IWC is one of the few watch brands with a lot of genuine lot of pilot’s watch history, and this piece is the perfect expression of the company’s DNA. It’s a huge watch at 55 mm, with a brown calfskin strap with the double rivets that were typical of the Beobachtungsuhren (observation watches) that were supplied to the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.
In particular, IWC made a watch named the Big Pilot’s Watch 52-calibre T.S.C. that was 55 mm in diameter, with a long leather strap so that a pilot could wear it over the sleeve of his flying suit. It had a soft iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields, and hands and dial indications were coated with luminescent paint.
IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55, reference IW510401
The Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 is an accurate portrait of that original from over 60 years ago, but it is not a replica. Christian Knoop, Creative Director at IWC, said, “IWC takes an evolutionary approach to design, so it’s important to respect the code. It was important not to create a remake. Some collectors ask for this but there’s no point. Our idea at IWC is to keep changing and improving. With our Heritage piece, we wanted to add something. We added a small seconds dial.”
The small seconds dial is the major difference between the new Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 and the original Big Pilot’s Watch 52-calibre T.S.C. (the acronym means Tirette Seconde Centrale, central seconds hand). Other more subtle changes have also been introduced. The modern watch has a case in titanium, which makes it lighter with respect to the historical piece. The movement is also modern, the IWC hand-wound calibre 98300. It provides the stop-second feature for precision time-setting. The watch has a solid caseback and an anti-magnetic soft iron inner case for extra authenticity.
IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55, caseback
The crown has the striking conical shape typical of pilot’s watches – so it can be operated with flying gloves – and the dial has the triangle and two dots that are also a feature of the genre. The overall looks are stunning, and with an edition limited to 100 pieces, there’s no doubt that this will quickly become a collector’s item. Whether the watches get some wrist time will depend on whether the collector wants to keep it in mint condition or not – and whether he has the sort of wrist on which a watch so large can be worn. It costs €16,700, and it will be available at IWC retailers from October 2016.