This year is the year of the TOP GUN family at IWC Schaffhausen. A concept born in 2007 with the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph IW379901 Black Ceramic, the TOP GUN range is all about its technical look, stealthy design and use of innovative materials for the case. For Watches & Wonders 2022, in addition to the coloured ceramic models – white Lake Tahoe and green Woodland – IWC is bringing a little brother to one of our all-time favourite models, the Double Chronograph TOP GUN Ceratanium. Smaller, slightly simpler but sharing the same ultra-cool design, here’s the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium IW388106.
As an ode to one of the most famous fighter schools in the world – we’ve all seen the movie, and the second instalment is due in a couple of months – IWC created a sub-range in its pilot’s watch collection that is as powerful and technical as the Miramar-based United States Navy Fighter Weapons School. From the very beginning, the collection was all about ceramics, performance-oriented materials and stealthy looks. Black on black, or using dark military green accents, what started in 2007 as a stand-alone model grew to become one of the most recognisable lines of the Schaffhausen-based manufacture.
In recent years, mostly when IWC refreshed its pilot’s collection in 2019, we’ve seen the introduction of an ultra-cool, 100% IWC model, the Double Chronograph TOP GUN IW371815. Not only this watch is important to have in mind today regarding its design, but it’s also crucial to remind that it was the first Pilot’s model to be housed in a Ceratanium case. And everything this Doppel TOP GUN was is still very much alive today, with the new Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium. Just in a slightly smaller and less complex way.
Basically, this watch is a TOP GUN take on the Chronograph Tribute to 3705 launched in early 2021. There are some evolutions to be seen, however, mostly for the dial/hands and the back of the watch. If we compare it to the classic black ceramic TOP GUN Chronograph currently in the collection, the IW389101, it’s also fairly different, with a more compact case, a different shape and updated dial. So indeed, it’s all very subtle but the overall result is quite convincing.
Let’s talk specs. This new Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium IW388106 measures a reasonable 41mm in diameter, for a height of 14.5mm. The case is classic IWC, with a large dial opening and curved lugs – typical no-nonsense, utilitarian design. It’s topped by a sapphire crystal with antireflective coating on both sides, secured against displacement by drops in air pressure, features a screw-in crown and the case has a very decent water-resistance, rated at 100 metres. Also, it now comes with a see-through caseback, with a partially tinted sapphire crystal that works well in this all-black context.
The main evolution, which is carried over from the Double Chronograph TOP GUN is the use of Ceratanium for the case. A mix between titanium and ceramic, it combines the resistance and lightness of the first, with the colour and high scratch-resistance of the latter, and that without the need for coating. Ceratanium starts from a unique titanium alloy, developed for IWC. After being sandblasted, the components are placed in a kiln and baked at a precisely defined temperature for a prescribed time. The specific composition of the titanium alloy means that when certain process parameters are reached, oxygen diffuses into the material, resulting in a phase transformation. The surface then takes on properties similar to those typical of ceramics, as well as giving it a matte black colour. The result, in the metal (pun intended), is rather impressive, with a dark and slightly metallic shade. For this IW388106, Ceratanium is used for the case, crown, pushers and caseback – meaning that the contrasting metallic pushers and crown are gone (something I’ve somehow always liked, but at least now the watch has a consistent colour).
The dial of this Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium follows the same design codes as the Doppel version, with a matte black (slightly grained) background. The hands are also black and all the tracks, numerals, logos and markers are done in mid-grey, bringing a stealthy look but still with enough contrast. Luminous material is found on the hands and the 15-minute markers. Complementing the dark look is a Black rubber strap with black textile inlay and a Ceratanium pin buckle.
Partially visible through the dark-tinted sapphire caseback is the calibre 69385, a strong evolution over the Valjoux base made for IWC. The automatic chronograph now has a column wheel. It runs at 4Hz and stores up to 46 hours of power reserve. The display remains classic for this architecture, with 6-9-12 sub-counters and a day-date function at 3 o’clock.
Availability & Price
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium IW388106 is released as part of the permanent collection and won’t be limited in production. It will be available as of May 2022 through boutiques, retailers and online. It will be priced at EUR 13,500. For more details, please visit www.iwc.com.