The Pilot's Watch heritage

Big Pilot's Watch and Pilot's Watch Mark XVII

Date — 16 January, 2012

—The Big Pilot's Watch is equipped with the highly efficient IWC-manufactured 51111 calibre

Watch legends like the Big Pilot’s Watch of 1940 or the Mark 11 of 1948 have had a decisive influence on the new appearance of the classical pilot’s watches. In 2012, their successors, the Big Pilot’s Watch and the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII, demonstrate that IWC Schaffhausen continues to write the success story of these pioneering watches even now, over 70 years later.

Anyone looking for a professional pilot’s watch would today find it difficult to ignore IWC Schaffhausen. The IWC Special Pilot’s Watch of 1936 defined the appearance of an entire watch family, and continues to do so to this day. With the Big Pilot’s Watch of 1940, IWC introduced the hacking seconds; the Mark 11 of 1948 set standards for precision, robustness and reliability. And that is why their direct successors have held a firm place in the new collection.

Launched in 2002, the Big Pilot’s Watch (Ref. 500901) has remained on a high-flying trajectory virtually unchanged ever since. Its 51111 calibre – the largest automatic movement manufactured in-house by IWC – contains all the features that have proved their worth in the long history of IWC mechanical watches. Within no time at all, the spring-mounted rotor and Pellaton pawl winding system build up a power reserve of over 7 days, before the movement is mechanically brought to a halt by a complex train in the power reserve after exactly 168 hours. Stopping the movement before all the tension in the spring has been exhausted eliminates the danger of diminishing torque in the mainspring. This ensures the same level of accuracy the entire time the watch is running. The power reserve display at “3 o’clock” provides a reliable indication of the time remaining until the movement comes to a stop. The Big Pilot’s Watch has a date display at “6 o’clock” and the central seconds essential in any watch used for flying. The 46-millimetre case encloses a soft-iron cage that protects the movement against extreme magnetic fields.

The 46-millimetre case encloses a soft-iron cage that protects the movement against extreme magnetic fields

For business suits and flying gear
The design was modelled unmistakably on the historic Big Pilot’s Watch of 1940. A clearly organized matte-black dial, the arrowhead index at “12 o’clock” and the bold, luminescent numerals and hands guarantee minute-perfect legibility of the time regardless of lighting conditions. The Big Pilot’s Watch is the only model made by IWC Schaffhausen with such an enormous crown, a memento of those pioneering days of aviation when pilots were exposed to the elements in unheated – or even open – cockpits. To combat this, they wore quilted flying suits and thick gloves, which made it difficult for them to wind and set their watches, hence the need for an unusually large, chunky crown. Apart from this, the watch had an extra-long leather strap with a double bow and a clasp bow to facilitate wearing the watch over a flying suit.

Today, owners of the Big Pilot’s Watch are more likely to wear it with a business suit than an overall. The latest version in stainless steel is rounded off with a black alligator leather strap. The design of the folding clasp is slightly more striking and more appropriate due to the considerable diameter of the case.

—In both form and function, the Pilot's Watch Mark XVII is the ideal of a classical pilot's watch

The successor to the legendary Mark 11
In both form and function, the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII (Ref. 326501, 326504) is a virtually perfect example of a classical pilot’s watch. Like cockpit instrumentation, the dial is black with white indices and reduced to essentials: legibility is a top priority. Compared with its predecessor, the Mark XVI, the stainless-steel case has increased by 2 millimetres to 41. In this model, too, IWC’s designers have modified the date window to make it look more like an instrument: with its vertically arranged numerals, it is now reminiscent of an altimeter. The current date is indicated by a striking red triangular index, by now a typical design feature of IWC’s Pilot’s Watches and inspired by the signal red elements on an aircraft’s instrument panel. The watch, which is water-resistant to 6 bar, is powered by an automatic 30110-calibre movement and has a 42-hour power reserve. In terms of precision and robustness – and like all its predecessors – the Mark XVII meets the full range of requirements for professional Pilot’s Watches from Schaffhausen. With its soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields and a front glass secured against sudden drops in pressure, the Mark XVII takes up a tradition established by its historical forebear, the legendary Mark 11 of the 1940s. The watch was encased in a special alloy that readily conducted magnetic fields. As a result, the magnetism emitted by radio, and later, radar instrumentation was simply guided around the movement. A solution as simple as it was ingenious, it helped propel the watch to enormous success. Thanks to its superior technical specifications, the Mark 11 was for a long time the official service watch used by pilots and navigators in Britain’s Royal Air Force. The layout of the dial set a benchmark for pilot’s watch design that has survived to this day. The most famous of IWC’s Pilot’s Watches rapidly established cult status for themselves. The few surviving examples continue to run today as they did back then and are much sought-after collector’s items.

The new Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII blends in seamlessly with the Pilot’s Watch formation from IWC. It is available with a black alligator leather strap and pin buckle or, alternatively, with the newly developed stainless-steel bracelet featuring a folding clasp with precision adjustment.

Big Pilot's Watch

Ref. IW500901


  • mechanical movement
  • Pellaton automatic winding
  • date display
  • power reserve display
  • central hacking seconds
  • Glucydur®* beryllium alloy balance
  • Breguet spring
  • soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields
  • screw-in crown
  • glass secured against displacement by drop in air pressure

*IWC Schaffhausen is not the owner of the Glucydur® trademark.


  • Calibre: 51111
  • Frequency: 21,600 A/h/ 3Hz
  • Jewels: 42
  • Power reserve: 168h
  • Winding: automatic


  • Materials: stainless-steel case, black dial, black alligator leather strap, folding clasp in stainless steel
  • Glass: sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
  • Water-resistant: 6 bar
  • Diameter. 46 mm
  • Case height: 16 mm

Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII

Ref. IW326501/IW326504


  • mechanical movement
  • self-winding
  • date display
  • central hacking seconds
  • soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields
  • screw-in crown
  • glass secured against displacement by drop in air pressure


  • Calibre: 30110
  • Frequency: 28,800 A7h/ 4 Hz
  • Jewels: 21
  • Power reserve: 42 h
  • Winding: automatic


  • Materials: stainless-steel case, black dial, black alligator leather strap, pin buckle in stainless steel
    stainless-steel case, black dial, stainless-steel bracelet with fine-adjustment clasp
  • Glass: sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
  • Water-resistant: 6 bar
  • Diameter: 41 mm
  • Case height: 11 mm

Further information
IWC Schaffhausen
Uwe Liebminger
Department Manager Public Relations
Mobile +41 (0)79 957 72 52

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