1936: Special Pilot’s Watch
The legacy of the modern-day pilot’s watch is fascinating. Right from the streets of Schaffhausen all the way back to the late 1930s, the ‘Special Pilot’s Watch’ (Ref. IW436) soared to the skies and became the first wristwatch specifically to be used in an aircraft. This project was launched by the two sons of IWC’s then-owner, Ernst Jakob Homberger. Both of them being passionate pilots knew exactly what a timepiece used inside the cockpit needed to be.
The technical features of the watch consisted of an antimagnetic movement as well as shatterproof glass. Additionally, the timepiece worked perfectly at any temperature between -/+ 40 °C. This was an asset, especially given that cockpits were unheated during this era.
1940: Big Pilot’s Watch Calibre 52 T.S.C.
Exactly a thousand pieces of the Big Pilot’s Watch, measuring a whopping 55 millimetres in diameter were created in 1940. The mission was simple, they had to meet the strict functional pre-requisites placed by the armed forces. To ensure it has monstrous precision, it was equipped with the pocket watch calibre 52 T.S.C. which was basically designed around a central hacking seconds function.
The seconds hand completely stopped when the crown was pulled out, which allowed times to be synced with well, you guessed it, precision. The high-contrast dial along with ‘sans serif’ hour markers, similar to cockpit instruments, allowed for an easy to read and legible conditions. The large crown, for instance, was designed so that pilots could use it easily even with large and bulky gloves.
1992: Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph
The era of pilot’s watches entering the civilian market segments began in the year 1992. In a record-breaking time period, IWC’s watchmaker maestros created a double chronograph mechanism based on the Valjoux 7750.
This highly complex mechanism made it possible to measure two different times, or an unlimited number of intermediate times, side by side. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph also bolstered IWC’s reputation as a maker of robust and exceptional chronograph timepieces.
2002: Big Pilot’s Watch Reference 5002
In April 2002, IWC finally did what it should have done a long time ago. It launched the Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. 5002, a 46.2 millimetres behemoth. Weighing in at a considerable 150 grams, the watch was nothing short of a spectacle.
The model was fuelled by the calibre 5011 with a central hacking seconds feature. The automatic mechanism featured the coveted Pellaton winding system and offered a power bank of an impressive seven days. The functional dial packed with a striking conical crown offered a nostalgia trip back to the Big Pilot’s Watch from 1940.
2021: Big Pilot’s Watch 43
This is a style of watchmaking that is so straightforward that it doesn’t need to be explained much. People find it difficult to explain exactly what kind of watches they want. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 helps them come to a conclusion.
The new Big Pilot 43 takes the extreme step of downsizing the iconic Swiss pilot’s watch by three long millimeters. You can only imagine the idea being pitched to IWC top management when the making of this timepiece was taking its shape.
One can only wonder what kind of chaos this might have brought upon at the IWC board. Their signature watch, known for its size, cut down by 3mm. The era we live in, however, compels brands to take bolder steps, and this 43mm masterpiece is exactly that.
The stainless steel clad timepiece comes in a 43 mm wide case with an automatic movement, Calibre 82100 offering up to 60 hours of power reserve.