Everyone who is familiar with the IWC Shaffhausen’s iconic Big Pilot knows the direct consequence of such a large watch. At 46.2mm across and 15.4mm in height, and usually crafted in stainless steel or even precious metals, it is a fairly hefty beast on the wrist. To bypass this and make it a bit more wearable, IWC introduced the Big Pilot 43. While that solves the issue of size, it also comes with a couple of drawbacks Frank addressed shortly after it was released, there is another way around the daunting stature of the Big Pilot. It comes in the form of the IWC Racing Works edition, presented just a couple of months ago. And since I am slowly working my way towards owning my first IWC Big Pilot, I wanted to get my hands on this one to see if I like it or not.
To get the basics out of the way, the IWC Big Pilot “IWC Racing Works” edition shares the same size as its steel or gold counterparts but has a titanium case and crown instead. This drastically cuts down the weight, which I’ll get to in a bit. To set it apart from the regular collection of the emblematic Big Pilot, it has a sunray-brushed blue dial with grey-ish numerals and hands. The calibre 52110 that powers it still boasts a 7-day power reserve thanks to a double-barrel system, wound by a central rotor with a bi-directional Pellaton winding system for improved efficiency. So on that front, nothing much has changed.
I must admit I am a big fan of the Big Pilot and am aiming to add one to the collection in the near future. And although I haven’t decided which one exactly, I have narrowed it down to a few possible options. First up is the classic, the first-generation Ref. 5002 (below, left), which I’ve had the pleasure of borrowing from a befriended collector for a while. There’s just something about that one, with its fish crown and closed bowl-like caseback that ticks a lot of boxes for me. A close second would be the “Black Carbon” IW506101 (below, right), which is a lot harder to track down as only 100 were built and admittedly a bit pricier because of it. Luckily, IWC threw a curveball my way with this IWC Racing Works edition!
Given my 2.01m frame, I have no issues with the size or the weight of the Big Pilot (as you can tell by my 19cm wrist in the images). The steel Ref. 5002 comes in at a weight of around 150 grams, which is quite a lot on a leather strap. Naturally, that’s due to the size of the case but also the movement inside. The “Black Carbon” Ref. 506101 cuts that down quite a bit, given the fact the material is about five times lighter. This makes for more pleasurable wear, especially in the warm summer months. This titanium IWC Racing Works edition should sit right in between those two in terms of weight, but there’s more to it that has made me rethink my ideal Big Pilot.
So what is it, then, that grabbed my attention with this one? For starters, it’s the fact that it sits between the steel and carbon editions, as I like to feel the heft of a luxury watch on my wrist every now and then. I regularly wear my Oris Aquis Depth Gauge, for instance, which tips the scales at 189 grams. And that’s on a rubber strap! Then there’s the tactile look and feel of the matte titanium case. I just love the purposeful, tool-like vibe of the exterior of the watch. And finally, that sunray-brushed blue dial won me over. At first, I didn’t think much of it as it looked like just another random blue dial to me, but it perfectly offsets the instrumental design of the Big Pilot.
Does that seal the deal for me? Well, yes and no. There are a few things to overcome with this one. Primarily the fact it’s limited to 500 pieces and is priced at EUR 16,000. That will very likely mean that once I get close to my targetted Big Pilot, it might not be available anymore. It could also be the other way around, as I might get my hands on one but at the downside of a price well over retail. Time will tell what I end up with, but one thing I do know: I will own a Big Pilot at some point, and hopefully, it’s this one!
For more information, please visit IWC.com.