Hey mister? You want a big watch that is easy to read? Well do I have something for you! The iconic classic aviator watch look is one that IWC has been more than successfully perpetuating for quite some time. They probably do it the best, and at the least they are the best at selling it. It is an classic look that feels great on the wrist as was originally developed for optimal legibility and ease of operation. What more could you want from a timepiece?
As you’ll be hearing over the year, 2012 is the year of the Pilot watch for IWC. At SIHH 2012 their booth was pretty amazing by most standards. It didn’t have much to do with watches, but the spectacle really pulled you into the world that IWC was trying to create for the new Pilot watch collection. IWC CEO George Kern is actually quite clever in having each year focus on one watch. That allows the brand to fully tailor their theme and message around the concept to get retailers, journalists, and buyers as excited as possible on what they want to promote. If they released a series of new nice watches from different collections it would dilute from the image they are trying to further.
There are actually a lot of new Pilot watches and several in the Top Gun range that has done well for IWC over the years. For watch lovers, the biggest news is that all new Big Pilot watches will contain in-house made IWC mechanical automatic movements. Previous Top Gun models for instance housed based ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movements. The move to fully in-house made should up the value proposition for most people and is sure to enhance already high excitement around the collection.
As it was in the past, all IWC Big Pilot Top Gun watches will come in ceramic cases. There is a matte black case for standard Top Gun models and a polished dark gray case for the retro looking Top Gun Miramar line. Included in this article is one or two images of steel cased watches that show the slightly updated non-Top Gun IWC Big Pilot. While more or less visually unchanged for 2012, the new IWC Big Pilot watch benefits from mechanical and structural upgrades to made it better than ever. One important move was a serious upgrade in the crown and stem system to make it more durable.
The Top Gun collection is large. Perhaps too large for some. Not me, but for you it may be the case that the diameter of the case doesn’t feel right. You really need to try it on. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have massive wrists – not in the least. I just like look of a large watch. The Big Pilot Top Gun watches are between 46 and 48mm wide. Oddly enough the chronograph models are smaller at 46mm while there rest (including the time-only) models are bigger. That is an interesting move at it is usually the other way around.
Watch detailing is as always impressive. IWC far and away makes the best pilot watch hands anywhere. The trick is contrast. The detailing is crisp and the hands perfectly pop off the dials to create a strong, legible look. Others try to duplicate this, but I’ve never seen anyone do it quite as well as IWC. The three hand watches use the outgoing IWC made caliber 51111 automatic movement with that super long 7 day power reserve. The handy power reserve on the dial helps keep the look interesting as well. This is one of the 48mm wide watches and comes in both standard Top Gun and Top Gun Miramar styles.
The standard Top Gun uses a matte black ceramic case with a titanium caseback and large crown. The same goes for the chronograph version. Depending on the model there is a Top Gun logo engraved into the caseback or offered as a colored print under a protective sapphire crystal. It looks cool either way. Most people claim to not care about the Top Gun collaboration but I promise you it adds just a nice little icing to this sweet cake.
At 48mm wide it sits nice and big on the wrist. Why else do you think they call it the “Big Pilot?” The Miramar version has a polished gray ceramic case and dial with different colors and a little bit of a different style. It has has a green canvas style strap. If there is anything that you can say about IWC it is that a lot of attention goes into their dials and straps (or bracelets).
Most people will like the subtle Top Gun branding on the watches. There is no mention of it on the dial or case sides. The old model I believe has some type of Top Gun logo on the side of the case. Only the rear of the watch talks of the Top Gun connection. While the steel Big Pilot watches look excellent, ceramic is a great material. It is very hard and will wear gracefully as it is very scratch resistant. For the most part these should be really durable watches in terms of looking good for a long time.
One person said something interesting to me about how they didn’t like the metal crown and pushers as matched to the ceramic case. They felt the ceramic look was incomplete. I see their point but it doesn’t bother me. The truth is IWC really can’t do that. Machining ceramic is a pain in the ass, and the technology doesn’t yet exist for tiny ceramic pieces with intricate details like crowns and pushers to be made in any cost effective manner. As it stands these watches use grade 5 titanium for the crowns, pushers, and casebacks.
At the top of the new IWC Big Pilot Top Gun collection is the Perpetual Calendar. It uses IWC’s outgoing great perpetual calendar automatic movement with a seven day power reserve. In the cool ceramic case with bold dial, this is a killer timepiece. The chronograph models uses IWC’s new 89365 automatic movement that measures up to 60 minutes. IWC opted for a two versus three dial look on the watches. Though three register chronographs are available in the non Top Gun Big Pilot line.
The overall new IWC Top Gun collection of Big Pilot watches is impressive, highly wearable, and going to be quite popular when they start shipping. I am not sure about pricing but they will be in the ballpark of what IWC’s Big Pilot and chronograph watches currently cost.