The person that first crosses the finishing line is the winner. Pretty straightforward. In reality however, the path to success isn’t that simple. In order to win or even meaningfully compete, whether you’re an athlete or an automotive racing team, you need to work towards a goal. An established point of reference. Which usually is measured in… time.
Racing and timekeeping - one does not exist without the other.
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How fast is your car? What affects its pace? In the early days of racing, aerodynamic testing would be done against the stopwatch, not in a computerized wind tunnel. A car like the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé (incidentally, the most expensive car in the world today) would be driven until it reaches its top speed down an empty stretch of autobahn or runway, then put into neutral, at which point one of the engineers would engage a stopwatch. How long does it take before it come to a grinding halt? How long if it has a reduced windshield angle? What if the intakes were to be enlarged for better cooling? How does that affect the drag coefficient, and therefore, the time it takes for the car to fully stop? Calculations were made. More cooling can equal more power and efficiency, but will it outweigh the drawback of increased drag depending on how and where the car will run? Fortunately, a stopwatch never lies and so adjustments can be made as well as compromises.
— On the road with IW501019
— A watch inspired by racing.
In a way, this approach has continued to the present day. Sure, today we have pretty advanced computer simulations and mathematical models, but at the end of the day, you never know what kind of car you have built until you put it on a track and measure its pace. It is precisely why everyone gets excited by pre-season testing in F1 and each practice run before a race – were those narrow side-ports on the IWC sponsored Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 the right call? Time will tell, but the important message here is: in testing you can get a pretty good idea of the level of your performance from reading information on a lap time board.
Then there is the question of measuring yourself against others. In a hillclimb race for modern or vintage cars like the Arosa Classic Car in Switzerland for example, of which IWC is a proud partner, the car that gets to the top of hill in the shortest amount of time wins. During a regularity rally, hitting that precise, preordained minute when entering a checkpoint can make all of the difference between a stage victory or loss. The measuring of time is also how average speeds are calculated, and while we are not endorsing irresponsible driving on public roads, those days when driving to and from work takes less time than usual are really the ones that feel like life’s biggest win.
In essence, timekeeping and competition go hand in hand for more reasons than just the obvious ones listed above. IWC is the partner company not only to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, but also the owner of IWC Racing, another team they established in 2018. It is therefore no wonder that IWC would create the perfect timepiece for all motorsport enthusiasts. A great tribute to the intricate processes that go into creating a machine bred for competition, encased in the equally intricate form of a brand new, limited edition watch. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch IWC Racing Works (Ref. IW501019).
There will be only 500 pieces of this particular watch ever made and they also won’t be easy to obtain, as sales are planned exclusively through the two racing themed flagship boutiques located in Zürich, Shanghai and Dubai.
The 46.2 mm case might seem as quite large in this day and age, when smaller and smaller cases are trending, but it has been cleverly designed and thoroughly thought through - just like aerodynamics on a racing car - so that this particular diameter actually makes practical sense, not just for people who have thicker wrists.
— First look at IWC Big Pilot’s Watch IWC Racing Works (Ref. IW501019).
Firstly, the idea behind choosing the Big Pilot’s Watch 46 is that it is extremely easy to read during racing and rally action. The same principle that applies to reading the time when flying an airplane.
Secondly - because of the clever choice of materials - even if it seems quite big, it shouldn’t feel like it - as its grade 5 titanium case is not only extremely lightweight but also durable. As legendary F1 constructor Colin Chapman once said, the key to win is to “simplify, then add lightness” and this design seems to follow that recipe. What’s also important, is that it’s also the first Big Pilot’s watch to offer water-resistance up to 10 bar. For that post-Grand-Prix-win pool dive, I assume.
A racing car is nothing without an engine of adequate power. Similarly “under the hood”, the IWC Racing Works Big Pilot offers a 7-day power reserve, thanks to the bi-directional Pellaton winding system of the in-house manufactured 52110 caliber, that builds up the power in two barrels. To compete, a race car also has to be durable and failure-free - and so, the components that are subject to high stress on the watch are made from virtually wear-free zirconium oxide ceramic, with the addition of a soft-iron inner case protecting the movement from the effects of magnetic fields.
Lastly - it’s largely superstition, but people “who know” say that a good looking car will also perform well on track. If this rumor is anything to go by, future owners should be happy with the latest family member from a long line of special edition IWC Big Pilot’s Watches. It’s definitely also a looker.
— A 46 mm case on the IW501019
The blue dial with subdued white numerals, and grey hands epitomize understated elegance. Features like the 6 o’clock date display and power reserve indication at 3 o’clock, as well as the oversized crown (which you can operate in racing gloves) are a direct carry-over from regular models, but the entirety of the design gains a new dimension when paired with the matt grey titanium case and embossed blue leather strap. To complete the look - an engraving of the IWC Racing Works logo. Arguably the coolest modern racing team logo in existence.
So, do watches and racing cars have anything in common? You can find out for yourself in Zürich, Shanghai and Dubai in late April 2023.