First introduced back in 2002 and informed by the Swiss brand’s long history of producing pilot’s watches, the Big Pilot is instantly recognisable: the utilitarian, ultra-legible dial, the signature oversized crown and the chunky 46.2mm case… It’s a bona fide icon.
But 46mm is properly big. (It’s a very accurate name). Too big for many people’s wrists, and increasingly out of step with modern tastes: the trend over the last five years has been towards bigger case sizes, but now we’re seeing a return to smaller case sizes.
That’s why IWC’s fresh announcement, made on the first day of Watches & Wonders 2021, is so exciting (and has kicked off the trade show on a seriously high note).
The three variants of the new Big Pilot’s Watch 43 (ref. IW3293). L-R: ref. IW329301 (black dial/leather strap), ref. IW329303 (blue dial/leather strap), ref. IW329304 (blue dial/stainless steel bracelet).
Now, before you watch purists get too hot under the collar, think of it this way: 43mm is still pretty chunky. This is no ‘Medium Pilot’. But reducing the case size by 3mm will open up the Big Pilot to a whole new audience… And more crucially, keeps the Big Pilot more in line with modern horological fashion, n’est-ce pas?
Not only has the Big Pilot shrunk a little, but its weight loss regimen has also seen its date window and power reserve disappear, too, making it a time-only timepiece.
“With the Big Pilot’s Watch 43, we have returned to the extreme purity of the original observation watch designed more than 80 years ago and created a simple three-hand watch with no other elements on the dial. Despite its reduced size, the 43-millimetre case combines a bold look with great wearing comfort,” IWC Creative Director Christian Knoop relates.
Available with either a classic black or stylish blue dial, the famous four-rivet colour-matching leather strap makes its return – with a stainless steel bracelet available for the blue dial variant.
All three references feature IWC’s new EasX-CHANGE system, which enables wearers to quickly and easily change the strap and adapt the watch swiftly to different surroundings or activities – as do IWC’s other Watches & Wonders goodies…
L-R: the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar in blue (ref. IW503605); the Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert” with perpetual calendar (ref. IW503004) and without (ref. IW506003); the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 in blue with a leather strap (ref. IW388101) and in blue with a stainless steel bracelet (ref. IW388104). Phew!
We haven’t seen the last of the 46mm Big Pilot yet – not by a long shot. Alongside the Big Pilot’s Watch 43, IWC have also unveiled the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar (ref. IW503605), which marks the return of the legendary complication to the iconic watch, this time in that eye-catching blue.
They’ve also revealed two new “Mojave Desert” TOP GUN Edition Big Pilots – one with a perpetual calendar and one without. Continuing its series of TOP GUN models in sand-coloured ceramic, this is the first time the Swiss luxury watch manufacturer has used the material for the Big Pilot’s Watch. Dark brown subdued dials, sand-coloured hands and rubberised straps add to the eye-catching military-inspired design.
And if 43mm is still too thick for you, then IWC’s final big Watches & Wonders announcement will surely delight – a new pair of Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41s, which as the name implies features a very modern 41mm case size. Available in blue or green, with both colourways given the option of either leather or steel this time around (so four references in total), these babies are yet another way to get in on the classic pilot’s watch fun, while also adding the versatility of a chronograph function.
Far out… That’s a lot of pilot’s watches. Check out the full range here.