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SIHH: IWC - Pilot's Watches

SIHH: IWC Pilot's Watches

Each year IWC concentrates on a single collection at the SIHH. 2016 is the year of the Pilot's Watches.

If you had to pick just one image to represent IWC’s presence at SIHH 2016, it would be the Spitfire suspended from the ceiling. After that, a quick glance around the booth would be enough to identify the theme of the collection on show: the Pilot’s Watches. The Schaffhausen-based company built its first “Special Watch For Pilots” back in 1936. Since then the skies have filled with planes, and the number of aviators’ watches in IWC’s collections has multiplied.

Pilot's Watches

This year’s new collections feature an expanded entry-level (with the small Automatic 36 and the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII), a general downsizing in terms of case diameter, a return to the classics with a nod to the latest watchmaking technology, the introduction of Santoni leather straps, and last but not least, the innovative Timezoner complication.

Not just for the ladies
If there’s one type of watch that remains quintessentially masculine, it’s the pilot’s watch. IWC’s decision to introduce a reduced-diameter pilot’s watch suitable for the slimmer wrist is therefore to be applauded, even if it is not being marketed as a ladies’ watch per se. The Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 is a novel addition, not just to IWC’s pilot’s watch collections, but to its entire range, since it is the smallest watch produced in the Schaffhausen workshops. Five variations are available, all with a steel case, and featuring a clean slate-grey or silvered sunburst dial. Despite its elegance and diminutive dimensions, it has all the essential features of an IWC pilot’s watch – a soft-iron anti-magnetic inner case and a fixed crystal designed to cope with sudden loss of pressure. The automatic calibre 35111 that drives the hour, minute and second hands (with stop function) and date, beats at 28,800 vph and offers a 42-hour power reserve.


The Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, with its 40 mm steel case, is also suitable for both men’s and women’s wrists. A descendant of the legendary Mark XI of 1948, designed for absolute precision, the 2016 version is also stripped back to the bare essentials for maximum legibility. It comes with a black or silvered dial, and a date aperture at 3 o’clock as a concession to the 21st century. The automatic 30110 calibre has a 42-hour power reserve.

From smallest to biggest
IWC produced the Big Pilot’s Watch 52 TSC, with a manufacture movement and 55 mm diameter case, in 1940, and it remains the biggest watch it has ever made, until this year. The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 of 2016 is a direct descendant of this historic observer’s watch. It is the same size and shape, but its case is now made of titanium (halving its weight) and the large central second hand has been replaced with a small seconds at 6 o’clock. The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 equipped with calibre 59215 has a power reserve of 192 hours, and offers a more comfortable and discreet alternative thanks to its smaller diameter. These two tribute watches are available in limited editions of 100 and 1000 units respectively.

This year IWC has unveiled no fewer than six new watches in its Antoine de Saint Exupéry (two models) and Le Petit Prince (four models) collections. They include the Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”, a limited edition of 250 in red gold, which is IWC’s first pilot watch to feature an annual calendar, with three apertures at 12 o’clock on the sunray-brushed midnight blue dial. The technical innovations of the Calibre 52850 – with Pellaton automatic winding, Glucydur balance, Breguet spring and twin barrels supplying a power reserve of one week – are balanced by the poetry of the Little Prince himself, delicately carved in a mix of brushed and polished finishes on the red gold rotor, standing atop his flower-sprinkled asteroid.


The Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph “Antoine de Saint Exupéry” in a limited edition of 1000 pieces in steel, includes several motifs dear to the aviator-poet: the caseback bears an engraving of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning (the plane Saint Exupéry was piloting when he disappeared on 31 July 1944), the hands mirror the shape of propeller blades, there is a hand-written initial “A” for Antoine at 6 o’clock, and the brown Santoni calfskin strap is reminiscent of the aviator’s flying suit. The stopwatch, hours, minutes and seconds, split-seconds function and day and date display are driven by an automatic chronograph movement 79420.

World first
IWC’s main innovation for SIHH 2016 is undoubtedly the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph. The innovation lies in the bezel, which sets the time zone, date and 24-hour display in a single movement. The new manufacture movement 89760 also provides easy readout of the elapsed time on the stopwatch, from one minute to 12 hours.


Top Gun and Spitfire
The Top Gun collection, which dates back to 2007, is enriched this year with five updated models: the cases have a reduced diameter, the triple date display has been abandoned in favour of a simple date, the red aircraft silhouette on the dial has been replaced by a red triangle, the Top Gun logo on the case back is more discreet, and the watches are now fitted with a new embossed black or green calfskin strap. The Spitfire range welcomes three new models with a slate-grey dial: the elegant 46 mm Big Pilot’s Watch in red gold, with a practical 7-day power reserve;  the Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month, in a steel 46 mm case, with a Spitfire-shaped rotor; and the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph, 43 mm, in steel with a steel bracelet.
Finally, the Big Pilot’s Watch and Pilot’s Watch Chronograph, 46 mm and 43 mm respectively, in steel, have also been reworked to bring back the outstanding legibility of their classic forebears.



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With a clear emphasis on technology and development, IWC Schaffhausen has been manufacturing timepieces of lasting value since 1868. Its philosophy, based on a passion for watchmaking, aims to maintain a spirit of indefatigable initiative and impeccable craftsmanship.

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