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Primer: Historic IWC Pilot's Watches

January 3, 2016

This primer covers nine of IWC’s most significant historic Pilot’s watches. All captions were provided by IWC. Stay tuned for more!

1- First IWC Pilot’s watch. Calibre 53, no official reference (1896)

This 14-carat pocket watch case in yellow gold with its IWC-manufactured 53-19’’’ calibre movement was sold by IWC Schaffhausen on 11 December 1896 to IWC retailer A. Kohler from Leipzig. German Albert Lotter inherited the watch from his father in 1916. During the following years, the watch and its owner witnessed the historical milestones of the 20th century in Saxony and Berlin.

2- IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 1940. Calibre 52 T.S.C., Ref. IW436 (1940)

The Big Pilot’s Watch was supplied to the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) in 1940 in an edition of 1,000 pieces. The “big device” constructed according to the criteria for an observer’s watch is the biggest wristwatch ever built by IWC, with a case diameter of 55 mm, a height of 16.5 mm and a weight of 183 g.

3- IWC “Special Watch For Pilots.” Calibre 83, Ref. IW436 (1936)

IWC started focusing on the production of technically advanced watches specially purposed for aviation at a very early stage; as such, the company is a pioneer in its field. Progress made in aviation and navigation had created a growing need for watches which offered maximum reliability under the toughest conditions.

Ernst Jakob Homberger (1869–1955), IWC Managing Director during the 1930s, had two sons who were so passionate about aviation that they decided to manufacture IWC’s first “special watch for pilots” in 1936. The watch came with a shatterproof glass, a rotating bezel with an index for recording short periods of time and an antimagnetic escapement, together with high-contrast luminescent hands and numerals. It is particularly robust and resistant to fluctuations in temperature in the range of –40 degrees Celsius to +40 degrees Celsius.

4- IWC Pilot’s Wristwatch Mark 11 with Nato Strap Calibre 89, no official reference – historical timepiece (1948)

In response to a product requirement from the British government, IWC developed a service watch for pilots of the Royal Air Force (RAF). The technical specifications stipulated by the RAF were very rigid and the movement had to be protected against magnetic fields. Production of the legendary Mark 11 started in 1948. In November 1949, the watch was supplied to airborne personnel of the RAF and other Commonwealth nations and remained in service until 1981.

5- IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Ceramic. Calibre 7922, Ref. IW3705 (1994)

48 years after the legendary Mark 11 was launched, the IWC Pilot’s Watch tradition was sustained with the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph (Ref. IW3740). In 1994, IWC launched a Pilot’s Watch Chronograph (Ref. 3705) for modern aviation which came with another top-flight feature: zirconium oxide. The high-tech ceramic used for the case is as hard as sapphire and virtually indestructible.

6- IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, Calibre 5011, Ref. 5002 (2002)

The 5000-calibre family was originally used in 2001 in a limited series of IWC Portugieser watches. With the new edition of the Big Pilot’s Watch, the iconic watch family acquired a new member: the high-performance IWC-manufactured 5011-calibre movement. With a case diameter of 46.2 mm and a height of 15.8 mm, it is one of the biggest wristwatches ever manufactured by IWC Schaffhausen. The Big Pilot’s Watch features a 7-day movement reserve, a new date display at “6 o’clock” and a central seconds display.

7- IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XII, Calibre A8842, Ref. IW3241 (1994)

In 1994, the Pilot’s Watch Mark XII succeeded the Mark 11 in a contemporary new edition after long and intensive discussions within IWC’s management. This decision gave collectors, who could no longer acquire any originals on the market, a chance to get one of these most iconic timepieces. While the design of the watch was heavily inspired by its predecessor, its equipment – including an automatic movement, a screw-in crown, a date display and a convex sapphire glass – was utterly contemporary.

8- IWC Pilot’s Watch UTC, Calibre A30710, Ref. IW3251 (1998)

In 1998, the IWC Pilot’s Watch UTC was IWC’s reaction to growing mobility in an increasingly globalized world. The time- piece was coordinated with Universal Time and not only could one read different times and dates around the world, but one could also change time and date simply using the crown.

9- IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition Top Gun, Calibre A79230, Ref. IW3799 (2007)

In 2007, the first watch bearing the name TOP GUN joined the IWC Pilot’s Watch squadron. The name came from a special training course offered by the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, the “Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor”, better known by the legendary accolade “Top Gun”. In 2012, during the so-called year of the Pilot’s Watches organized by IWC, the TOP GUN collection established itself as an independent line in the IWC Pilot’s Watch family with no fewer than five new models.

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