It’s been a big year for IWC Schaffhausen, especially for fans of the Big Pilot’s Watch collection. For the first time in decades, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch has received a facelift, with its design evolving with the times, just as all good design tends to do. But the latest member of the collection might be the most innovative expression of the watch to date, in the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Ceratanium.
Today, the same challenges designers have always faced remain – the difficult task of maintaining the contemporary edge of a product without losing the generations of heritage that came before it. It’s the same challenge faced by the designers of the Porsche 911, the Burberry Trenchcoat and the IWC Big Pilot, which this year was executed in a more modest 43mm size.
Offering a smaller case size by 3mm doesn’t sound like much, but for a watch whose core identity is framed around its hulking wrist presence, the change is significant. Its significance is also tied into the core question of what a Big Pilot is, a timepiece that has historically been bereft of complication, arriving on a leather strap with an expansive dial.
IWC Schaffhausen is breaking this historical mould in 2021, not only offering the Big Pilot’s Watch design in a more wearable case size, but also offering new materials, and for the first time ever: bracelets. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Ceratanium enjoys the fruits of this push to innovate, not only featuring a case material that is as far from a 1940s cockpit as it could be, but also arriving on a brand new bracelet in the same material.
Fortunately for those who prefer a bit of heft to their timepieces, this new perpetual calendar maintains the generous 46.2mm proportions of years past, standing 15.4mm off the wrist. But as the name suggests, this OG-sized case is hewn from IWC’s proprietary Ceratanium material, which blends the best qualities of ceramic and titanium.
Both titanium and ceramics have been used extensively by IWC Schaffhausen as a case material, beginning in the 1980s when the brand saw an enthusiastic and creative revival. But with both materials having their own drawbacks, IWC Schaffhausen released their first Ceratanium case in 2017 on the Aquatimer. The Pilot’s Watches followed suit in 2019, embracing the hardness and scratch-resistance of ceramic and combining it with the lightweight quality of titanium.
Functionally, this means the latest IWC Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN Edition Perpetual Calendar has a case and bracelet that is around 30% lighter than its equivalent in steel but with much better scratch-resistant properties. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen a 46mm Big Pilot’s Watch with a bracelet (apart from a unique one-off piece that was made for Lewis Hamilton), and it definitely looks the part. In fact, now that you see it in front of you, it’s difficult to imagine the Big Pilot being made for so many decades without a bracelet.
In another side step from strict tradition, this Ceratanium Big Pilot’s Watch features a perpetual calendar function. This isn’t the first time we’re seeing the famous IWC perpetual calendar complication in a Big Pilot, but it does add further gravity to a watch that represents the absolute cutting edge of IWC Schaffhausen.
The perpetual calendar mechanism is a speciality of IWC Schaffhausen, thanks to the master watchmaker Kurt Klaus in the 1980s, who mastered the art of controlling all four subdials with one crown. The perpetual calendar is almost alone as a complication that simply communicates the complex beauty of mechanical watchmaking.
Inside this TOP GUN perpetual calendar is the IWC-manufactured 52615 calibre, which features 7-days of power reserve (168 hours) and a mechanism that won’t require adjustment till the year 2100. You’ll be able to see the movement through the sapphire crystal case back, as well as the automatic rotor that spins on IWCs own Pellaton winding system. The automatic movement is comprised of 386 components and is so accurate that it will only deviate by one day every 577.5 years.
All things considered, the IWC design team has skilfully walked the tightrope between the past and the present, bringing key elements from the archives, and integrating them with modern materials for a fresh look. The 46.2mm size of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Ceratanium speaks to the more distant past, while the brand new bracelet design feels very contemporary.
In harmony with these two points on the design timeline, the ceramic and titanium inspired case material, along with the perpetual calendar complication, feel at home together as siblings adding to the layered history of this iconic design. So, if you’re looking to add something to your collection that pays proper tribute to the past, without feeling dated or contrived, this new IWC Big Pilot’s Watch could be for you.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Ceratanium (REF IW503604) has an RRP of $66,800 and is available now.
This article is proudly presented in partnership with IWC Schaffhausen. Thank you for supporting the brands who support Boss Hunting.