A Closer Look at IWC’s New Pilot's Watches for 2021
This year IWC adds new models to its popular Pilot’s Watches collection, with a focus on ergonomics and a new quick switch strap system. Leading the update are two of the collection’s most recognisable timepieces, both of which have been reengineered for improved wearability. Firstly, the cornerstone of the collection, the Big Pilot’s Watch is now available for the first time in a smaller 43 mm case diameter. The new Big Pilot’s Watch 43 recaptures the design of the original 1940 model. Careful attention has been given to ensure the reduced proportions still deliver the same trademark wrist presence as the 46 mm version.
Keeping with the theme of refinement, IWC has also unveiled its new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41. Offering the classic Pilot’s Watch Chronograph in a case size that is 2 mm smaller and 1 mm thinner. Inside both watches are in-house movements made at IWC’s new manufacture centre, in Schaffhausen. The former houses IWC’s high-end 82100 calibre, reinforced with ceramic components. While the latter is equipped with the recently developed in-house chronograph calibre 69385. With these updates come several significant novelties.
The cases of both have improved water resistance to 10 bar, making them truly versatile sports watches. They also feature IWC’s new “EasX-Change” system. Which allows the wearer to quickly and easily change the strap or bracelet. And speaking of, both watches are available on a high-quality five-link bracelet that has been reworked with a tapered shape for improved ergonomics. Yes, you read that right. Thanks to the reduced dimensions (and weight) of the Big Pilot’s Watch 43, this legendary model is being offered on a stainless steel metal bracelet for the first time in its nearly 20 year history.
An 85-year legacy
The history of IWC’s Pilot’s Watches stretches back to the mid-1930s. At the time, precise wristwatches were an essential cockpit instrument. Used for monitoring flight times and navigation. The 1940 Big Pilot’s Watch (Ref. IW431) was developed to meet strict military requirements stipulated for observation watches. With a case size of 55 mm, a thickness of 16.5 mm and weighing 183 grams, it remains the largest wristwatch produced by IWC to date. Its ‘re-release’ to the market in 2002 coincided well with the beginning of the oversized trend. Over time, it has made the transition from pure, functional tool watch, to modern design icon.
Mechanical chronographs became a mainstay and key competency of IWC during the late 1980s and early 1990s. None more so than in the Pilot’s Watch range, which debuted its first chronograph in 1994. Since then, IWC has garnered a well-merited reputation for robust and reliable chronographs. In recent times, this has been true of the calibre 69 family. Starting in 2012, four years of design and intensive testing went into its development, in order to exceed all its predecessors. In 2019, IWC launched the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire in 41 mm with the new in-house chronograph calibre. Its success was the catalyst for offering the classic model in 41 mm.
Big Pilot’s Watch 43
While admired by many, the imposing 46mm case of the modern Big Pilot’s Watch’s has always proven just a little to big for some. That’s no longer the case with the new Big Pilot’s Watch 43. As well as reducing the diameter, the sides of the case have been recalibrated. Maintaining the Big Pilot’s proportions but with improved ergonomics. This includes the conical crown being fully re-engineered to not be felt against the skin. (A hallmark of the design harking back to when pilots had to operate their watches wearing thick gloves.)
IWC have done away with the date and power reserve indicator, leaving us with the cockpit-instrument look true to the original. (The central seconds hand was a key feature of the 1940 model.) Dark (generally black) dials for maximum contrast with luminescent displays has been the standard for cockpit use. The new Big Pilot’s Watch 43 comes in black or dark blue. They feature rhodium-plated hands with luminescence. The white triangular index at 12 o’clock – allowing pilots to recognise the position of the hands at a glance – is also luminescent.
A sapphire glass case back reveals the IWC-manufactured 82100 calibre. Robust and reliable, it uses IWC’s highly efficient Pellaton automatic winding system. An engineering marvel, it takes advantage of the slightest of movements by the wearer’s wrist to wind the mainspring. Building up a power reserve of 60 hours. Components in the system subject to pronounced stress are made from virtually wear-free ceramic. An indexless balance with a flat coil oscillating at 4 Hz (28,800 vph) ensures a high level of precision. Viewing of the decorated movement – with circular graining and Geneva stripes – is enhanced by a skeletonised rotor.
Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41
This is IWC’s most recognisable chronograph, with typical day-date windows at 3 o’clock. Hugely successful at 43 mm, the classic design is now available at an even more manageable 41 mm. With its cockpit instrument-inspired layout, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph is coveted for its versatility and extreme durability. The glass is secured against displacement by drops in (cockpit) air pressure.
The latest version of the sports watch comes in blue and racing green. Sub-dials at 9, 12 and 6 o’clock indicate the hour counter, minute counter and small hacking seconds respectively. (The latter is differentiated by red lume in the hand.) The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 likewise enjoys rhodium-plated hands with luminescence. And luminescent indexes.
The calibre 69 chronograph family is one of IWC’s more recent accomplishments. A result of the increased interest in chronographs, the brand set out to create a more streamlined in-house caliber for ease of construction and servicing. Movements of this family use a classic column-wheel design. Energy is supplied via a bidirectional pawl-winding system, similar to the Pellaton mechanism.
Consisting of 231 parts, including 33 jewels, and oscillating at 4 Hz, the IWC-manufactured 69385 calibre achieves a power reserve of 46 hours. (Two more than the current 43 mm version.) The chronograph function ensures precise measurement of stop times up to 12 hours. The movement (with skeletonised rotor) is visible through a sapphire case back. Again, decorated with perlage and Côtes de Genève.
Quick change strap options
The new compact sizes of both sports watches make them versatile choices for any adventure or occasion. Add to this the newly developed EasX-Change System. Allowing them to adapt to any style, activity or environment. The wearer can quickly and easily change straps with no additional tools. Ready for air, land and sea. This is how sports watches are meant to be made.
In addition to the high-quality stainless steel bracelet, calfskin or rubber straps in various colours are available. Combining bold designs with a truly customisable feel for your own iconic look. It’s also worth noting the new bracelet – finished with satin and polished links – comes with fine adjustment. Accessed via the deployant clasp, it can be shortened or lengthened by 5 mm.
To discover these new models as well as others from IWC, visit us in-store or purchase online today. Our professional and friendly staff will be able to answer any and all questions you may have and will be pleased to present these new timepieces to you in person.