IWC enters into a partnership with the pilots of Swiss Fighter Squadron 11, celebrating the collaboration with the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Staffel 11”, a special version of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 3777.
Minutes after starting the engines in their F/A-18, a Squadron 11 pilot could be setting off on a special mission as Squadron 11, “Staffel 11” in German, is one of only three Swiss units able to conduct aerial police operations. In other words, if any aircraft enters Swiss airspace without correctly identifying itself, without being reachable by radio or without permission, an alarm is triggered.
An order is then given to the pilot to identify the offending aircraft and take appropriate action, either accompanying the unidentified aircraft out of Swiss airspace or bringing it in to land.
These operations are known as “hot missions” and are far from theoretical, with 15 to 20 such “hot” flights taking place every year.
Accurate chronometry has an important role to play, during both these operations and regular flights: “Time is crucial to everything we do,” says Lieutenant Colonel and Squadron Commander Marc Studer. “Timing always takes priority.” This also applies to the aircraft itself, adds Andreas Menk, a Squadron 11 pilot with the rank of captain.
Although the cockpit has an instrument that indicates GPS time, looking at the wrist to check the time is a more natural reflex. The chronograph is easy to operate in the F/A-18’s cockpit and is used time and again.
The Edition “Staffel 11” Pilot’s Watch
IWC Schaffhausen recently entered into a partnership with the pilots of Squadron 11, and specifically with their association, Corona Tigris. This partnership has seen the development of a new watch, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Staffel 11”, a special version of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 3777.
The watchmakers from Schaffhausen worked with the pilots from Squadron 11 to develop the special watch, and incorporated their requests. According to pilot Andreas Menk, good legibility was their main specification. In an F/A-18, this can be a matter of fractions of a second.
As luck would have it, Staffel 11’s heraldic animal is a tiger: its likeness adorns the rear wings of the F/A-18 aircraft, and the tiger’s colouring, a rich orange yellow, is the squadron’s symbolic colour. This tone can now be found on the watch, with the orange-yellow chapter ring, small seconds hand and chronograph seconds hand clearly visible against the black dial. A feature that not only looks good, but also ensures optimum legibility.
The engraved tiger image on the case back is one of the watch’s special features, and at night, the 11 on the dial glows brightly in a witty reference to the squadron’s number.
More than just a pretty (watch) face
Of course, a Pilot’s Watch needs to offer more than just superior design. Watches used in an aircraft must be resistant to damage by magnetic fields. Therefore, in the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Staffel 11”, a soft iron core provides protection against magnetic fields, a feature found in IWC’s other Pilot’s Watches.
The watch had to overcome additional challenges, such as the effects of the F/A-18’s two engines, whose 18 tonnes of thrust can catapult the aircraft to a height of 15 kilometres in just 2 minutes. The descent is even quicker, or “very fast”, as the pilots pithily comment. Although the pressure is balanced, technically it is comparable to a lightning-fast climb to an altitude of 7 kilometres. Under these circumstances, the sapphire glass in most watches would pop out of the case. The Pilot’s Watch also has to cope with sharp turns. The pilot and their instruments have to withstand forces of up to 7.5 g.
Captain and pilot Andreas Menk, a native of Schaffhausen, bought an IWC Spitfire in 2003 and has worn it every day, and on every flying mission, since. IWC’s engineers recently examined the timepiece, with gratifying results: the normal series production watch runs like new, and easily withstood its F/A-18 missions.
A rare find
Becoming a Squadron 11 pilot is no easy task, and getting hold of this special-edition new watch is quite a challenge too. Only active and former pilots of the squadron can buy the watch, with one exception: 11 watches are sold each year as limited editions to enthusiasts and collectors, exclusively in IWC boutiques in Zurich, Schaffhausen and Geneva.
The buyers are clearly fond of flying – for example, IWC’s CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr: “We share a fascination for technology and flying,” he likes to say. “This makes IWC the perfect cockpit partner for Squadron 11.”
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