Monochrome is into pilot’s watches and this week we share enthusiastic stories of our contributors, about their favorite aviation timepieces. Like the Omega Flightmaster that we told you everything about last Tuesday and the very cool Bremont Squadron Watch USNTPS that we told you about yesterday. Today our guest contributor Angus Davies share his thoughts on the brand new IWC Spitfire Chronograph with the in-house manufactured calibre 89365.
I remember as a young boy growing up in the 1970’s obsessively watching films depicting war time conflict. Air supremacy was a topic which captured my interest with Spitfires and Focke Wulfs embroiled in aeronautical battle. The Focke Wulf Fw190 was arguably better armed than the Spitfire, but lacked its agility and ultimate prowess in the air. My innocent eyes would be captivated by jousting-like duels, guns angrily snarling, as the green and grey planes swooped through the nimbus clouds.
Like many boys growing up, I dreamt of taking the controls of a fighter plane. The thrill of flight enticed, albeit the harsh realities of conflict never permeated my naive conscious. I enjoyed watching the comical exploits of Terry Thomas in the film, “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”. His caddish demeanour and raffish good looks offered a lighter hearted depiction of flight.
I think part of the allure of flight, particularly at the controls of a Spitfire was manifested by an idealized vision of myself, as an adult, living in the warm time era. I dreamt of driving my two seater open top roadster, wearing distressed R.A.F. Irvin flying jacket and seducing all the local girls whilst my army based competition were posted far away. In my mind’s eye, I was Terry Thomas, albeit younger, and the highly accomplished pilot in my imagined cockpit.
IWC captured the glamour of manning the controls of a R.A.F. Spitfire when they launched their original Spitfire Chronograph back in 2006. The watch was a tremendous success for the brand from Schaffhausen. However, they have not rested on their laurels, creating a vast array of new pilot’s watches for 2012 (see more here).
I recently fell for the august appeal of the Spitfire Digital Date-Month Perpetual Calendar. This particular model may be beyond the financial grasp of some, myself included, with its luxurious case in red gold and numerous complications. However, don’t despair there is a model which offers greater accessibility but retains a suave appearance to seduce any lonely filly.
The IWC Spitfire Chronograph Reference IW387803, builds upon the reputation of the former 2006 model, enhancing the offer of this charming cockpit accoutrement. The case size has grown by 1 mm in diameter. This may sound like only a minor change but it wonderfully enhances the legibility of the timepiece.
Additional improvements include a slate coloured dial and a new movement. The IWC-manufactured 89365 calibre is a significant progression with enhanced power reserve and flyback function. I have handled the watch and it is yet another IWC I would dearly love to own. Let me take you on a flight sortie as we navigate the various aspects which differentiate this watch from the mundane.
A slate coloured dial plays with light and shade with pleasing results. Its sun patterned finish grasps the solar rays and bestows a luxurious feel. White Arabic numerals impart the hours, presented in a clean, timeless font, except at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock, where batons feature. A triangular shape index resides at noon, respecting the design language of pilot’s watches from the 30’s and 40’s.
An altimeter inspired aperture sits adjacent 3 o’clock, eloquently conveying the date with the diction of a Wing Commander in the briefing boom. The tip of a red equilateral triangle points to the date with laser-like aim. This small flourish of red is repeated on the subsidiary seconds hand at 6 o’clock.
Below noon, a 60-minute chrono counter is shown. The hour and minute hands are fully covered with white luminous material, enhancing legibility. Their profile is reminiscent of airplane propellors, reinforcing the Spitfire persona. A slim central chrono seconds hand aims with marksman-like accuracy at the integers and numerals located on the chapter ring.
Ease of interpretation is a key strength of the watch design. Information does not burden the brain, details are user-friendly and the data provided does not distract from the principal task of operating your plane.
The watch is available in red gold, but the stainless steel version is my preferred choice .The monochrome case material pleasingly harmonizes with the slate coloured dial.
IWC masterfully manipulates the light by judiciously placing polished and satin-brushed surfaces in close proximity. This is perfectly exemplified by the highly polished bezel nuzzling the satin brushed caseband and lugs. The results are sublime and proffer a masculine aesthetic. The chrono pushers and knurled crown are highly polished, once again, masterfully toying with light.
IWC have an engineering prowess which is intrinsic to their brand DNA. The newly developed in-house movement , calibre 89365, reinforces this still further. The movement has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz) and features 35 jewels. Convenience is assured courtesy of the rotor imparting energy to the spring barrel. I increasingly value automatic movements as the onset of grey hair means I am increasingly prone to forget winding my favourite, manual watches.
The power reserve is now 68 hours which is a significant improvement on the 44 hours found with the 2006 Spitfire Chronograph. A hacking seconds function harks back to an era when military use necessitated the synchronization of watches.
A highlight of the new movement is the flyback function. The wearer can start and stop the stopwatch by pressing the pusher at 2 o’clock. Pressing the pusher at 4 o’clock whilst the chrono is idle, resets the stopwatch. This is similar to the majority of chronographs. However, if the chrono is operational and the pusher at 4 o’clock is pressed, then the chrono will reset and immediately start from zero in one simple action. This function is incredibly useful when repeatedly timing events in quick succession.
The Spitfire Chronograph of 2006 was a handsome watch and some may have suggested that IWC continue exploiting its cash cow status and leave it unchanged. However, I am glad they have chosen to push the boundaries, seeking enhancement and continuous improvement.
The 2012 version is a dapper chap who cuts a fine figure. The modest increase in case dimensions aids interpretation and the new slate coloured dial is a successful alternative to black.
The single most notable improvement is the new movement. Investing in the research and development required to create a Manufacture movement is substantial and not for the commercially risk averse. But, as military pilots continue to demonstrate, sometimes you have to be brave in life.
IWC have produced a serious timepiece for those magnificent men in their flying machines. Unlike the aforementioned film, there is no comedy with this blockbuster. This watch is an excellent tool for pilots in the modern era and a serious demonstration of the horological prowess of the brand from Schaffhausen.
Technical specification – IWC Spitfire Chronograph Reference IW387803
- Case: Stainless steel case; diameter 43mm; height 15.5 mm; water resistant to 6 bar (60 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and solid caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small hacking seconds; date; Flyback Chronograph
- Movement: Calibre 89365; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 35 jewels; 68 hours power reserve.
- Strap: Brown alligator strap fitted with stainless steel deployant
For more info, please visit the IWC website.