Timekeeping for navigation in the air became more and more important when, after World War I, airplanes became more powerful and thus capable of long-range flights. It was at this time the separation between the clocks on a cockpit’s instrument panel and wristwatches for pilots and navigators took place, the latter’s priorities being outstanding sturdiness and legibility. By the 1920s, civilian air travel and private flying emerged as a viable forms of transport, increasing the need for dedicated watches.
IWC was among the first to address the demand. Hans Ernst Homberger and his two younger brothers, Rudolf and Alex, the sons of IWC Managing Director Ernst Jakob Homberger, had gained international sporting fame as oarsmen and were attuned to the requirements for precision timing for both tool and sports watches.
Starting from 1936, the Pilot’s Watches became a key a part of IWC watchmaking, ultimately defining what would be a key element of the brand’s persona to this day. The 1936 original was fitted with shatterproof glass, a rotating bezel with an index for recording short periods of time and an antimagnetic escapement, together with high-contrast luminescent hands and numerals. It was robust and, as noted in IWC’s 1936 catalogue, resistant to fluctuations over a wide temperature range.