I guess, by now, we’re all accustomed ceramic being used for watch cases and bezels. Whether we’re looking at Rado, the brand that pioneered the use of ceramic already in the early 1980s, or the many other brands using ceramic for the bezel insert, even in colours that were considered impossible to match (GMT-Master II Pepsi.) However, IWC is taking things a few steps further and with this, they show again who they are and also where their pioneering spirit comes from. We’re looking at the new Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar ‘Mojave Desert’.
IWC was the first watch company to use ceramics for some movement parts in their in-house movements (or at least, besides ceramic ball bearings which are used by many.) Why? Ceramic is not only scratch resistant, but it hardly wears down and is much more durable than many of the (softer) metals that are used for many parts in a watch movement. This is the IWC way of thinking, and it’s been in the brand’s DNA to approach watchmaking in a practical and useful way. Besides the use of ceramics, think of a perpetual calendar module that works atop a Valjoux 7750 or the first ‘affordable’ double split / doppelchronograph / rattrapante that was created from, again, the Valjoux 7750.
But back to ceramics… Already back in 1986, IWC presented the world’s first ceramic wrist watch with a perpetual calendar, the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 3755.) and they did stop there. In recent years IWC created the über-cool all-black Ceratanium Doppelchronograph. This Ceratanium Doppelchrono was introduced in the same year that they introduced the first IWC named ‘Mojave Desert’ and that was a Pilot’s Watch Chronograph. This year IWC introduces two new ‘Mojave Desert’ editions, namely the Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert” and the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert”. Long names, indeed…. But also very good looking Big Pilot watches!
According to the brand, they took inspiration from the Mojave Desert, home to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. But no matter how you look at it, it’s a pretty peculiar sight to see such big and bold watches in a beige sand-colour. And getting the colours to match, not just the ceramic case, but also the textile strap and a grey/brown dial, was quite a challenge.
Inside the Big Pilot Perpetual, and thus also in this Mojave Desert edition, ticks IWC’s in-house calibre 52615, which is part of the 52000 calibre family. Movements of this ‘family’ can be found in all Big Pilot watches, but also in the Portugieser Automatic, the Portugieser Perpetual and the Portugieser Annual Calendar.
A sturdy automatic, self-winding movement that offers 168 hours of power reserve when fully wound. It’s regulating organ ticks at a steady pace of 4 Hz (or 28,800 vibrations per hour). While finishing is not the main focus here, it looks pretty neat and features Còtes de Genève and perlage, among other finishing techniques. Mind you, this is a rather complex movement comprising no less than 386 individual parts!
As could be seen in the photos of the movement (above) the automatic Pellaton winding system is reinforced with virtually wear-free ceramic components; these are the black movement parts.
Now to me the main thing here is the colour of the ceramic case. IWC offers several perpetual calendar models in Big Pilot’s Watches, so this isn’t unique and with a host of ‘normal’ Big Pilot’s Watches the size isn’t either. But brining this big bad boy in such a casual looking colour is pretty daring I’d say. While it could like sort of ‘plastic’, it actually makes the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar into a sort of casual chic.
This might be the strangest comparison, but Lange’s Datograph Perpetual in white gold with its understated grey dial also had a sort of casualness over it. It’s a very complex timepiece, yet it wants to be worn with jeans or, gosh, let’s go crazy, with your jogging pants. It wouldn’t look out of place. Perfectly fit for your next zoom-call.
The perpetual calendar indicates the date and in the same sub dial is the indication for the 7-day power reserve. At 6 o’clock is the indication for the month and just to the left of that is a four-digit year indication. Days of the week and the running seconds share the sub dial at 9 o’clock. And at twelve o’clock is a double moon phase indication, serving both the northern and the southern hemisphere.
The perpetual calendar mechanisms was developed already back in the 1980s by Kurt Klaus, IWC’s former head of watchmaking, who is still very well known among IWC aficionados for his legendary work. In a period when mechanical watchmaking went through a revival or actually more a renaissance, Klaus and his team this perpetual calendar mechanism. Perpetual calendars at that time were only available from Patek, AP, Vacheron and the likes and were only available for stellar prices. Klaus’ perpetual calendar broke that exclusiveness of the perpetual calendar making it available for a larger clientele who also dreamt of owning a perpetual calendar.
One last thing I’d like to address about the BP Perpetual is its size. Same goes for all Big Pilot’s Watches as they all (until this Watches & Wonders, as there’s a BP43 as well) measure 46mm in diameter. Personally, I’ve been on the fence for years before I took the plunge. I always considered the 44mm diameter of a Luminor Marina to be the maximum. Still, the BP’s awesome looks kept me doubting my 44mm boundary and from time to time I wanted to quickly try one at a retailer. And every time I was not confident enough to buy one. That is, until I tried the titanium Big Pilot Safari that the brand’s CEO casually launched on Instagram during his holidays. Shortly after I got my first IWC Big Pilot’s watches, ref. 5002, and I love it!
Production of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert” will be limited to just 150 pieces per year. But IWC, please think of a shorter name!