Launched in 2002 and inspired by a 1940s B-Uhr watch, IWC’s Big Pilot’s Watch is a champion of the aviator’s watch. In a clear display of the flight path set for its Big Pilot’s family, in 2013, IWC Schaffhausen sealed its relationship with the delightful protagonist of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “Le Petit Prince” with a spectacular Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar. Surprisingly, and despite the presence of even more complicated models like the Big Pilot’s Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon and even a Constant-Force Tourbillon, there was a fundamental complication missing from the collection: a chronograph. Today, IWC unveils the first chronograph in the Big Pilot’s collection with the thematic colour and features we associate with “Le Petit Prince” models. To respect the spirit of the Big Pilot, IWC has chosen a monopusher chronograph with a push-button integrated into the distinctive conical crown. A limited edition of 500 pieces, the stainless steel IW515202 is equipped with IWC’s hand-wound monopusher chronograph movement with an impressive eight-day power reserve.
The Big Pilot’s Watch owes its traits to IWC’s Beobachtungsuhr or B-Uhr observation watches produced in 1940 for the German Air Force. The oversized 55mm case accommodated the large pocket watch movements, which in turn were protected by an iron core to counter magnetism, a vital feature for aviation. To assist pilots in freezing cockpit conditions, the large diamond crown could be manipulated with gloves, and a long strap with rivets allowed pilots to secure the watch over the cuffs of their leather jackets. Legibility was enhanced with large Arabic numerals and the orientation triangle at 12 o’clock flanked by two dots. Referred to as the “Grosse Fliegeruhr” or Big Pilot’s Watch, the design features of this robust military tool watch left their mark on the modern version of the watch released by IWC in 2002 and known to collectors as ref. 5002.
Chronographs abound at IWC and are a mainstay in the Pilot’s Watch collection (not to be confused with the Big Pilot’s Watch collection). This year alone, we’ve seen the Tribute to 3705, special Top Gun editions, a more compact 41mm case size, a model for the crew of Inspiration4, one for Collective Horology and even a special Hot Wheels edition. Except for the new 41mm Pilot’s Watch fitted with the new in-house calibre 69385 presented in April 2021, the Pilot’s chronographs are equipped with in-house calibre 69380 based on the brand’s 69000 family of automatic column-wheel chronographs with two pushers on the case, sub-dials at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock and a day/date window at 3 o’clock.
Although the brand had been considering endowing the Big Pilot’s Watch with a chronograph function for some time, designers at IWC were concerned about toying with the bold design features of the watch. With its 46.2mm diameter and height of 14.6mm, placing two chronograph pushers on either side of the large crown would look pretty strange and ruin the iconic lines of the case. Having two pushers would also lead to confusion with IWC’s classic line-up of Pilot chronographs. The answer was a monopusher chronograph movement, a user-friendly stopwatch that can be started, stopped and reset to zero with a single pusher in the crown. The other good news was that IWC’s designers didn’t have to look far.
IWC’s in-house manual-winding monopusher chronograph movement with an 8-day power reserve, calibre 59360, made its debut inside the Portofino Monopusher of 2014, followed by the Portugieser Edition “Laureus Sport for Good” in 2020. Marking IWC’s third chronograph developed and manufactured in Schaffhausen – alongside calibres 89000 and 69000 – the monopusher chronograph module is mounted on the back of the base 59000 movement. It also happens to be the brand’s only manual-winding chronograph movement, and 70 turns of the crown are enough to ensure the maximum power reserve of eight days. The monopusher module, which consists of 66 parts, is a masterpiece of precision engineering and specific critical components, like the intermediate wheel, are manufactured using the Liga process. As with other IWC chronographs, it is a column-wheel chronograph, and its large dimensions can be distinguished clearly through the transparent caseback at around 10 o’clock. The power reserve indicator, featured on the dial of the Portofino and Portugieser models, is now displayed on the movement.
The Princely touch
As with all “Le Petit Prince” editions, the dial features the signature deep blue with a sunray-brushed finishing. The vertical layout of the counters is clean and symmetric with a recessed and snailed 60-minute totaliser for the chronograph at 12 and small seconds at 6 o’clock. The large stylised Arabic numerals are applied to the dial and filled with luminescence, as are the propeller-style hands and the triangle and two dots at noon. Substituting the numeral 3 is a date window with a white background.
Availability & price
A brown calfskin strap with white stitching, rivets and a folding clasp completes the pilot watch package. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Monopusher Edition “Le Petit Prince” IW515202 is limited to 500 pieces and retails for EUR 17,200. For more information, please www.iwc.com.