For 75 years, the historic Big Pilot’s Watch (52-caliber T.S.C.) was the largest wristwatch ever made at IWC in Schaffhausen. In 2016, IWC Schaffhausen unveils its successor: with an amazing 55-millimetre case diameter, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 eclipses a record that was set back in 1940. Like its big brother, the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 looks very much like the historic original, but makes a few more concessions to modern ideas of aesthetics and comfort.
With a slightly smaller but still imposing case diameter of 48 millimetres, the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48, which is limited to just 1,000 pieces, is a practical alternative for everyday use. But it is not only the watches’ size so much as their unmistakable visual features that will make the hearts of watch connoisseurs race. From the dial design and colour of the luminescent numerals to the shape of the propeller-like hands, cone-shaped crown and historic leather straps, it is as if the Heritage watches were taking us on a journey back in time to the pioneering days of aviation. Except that now we have state-of-the-art IWC watch technology.
TRIANGLE ONCE AGAIN UNDER CHAPTER RING
Then aa now, the hands are blued. The figure “9” – omitted in subsequent models of the Big Pilot’s Watch after 2006 – is back in its familiar position. And taking the place of the “12” is a triangular index with dots on either side, which make it possible to recognize the relative position of the hands and read the time even with a cursory glance in the dark.
Today, the black dial and triangle are two features typical of a classic pilot’s watch. IWC’s designers chose to place it below “12 o’clock” instead of integrating it in the chapter ring is a further nod to the 1940 original. However, there is one small, visible difference: the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 does not feature a central seconds hand like the Big Pilot’s Watch (52-caliber T.S.C. – Tirette Seconde Centrale), produced in accordance with military specifications. Back then, pulling out the crown stopped the balance, thus allowing pilots and navigators to synchronize their watches with down-to-the-second accuracy. Today, the small seconds is found at “6 o’clock”, and the IWC hand-wound 98300 caliber can be stopped by pulling out the crown.
FRICTION CLUTCH PROTECTS HAND-WOUND CALIBER AGAINST OVERWINDING
As is usual in an observer’s watch, the titanium case is sandblasted to eliminate reflections that might be detrimental to the watch’s legibility or betray the wearer’s position to the enemy. The watch movement itself is protected against magnetic fields by a soft-iron inner case.
The cone-shaped crown is a reminder of those early days of flying, when pilots in their unheated cockpits were forced to wear thick gloves. Back then, the crown needed to be unusually large and chunky to make setting and winding the watch possible even with gloves. And today, as in the past, the crown makes the daily ritual of winding the watch by hand a very special experience. 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.
The IWC hand-wound 98300 caliber features an elongated index for simple and precise setting of the active length of the spring, a highly effective shock absorption system and a 46-hour power reserve. The case back has been kept decidedly simple: the numbering from 01/100 to 100/100 is an unmistakable sign of this great watch’s exclusiveness.
The Big Pilots Heritage Watch 55 (Ref. IW510401)
The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 is limited to 100 pieces and available exclusively from selected IWC boutiques all over the world. 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 thick flying 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. After all, some of the features that made the 1940s Pilot’s Watch so special simply cannot be enhanced.
The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 (Ref. IW510301) makes more concessions to modern-day aesthetics and concepts of comfort. The watch is suited to everyday use thanks primarily to its light titanium, which reduces its weight to 120 grams. The IWC hand-wound 59215 caliber gives the owner the convenience of a 192-hour power reserve that guarantees accurate running for 8 days before it automatically stops. Energy remaining can be seen on the power reserve display visible through a small aperture covered by sapphire glass on the back of the watch. Despite the aperture, this Pilot’s Watch also has a soft-iron inner case that guides magnetic fields safely around the movement.
The 48 Heritage Watch features a friction clutch against over winding and comes on a riveted calfskin strap.