Among the four watches that IWC introduces for its pre-SIHH 2019 collection are three ‘standard’ pieces – a chronograph, a double-chronograph and a world time – and one very exclusive, complicated piece; the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” IW590303 (yes, quite a name…) Nevertheless, if some will point to a lack of relevance and a strong departure from the tool/pilot watch concept, what remains is a superb piece of mechanical art, which features a rare complication: a constant-force tourbillon.
Meet the first tourbillon ever fitted to an IWC Pilot’s watch. While we’ve seen various complications featured on Big Pilot’s (QP, annual calendar or even a digital QP-chronograph), it is the first time that IWC integrates a regulating organ of this kind in this collection. The tourbillon is usually reserved for dressier watches, such as the Portugieser, the Da Vinci or the Portofino. And for this first pilot watch with a tourbillon, IWC pulls out all the stops. No simple tourbillon here but instead the brand’s flagship movement with a constant-force mechanism.
This watch is the Pilot’s version of the Portugieser Constant Force Tourbillon Edition 150 years introduced one year ago. Same mechanics, completely different style. The case relies on the classic Big Pilot’s design, with a 46.2mm diameter and a 13.5mm height (almost reasonable considering the complexity of the watch). Polished (crown and bezel) and brushed surfaces (top of the lugs) are mixed for a luxurious style and the diamond-shaped crown is part of the package.
This IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” also introduces a new material for IWC: hard gold. This alloy, which is still 18k, is significantly harder and around 5 to 10 times more wear-resistant than conventional red gold. To obtain this, the microstructure of the alloy is modified in a sophisticated manufacturing process.
The dial remains in line with previous “Le Petit Prince” watches: sunburst blue dial, gold-plated propeller-shaped hands with elongated tips, stylized applied Arabic numerals, in this model filled with white luminous paint. The display remains rather simple: hours and minutes, a small second on the tourbillon, a moon phase at 1 o’clock (so-called perpetual moon, which takes 577.5 years to require adjustment by one day) and a power reserve indicator at 4 o’clock.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” IW590303 relies on the movement used last year in the Portugieser, knowing as the in-house calibre 94805. This movement integrates two mechanisms to improve chronometry and counteract against two of the main phenomena affecting the precision of watches: gravity and decreasing torque. First, the oversized tourbillon (15.8mm in diameter) aims at counteracting the negative effect of gravity. Operating at a classical frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour, it is held under a thin openwork bridge. Secondly, this tourbillon is coupled with a constant force device to transmit even impulses to the oscillator.
IWC has opted for the integration of an additional escapement between the escape wheel and the fourth wheel. Every second, this winds a coiled spring that serves as a temporary energy storage and keeps the escape wheel driven with constant energy to power the balance. To drive this large and highly complex constant-force tourbillon, the calibre 94805 uses two barrels to store up to 4 days of power reserve (96 hours).
This new Pilot’s Watch, limited to 10 pieces, is obviously quite far from the concept we have of a standard pilot-oriented wristwatch. Way too luxurious, way too complicated, way too shiny… A bit like the Big Pilot’s Perpetual Calendar in gold. After all, isn’t it the point of high-end watchmaking to be irrelevant? What remains is one great movement, with a rare and fascinating complication. Availability to be confirmed. Indicative price (subject to changes before the SIHH) is EUR 238,000. More details at iwc.com.