronze case with olive green dial, complemented by gold-plated hands and a brown calf leather strap. The UTC function – Europe’s attempt at usurping GMT because of envy of the British for sorting out time zones before everyone else – shows two zones at a glance. To set the second zone, you just turn the crown when in its central position, and the hour hand moves forward or backwards in hourly increments. The 82710 movement has a Pellaton winding system with ceramic components and delivers a power reserve of 60 hours.
Saving the coolest for last – and the basis for Revolution’s special edition – the Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire now contains an IWC-manufactured movement from the new 32000 family. The 39mm modern take on the brand’s MK 11 is offered in stainless steel case with black dial, rhodium-plated hands, green textile strap (Ref. IW326801) or with a bronze case, olive green dial, gold-plated hands and brown calf leather strap (Ref. IW326802).
This watch is the latest manifestation of a model dating back to 1948, but with sword hands. The automatic movement has a power reserve of 72 hours and is fitted with a soft-iron inner cage for resistance to magnetic fields. For my money, the pick of the litter!