Pilot watches, like divers watches, are among the most passionately collected category of timepieces for men. There are those intent on plumbing the ocean depths (see our sister series Underwater Wednesday) and those that dream of scorching through the sound barrier. Or at least announcing ‘this is your Captain speaking’ in soothing tones over the intercom, even if the closest they come to flying by the seat of their pants is recommending a new stationery supplier to the boss. Fly Boy Friday Jonathan Fairfield explores the dizzying heights of pilot’s watches.
Welcome to our new weekly series taking a look at some of the finest Pilot watches around. So fasten your seatbelt, switch off your mobile phone and settle in for the inaugural flight of Fly Boy Friday.
When it comes to pilot watches, there can be few better places to start than IWC’s famous Pilot’s collection.
The origins of the collection can be traced back to 1936 and the release of the Special Pilot’s Watch, which was a groundbreaking timepiece in its own right as it enabled aviators for the first time to use a wristwatch to help with navigation, where previously pocket watches had been used.
The watch featured a rotating bezel and arrowhead index, as well as an anti-magnetic escapement and luminescent hands and numerals, all of which were pretty revolutionary for the time.
The Pilot’s collection then continued to be just as pioneering as early the days of aviation and was increasingly relied upon by both military and professional pilots as much more than a tool capable of merely telling the time.
Perhaps two of the most popular watches in the collection are the Big Pilot and Top Gun series, known mainly for their masculine looks and big bold design, all of which is very appealing.
In 2012, IWC updated most models in its Pilot’s collection, with it has to be said, incredibly successful results, a selection of which you’ll see below.
IWC Pilot’s Watch World Timer
The World Timer Pilot’s watch from IWC is an essential piece of kit for anyone who regularly flies across multiple timezones. The watch (ref IW326201) includes a 24 hour peripheral ring that simultaneously displays the local time in all of the 24 world timezones. The other interesting thing about the 24 hour ring is that it is divided into a black and white section so that it is very easy to determine where it is day or night.
The IWC World Timer is arguably the benchmark of the Pilot’s collection and is driven by a self winding mechanical movement, complete with 31 jewels and a 42hr power reserve. The stainless steel case measure 45mm in diameter and also includes a soft iron inner case that helps to protect the mechanism from magnetic fields.
The watch also includes an anti reflective sapphire crystal on the front and back that is also secured against displacement following a drop in air pressure. $9,650
IWC Top Gun Miramar Chronograph
Named after the air base where TOPGUN pilots are trained, the Top Gun Miramar Chronograph was launched at SIHH 2012. The watch includes a new in house calibre 89365 movement with a whopping 68hr power reserve. When this updated version of the watch was launched, IWC claimed that it was one of the most advanced and robust chronographs they’d ever produced.
The watch also includes an integrated flyback function that can return the running stop watch back to zero, whilst immediately starting to record another measurement just by pressing the reset button.
The polished ceramic case measures 46mm in diameter and works well with the matte anthracite dial helping to further reinforce the military style look of the watch. Ref IWC388002 $12,700.
In 2013, IWC launched a limited edition Big Pilot’s Top Gun series which you can read about here.
IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date Month
One of the most luxurious pilot watches around, the IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date Month not only looks incredible but it is also the first IWC Pilot’s watch to display the date and month digitally in large numerals, which are said to resemble the altimeter and similar instruments normally found in a cockpit. The perpetual calendar is also displayed digitally.
The watch includes a stunning 18k rose gold case with a sapphire crystal on the front and back. Perhaps the one of the most striking things about the watch are the applied hour markers which have been filled with white lume and which offer super readability.
Driven by a super accurate IWC cailbre 89800 automatic movement that has been decorated with 51 and includes a power reserve of 68 hours. As mentioned, this is a luxury timepiece with a luxury price tag – expect to pay in the region of $47,000.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch for Father and Son
The Father and Son watches are a limited edition set that includes a 46mm diameter watch for dad, whilst junior gets the slightly smaller 39mm timepiece. The two timepieces are both pretty similar in terms of design; both include stainless steel cases and sapphire crystals. The Father’s watch is based on the Big Pilot’s watch and is driven by self winding calibre 51111 movement, which beats at a steady 21,600 vph.
The Son’s version is pretty much a modified version of the IWC Mark XVI and includes an automatic 30110 calibre movement.
On the reverse of the watch there is a small space left for engraving should either timepiece be given as a gift. If you happen to have a spare $44,500 for the Father’s watch and $4,500 for the Son’s version, this set would certainly make one hell of a present.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph
Not to be confused with the Double Chronograph Top Gun Edition, which featured in the movie The Bourne Legacy, the watch pictured above is the IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph (ref IW 377801). With all these chronograph’s it gets a bit confusing, doesn’t it?
The 2012 revamped version of the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph features IWC’s classic cockpit style design, paying homage to the legendary JU52 from the early 1930’s.
Driven by a self winding mechanical chronograph movement that has a power reserve of 44hrs when fully wound, the watch is characterized by a third push button found at the position of 10 o’clock which can be used to stop the split seconds hand, as well as synchronizing it again with chronographs seconds hands, making it very useful for timing laps. $12,500.