The Pilot’s Watches

Share:
For purchase advice please contact our concierge

PILOT’S WATCHES FROM IWC WRITE HISTORY

During the pioneering days of aviation, most pilots had to navigate with the help of pocket watches. Wristwatches made especially for aviators were a rare occurrence. By contrast, the first Special Pilot’s Watch, built by IWC in 1936, came with a rugged glass, a rotating bezel with an arrowhead index for keeping track of short periods of time and an antimagnetic escapement together with high-contrast, luminescent hands and numerals.

From 1940, the Schaffhausen-based manufacturer started producing the Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T. S. C. in accordance with military specifications for a navigation or deck watch. It was the most voluminous wristwatch ever made by IWC. With its extremely reductionist design, the dial was clearly organized and took inspiration from the cockpit instrumentation of contemporary aircrafts. The instrument look was the inspiration for IWC’s design of the Mark 11, produced from 1948 onwards. The best known of the Pilot’s Watches from IWC, it was originally built for the Royal Air Force and has been in service for more than 30 years.

Big Pilot's Watch

—Reference 5009

View Details

—Only the best Navy pilots attain Top Gun status

In 1988, the launch of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph upheld the Pilot’s Watch tradition. During the 1990s, IWC continued its development of the watch line. Following hot on the heels of automatic winding, complications such as the split-seconds mechanism and UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) found their way into the Pilot’s Watch family. In 2002, IWC re-established its Big Pilot’s Watch tradition when it unveiled an enormous timepiece with a 7-day movement and Pellaton automatic winding, the design of which leaned unmistakably on its even larger forebear launched in 1940. A year later saw the introduction of a Pilot’s Watch series named after the legendary British aircraft, the Spitfire. In its day, the Spitfire was a masterpiece of technology and timeless elegance and became the model on which the eponymous IWC watch line was based.

Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Miramar

—Reference 3880

View Details

The strap used for the latest TOP GUN Miramar line harks back to the rugged strap designed for the Mark 11 used by the Allied Air Forces

Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun

—Reference 5029

View Details

Since 2006, IWC has unveiled a series of Pilot’s Watch special editions in honour of the outstanding books and life’s work of the French author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. No other writer succeeded in describing the excitement of those pioneering days of aviation more vividly than Saint-Exupéry. His fiction addresses universal values such as friendship and humanity; his most famous works “The Little Prince”, “Night Flight” and “Southern Mail” made him immortal. To honour this upstanding humanist, IWC has manufactured the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry in 18 carat red gold as a limited edition of 500 pieces and in stainless steel.

—Flying at supersonic speeds puts an enormous strain on man and technology

In 2007, for the first time, a watch bearing the name TOP GUN joined the IWC Pilot’s Watch squadron. The name comes from a special training course offered by the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, the “Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor”, better known by the legendary accolade “Top Gun”. In 2012, named by IWC Schaffhausen as the year of the Pilot’s Watches, the TOP GUN collection established itself as an independent line in the IWC Pilot’s Watch family with no fewer than five new models. This was the first time two of them sported authentic military-style design cues as well as haute-horlogerie-inspired technological features. Since 2012, the Spitfire fleet too has boasted an updated design as well as new features and movements designed and manufactured in IWC’s own workshops. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Classics collection continues to impress with outstanding technology and its unmistakable instrumentinspired design.

Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

—Reference 3791

View Details

Spitfire
—Preparing a Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX for take-off; this was one of the most-produced versions of the famous British fighter aircraft

Explore the Pilot’s Watches

Further Exploration

From the collection

Aquatimer Deep Three Go
Aquatimer Deep Three

The Aquatimer Deep Three in its titanium case is already the third generation of the IWC diver’s watches to feature a ...

Experiences

Go
Wing Commander – Thomas Koller

IWC Schaffhausen visits the experienced Eurofighter pilot at the Zell airbase in Bavaria

Around IWC

Big Pilot's Watch Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry Marquee 01 Go
IWC is partner of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - d’Agay Estate

Aviation pioneer and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a legend in his own lifetime.