Rolex Daytona, Zenith Chronomaster Sport, TAG Heuer Carrera, Omega Speedmaster Racing… Here are some of the most significant chronographs born on the track or dedicated to motorsport. No need to say, the competition in this market is fierce. Up until now, and despite its long involvement in racing and Formula 1 with Mercedes-AMG or Lewis Hamilton, Schaffhausen-based brand IWC has never really pushed the concept of its pilot watch outside of the exploration of the skies. There was clearly a void in the collection, something missing; a watch truly meant to be worn on racetracks and dedicated to its F1 partners. A watch inspired by cars, used to time cars and able to compete in this oh-so-important field. Problem solved with the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41, a racing chronograph available in titanium (AMG version) or Ceratanium (Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team edition).
It’s been quite a while since IWC launched something truly new in its extensive Pilot’s Watch collection. We’ve seen dozens of new editions recently, with smaller chronographs, a less big Big Pilot, coloured ceramics of all sorts, luminous dials and complications. Still, most of these recent introductions were variations around an existing concept. Something else I want to add, on a more personal side, is that I’ve always been wondering why IWC was equipping its motorsport partners – AMG, the Mercedes F1 team, Hamilton and other pilots – with its flight-oriented pilot’s watches. I’ve nothing against this collection, on the contrary, but it never felt like the most adequate choice. I’ve long wanted IWC, a brand capable of making great instrument watches, to come up with a real car-oriented chronograph – or, to make it clearer, something more powerful and sportier than the old, now discontinued Ingenieur collection. Something that could compete next to purpose-built watches such as the Carrera, the Daytona or the Chronomaster Sport. Watches with fuel in their veins, watches that have been extremely popular for a reason.
IWC, with the new Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41, has this answer to many of my concerns. It might still be named Pilot’s Watch, but it’s no longer meant to be worn in a plane. It’s a racetrack-built watch (so yes, the name Pilot still makes complete sense), and it’s also designed to compete next to the aforementioned watches. It has all the codes, the IWC way. And it’s a watch I’m very curious to see in the metal.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 is launched in 4 references, turning around two different materials, both dear to the brand; titanium and Ceratanium. The first two models, made of grade 5 titanium, are dedicated to AMG, the sports division of Mercedes-Benz. The two other editions, using IWC’s innovative Ceratanium, have been built for the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team. However, putting the material aside and a couple of coloured details, all watches are identical. So let’s break up the specs.
This Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph is built around a well-known base, that of the Pilot’s Chronograph 41. The movement and base case are identical, with proportions that we’ve seen before at IWC. The case is 41.1mm in diameter, 14.8mm in thickness and a bit over 50mm in length, so expect quite a large watch on the wrist. Both materials, however, will save some weight compared to a steel watch, with titanium being about 45% lighter, and Ceratanium known to be also rather light. This dark grey material, here with a matte finish, is based on a special titanium alloy that is then fired in a kiln so its surface obtains properties similar to ceramic. It thus combines the lightness and structural integrity of titanium with a hardness and scratch-resistance similar to ceramic. Both editions of the Performance Chronograph are 100m water-resistant with a screw-in crown and sapphire crystals on both sides.
The main element to make this new sub-collection a true motorsport watch is the bezel. Indeed, it is equipped with a fixed, black and polished ceramic bezel with a tachymeter bezel to calculate average speeds. In all fairness, this changes drastically the look of the Pilot’s Watch compared to classic, aeroplane-inspired models and gives this Performance Chronograph 41 the desired racetrack feel, as well as some contrast and a bit of a luxurious touch. No need to say that this watch is now armed to fight against the category’s heavyweights.
The dial of this new watch is, at first sight, typical of IWC Pilot’s watches. But look closer and you’ll see some notable differences, mostly in the choice of materials and the finishes. The dial is made from polished black lacquer with a glossy surface, something that strongly contrasts with the usual matte dials of IWC. Then, it features multiple raised and applied elements, such as the recessed snailed counters, framed by superimposed rings, black nickel and luminous applied numerals and glossy black hands. Also, the seconds track on the periphery features precision markings, while traditionally IWC pilot models have a simple minute/second track. The main difference between the AMG (titanium) and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team (Ceratanium) editions are discreet green accents on the day-date and small-seconds hand.
Under the slightly grey-tinted sapphire back of both editions (the titanium AMG features a transferred logo) is a manufacture chronograph, the calibre 69385. This movement is controlled by a column wheel and ticks at 4Hz. Wound by a bi-directional pawl winding system, it boasts a 46h power reserve.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 comes with a choice of bracelet or strap. The titanium AMG editions can be chosen with a matching H-link, brushed and polished titanium bracelet or a black rubber strap. The AMG Petronas F1 edition can be worn either on a matte Ceratanium bracelet or a black rubber strap. All options are equipped with a quick-change system.
Availability & Price
All models in this IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 collection are released as part of the permanent collection and aren’t limited. The titanium AMG versions are priced at EUR 11,900 (rubber strap – IW388305) or EUR 14,200 (bracelet – IW388304). The Ceratanium AMG Petronas F1 models retail for EUR 14,900 (rubber strap – IW388306) or EUR 22,400 (bracelet – IW388307). More details at www.iwc.com.