To kick off its SIHH, IWC has announced a number of new Pilots’ watches, including a bronze-cased Spitfire and a new take on the Timezoner
By Chris Hall
Not content to let one or two watches slip out before SIHH has opened its large, beige doors, IWC has released details of four new pilot’s watches. Aviation will be the theme for its new launches this January – while it normally does focus on one of its families, last year it deviated from the pattern to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
We have new pieces here representing every different style of IWC pilot’s watch (it’s worth remembering that for all that the watches themselves are pretty approachable, the Pilot’s family at IWC is one of the most cluttered and confusing, with the MK XVIII series, Pilot’s, Big Pilot, Spitfire, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Le Petit Prince, Top Gun and Top Gun Miramar all representing different sub-families). Still, if these are the warm-up acts, it’s fair to say we’re excited for the main event.
First off, let’s look at the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight”. The Timezoner (a word that still looks and sounds alien to us, but does denote a pretty interesting take on the world time complication) first launched in 2016. Now it gets a re-skin in “heritage” colours, as a tie-in with IWC’s sponsorship of a round-the-world flight taking place this summer, which we reported on here.
The big change to the Timezoner is the loss of a chronograph. Coupled with the redesign of the display to show the 24-hour second timezone on a curved window rather than a GMT hand, this has made the watch slimmer (from 16.8mm to 15.2mm) and simpler to engage with. For what remains a relatively complex concept, this is a real help, and I think represents a huge improvement. The aged lume, splashes of red and the green canvas strap are so much more on-trend as well.
Sticking with the Spitfire collection, IWC’s second new piece is a bronze-cased Pilot’s Watch Chronograph with an olive green dial. This was a no-brainer in terms of catching up to the general love of all things bronze, but that’s not actually the biggest news: the watch is the first Pilot’s chrono to use IWC’s in-house 69000-family calibre (reference 69380 here, which denotes the addition of a day-date to the 69370) which made its debut in the 2016 Ingenieur updates.
Best of all, this new model is 2mm smaller than the existing Pilot’s Watch Chronograph – 41mm against 43mm – which runs the 7750-derived calibre 79320. That should make a difference to how it wears, although it remains 15.3mm thick (the old one’s 15.5mm) so don’t expect it to suddenly feel wafer-thin.
Now we move on to the outer fringes of the range: first, with the IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium (seriously, are the guys who name these paid by the letter?).
This is another small first for the brand, as it brings IWC’s proprietary “ceratanium” fusion of ceramic and titanium into the Pilot’s family for the first time (it was used in the Aquatimer for the first time in 2016). To ensure you’re aware of its special-ops specs – it combines the lightness of titanium with the scratch-resistance of ceramic – IWC has made this the first Pilot’s watch to wear black-on-black-on-black. No new movement here; this is a rattrapante and therefore still uses the 79230, and the watch measures 44mm across.
Lastly we come to the Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince”, which we are reliably informed is the first Pilot’s watch from IWC (and probably from anyone else – it sounds like the kind of thing Zenith would have done five years ago but to our knowledge it didn’t happen) to house a constant-force tourbillon. Don’t bother asking why that’s a sensible juxtaposition and enjoy the high-end watchmaking on offer.
This movement (IWC calibre 94805) made its debut last year in the 150th anniversary collection, when IWC released two Portugiesers with it in. It’s a constant force tourbillon calibre, which uses a fusée and chain mechanism to meter out the mainspring’s energy with a consistent level of torque. Like a tourbillon, its founding principle is improved timekeeping, and like a tourbillon, that’s relatively far removed from its modern-day appeal: this is a piece of showmanship that maintains IWC’s presence at a horological level quite apart from its mainstream collections.
One other note about this watch: it uses something IWC is calling “Hard Gold” for its case. The chemical make-up hasn’t been revealed but IWC describes it as a modification to the structure of the alloy that delivers 5-10 times the level of scratch-resistance of normal red gold. It sounds similar to – although not as accomplished as – Hublot’s Magic Gold, which is allegedly completely scratch-proof, diamonds excepted. We’ll find out more from IWC and keep you posted.