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IWC Big Pilot shows its range and depth

While many of the Big Pilot models are revivals of old timepieces, there are also watches that are making their appearance for the first time.
Friday, August 26, 2016 - 05:50
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Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition Antoine De Saint Exupery.
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The Big Pilot's Watch Timezoner Chronograph.
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Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 55.
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Big Pilot's Watch Automatic 36.

IWC puts the spotlight on its Big Pilot line this year, with the lights trained especially on two new models: a giant 55mm case that recalls the Big Pilot watch in 1940; and a world-timer where a new time zone, including the date, is set with just a turn of the bezel - a first in the watch world, according to IWC.

Offering what it says is a "wide, balanced range" of new Pilot timepieces, IWC also unveils its smallest creations so far - an elegant Automatic 36 with a 36mm case.

Then there's the entry-level pilot watch, Mark XVIII, as well as a perpetual calendar and a double chronograph in IWC's exclusive "Antoine de Saint Exupery" and "Le Petit Prince" collections.

While many of the Big Pilot models presented are revivals of old timepieces which have been given a makeover - the case downsized and the dial redesigned, for instance - there are also watches that are only making their appearances for the first time.

The world-timer is one. Named the Timezoner Chronograph (S$18,400), because it's also a stopwatch, it's just not new in IWC's stable but is also "a radical new concept to the world of watch".

"No other watch manufacturer has ever succeeded in making a world time watch that is so simple, practical and elegant," IWC says in a press release.

There are 24 time zones to pick by just rotating the bezel on the watch. The hour hand, 24-hour display and the date all move automatically with the rotation.

The Big Pilot's of 1940 in its latest reincarnation still awes with its size, boasting the original 55mm case. The watch remains the biggest IWC ever made and the 1940 model is one of the most coveted by watch collectors - only 1,000 pieces of it was produced.

The new Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 55 (S$22,700) is limited to 100 pieces. A slightly smaller version of the watch, Heritage Watch 48 (S$20,600) in a 48mm case, is also available in a limited of 1,000 pieces.

While new Heritage Watch 55 is modelled after the 1940 watch, it has replaced the stainless steel case of the original with a lighter titanium case. The latest model also doesn't feature a central seconds hand like the earlier one. Back then, pulling out the crown stopped the balance, thus allowing pilots and navigators to synchronise their watches with down-to-the-second accuracy. Now, the small seconds is found at six o'clock and the movement can likewise be stopped by pulling out the crown.

Both the Heritage Watch 55 and 48 are anti-magnetic and powered by a hand-wound movement. But the 55 has only 46 hours' power reserve while the 48 has eight days of power reserve.

The Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition "Antoine de Saint Exupery" (S$39,700), along with the Double Chronograph Edition, pay homage to a great humanist and aviation pioneer. The trademark tobacco brown dial and a calfskin trap is intended to remind one of Saint-Exupery's flying suit.

The perpetual calendar on the watch displays not only the lunar cycles but also the seconds, minutes, hours, date, day, month and year in four digits. These are all mechanically programmed to advance automatically and take into account different month lengths and all the leap days until 2100, without the need for any correction.

Housed in the 46mm stainless steel case is a self-winding movement, the IWC-manufactured 52610 - the first time a calibre from the new IWC 52000 family is used in a Pilot's Watch. It has seven days' power reserve when fully wound.

The Big Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII (S$6,320 or S$7,650 with steel bracelet), in three variations, is launched as an entry-level pilot watch. It has a black or silver dial.

Two models are available in a Santoni black calfskin strap. The third model is sold with a stainless steel bracelet. All three have one thing in common: a reduction to essentials.

"The contrasting dial and displays come very close to the ideal of the classic pilot's watch," says IWC.

The anti-magnetic timepiece is equipped with an automatic movement with 42 hours' power reserve, housed in a 40mm stainless steel case. The Big Pilot's Watch Automatic 36 (S$6,250 or S$7,650 for steel bracelet), which features a 36mm steel case, is the smallest watch in IWC's current collection. At the heart of the antimagnetic watch beats an automatic movement.

Inspired by IWC's legendary Mark 11, which also had a 36mm case, the latest model comes in five variations with three different dials.