Monochrome Watches
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Pre-SIHH 2016 – IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 & 55 (and more about the new 2016 Pilot’s collection to come)

| By Brice Goulard | 6 min read |

Every year, the show is the same for IWC at the SIHH: renewing an entire collection of watches, with plenty of new models. Last year was the Portugieser, 2014 was the Aquatimer (that will also have some new models this year), 2013 the Ingenieur and 2012 the Pilot watches. The 4 main collections of the brand have now been updated, so it’s time for another round-up, as for the SIHH 2016, the show will be focused on heritage and navigation. You’ve guessed it, this year will be the year of the IWC Pilot’s Watch. To start the year, here are the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 & 55 (and more info about the new 2016 Pilot’s collection to come).

The IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 & 55

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 - 5

The first novelty of the IWC Pilot’s Watch collection is a tribute to the antique B-Uhr watches manufactured by several brands (including IWC) during Second World War, for German pilots. The IWC Pilot’s Watch collection has always been a modern interpretation of these B-Uhr timepieces but here, we’re talking about a proper and faithful re-issue, including the insanely large diameter of the cases. To be as legible as possible, these observer’s watches were big, very big. With a case diameter of 55 millimeters, they were close to be clocks. With the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48, and even more with the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55, the brand reminds to the world these military oriented pieces.

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IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 - 7

At 55mm large, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 follows on directly from the Big Pilot’s Watch of 1940. This enormous watch, available in a very limited run if only 100 pieces, is clearly oriented to hardcore collectors and lovers of authentic pilot’s watches. Wearability and comfort are clearly not the goal (and it will be an almost impossible watch to wear – remember the 57mm case of the Zenith Type 20, another watch with the same heritage goal in mind) but it is always interesting to see bold editions made by large brands such as IWC.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 - 1

With a slightly smaller but still imposing case diameter of 48mm, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48, which is limited to 1,000 pieces, is a (almost) practical alternative for every-day use. The re-issue of such diameters is not the only tribute to the past made by IWC here, as the entire watch transpire vintage, with many elements inspired by the antique B-Uhr. First, the dial. Absent in previous models of the Big Pilot’s Watch after 2002, the numerals at 3 and 9 are back in their familiar positions. At 12, the large triangle with two dots on top is still in place, just where is should be, meaning below the index on the track and not replacing this index (another feature that is faithful to the antique B-Uhr watches). The dial remains black with large tracks and numerals, coated with Super-Luminova (for the night visibility) but with a cream colour (for the vintage feel). The propeller-like hands are large, blued and also filled with luminous paint.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 - 1

Whatever the dimension you’ll choose, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage watches come in case made of titanium with a sand-blasted finish (in order to limit reflections and to limit the weight of these large watches – 150 grams for the 55mm and 120 grams for the 48mm). These cases feature a soft-iron cage in order to protect the movements from magnetic fields (something helpful in a plane cockpit). For the brown calfskin strap, the designers took their inspiration from the historic leather strap found on the Big Pilot’s Watch. This allowed the timepiece to be worn over a flight suit. The strap is divided in two and sewn together at the ends, which makes it impossible to drop the watch accidentally when putting it on your wrist. Then, as now, two rivets on the spring bar hold the strap together.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 - 3

Mechanically speaking, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 48 features a modern movement, the Calibre 59215, a manual wound engine with 8-day power-reserve (with indicator visible from a small aperture in the caseback). This movement, shared with several Portugieser and Portofino watches (like here, here and here) gives the owner the convenience of a 192-hour power reserve that guarantees accurate running for 8 days before it automatically stops. The 48 Heritage Watch features a friction clutch against overwinding, a small hacking seconds at 6 as well as a date window. It runs at a fast and modern 28,800vph.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 - 2

The IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55, as being more vintage oriented and more faithful to the original B-Uhr watches, features another movement, the manual calibre 98300, that runs at a slower (and more vintage) 18,000vph frequency. It boats 46 hours of power reserve, which makes necessary to wind the watch on a (almost) daily basis, using the large diamond-shaped crown. With such a large crown, it would be easy to overwind and damage the mechanism, which for safety’s sake is equipped with a friction clutch to prevent this from happening. It also features a small second sub-dial at 6 (without date however).

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 and 55 - 1

Some info about the new 2016 IWC Pilot’s collection

As we told you, IWC will entirely renew the Pilot’s collection this year, with novelties on almost all the models (Big Pilot’s, Mark editions, Top Gun and Spitfire…). We don’t have photos yet, as the watches will be unveiled during the SIHH 2016 (starting Monday 18th January), but here are some first info about what to expect:

  • IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” (Ref. IW502701): a pilot oriented edition mixing the usual blue dial with the annual calendar seen last year on the Portugieser.
  • IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 (Ref. 3240), the smallest and 3-hand edition of the Pilot’s collection.
  • IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII (Ref. IW327001 / IW327002 / IW327011), the entry-level watch now comes with a 40mm case (1mm smaller than the previous Mark XVII) and gets rid off the the triple date display, for a cleaner look, closer to the original Mark XI. Available on calf-skin or metallic bracelet.
  • IWC Big Pilot’s Watch (Ref. IW500912) and IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph (Ref. IW377709/IW377710): cleaner dials with triangle under the 12 index (other details to be confirmed).
  • IWC Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN (Ref. IW502001): now 46mm, no more red plane-shaped second hand and new strap.
  • IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN (Ref. IW502902): no modification except the strap.
  • IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN (Ref. IW389001): the triple date display was abandoned and the ceramic case reduced from 46 to 44 millimeters. New movement (calibre 89361) with minutes and hours on the 12 sub-dial.
  • IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Miramar (Ref. IW389002): case reduced to 44mm and simple date window (no triple date anymore).
  • IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Spitfire (Ref. IW500917): red gold case reworked dial (with triangle under the 12 index)
  • IWC Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Digital (Ref. IW379108): new member, with the same movement as this Portugieser.
  • IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire (Ref. IW377719): new simple date (no more triple date window) and optional stainless steel bracelet

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