The cut and thrust of aviation has always been a point of reference for watchmakers – both Zenith and Breitling have a rich history in pilot watches – but this year this particular corner of the timepiece world is celebrated to grand effect in IWC Schaffhausen’s new range, which has been unveiled this week before SIHH, the watch world’s traditional showcase which will kick off on 18 Jan. The house first created a watch for the era’s swashbuckling pioneers of aviation in the 1930s, launching the Special Pilot’s Watch in 1936 which featured a large format dial and high contrast luminescent hands and numerals for easy legibility at high altitude and – most notably – was the first watch of its kind to feature an antimagnetic mechanism. Since then it’s gone on to make its pilot watch offering a central component of the IWC world, sitting happily alongside the renowned Portugieser, Aquatimer and Portofino ranges.
Says Georges Kern, CEO of the brand; “with the sheer choice of models in the Pilot’s Watch collection we’re also appealing to luxury swiss fake watch lovers who have until now dismissed the idea of an IWC Replica Watch. With the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 and the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII we have widened the range of models.”
This new focus from the historic brand, which was founded in 1868 in eastern Switzerland, aims to cater to an entry-level customer, while at the same time continuing to create watches at the more fantastical and complicated end of the horological scale, such as the intricate, exceptional creations under the “Antoine de Saint Exupery” range. As the unveiling of the 2016 collection proves, this is a collection that – amongst the quasi-scientific specifications and exacting details of the watch world – is decidedly romantic and whimsical, taking inspiration from the classic French children’s tale Le Petit Prince (penned by Saint Exupery) and depicting figurines of the character across the dial in many instances. It’s a thoroughly poetic homage to the late poet, aviator and author.
One of the highlights of the collection is the Big Pilot Heritage Fake Watch 55, the latest in a range that’s the largest sized watch IWC has ever produced. This new version nods to the chunky models worn by WWII pilots, which were created at such scale to fit easily over the sleeves of aviator jackets and be clearly visible at a glance. At a staggering 55mm – with an only ever-so-slightly smaller version available at 48mm – it’s a bold, unashamedly masculine timepiece that’s limited to 100 units.
At the more exuberant and fanciful end of the scale, the Big Pilot Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” is rendered in rose gold with a night-sky blue dial depicting the little prince in question sitting atop a planet dappled with flowers. As Kern explained at the entirely apt unveiling at Geneva’s Air Force Centre in Dubendorf, watch mechanics are well and good, but real timepiece connoisseurs appreciate a story to accompany the specifics; something that this new Pilot collection demonstrates in spades. The year’s set to be a high flying one for IWC.