The IWC Big Pilot's Watch 43 watches hands-on
Unlike other businesses where you've often teased with new products ahead of the official presentation, it's hard to get a sneak peek of an upcoming new timepiece unless you discover leaked photos somewhere across social media and watch fora; it is rare indeed. The watchmaking industry is different, and you won't know anything unless the embargo is over.
The Big Pilot's Watch 43 is a stunning piece of news, equally significant for IWC as it is for the class of products it belongs to. What the brand's executives defined as a project aimed at "bringing the Big Pilot's collection to its full potential", which usually refers to business and bottom line, it's a close call to the Big Pilot's Watch long-established lovers, whose wrist is so tiny that they were obliged to opt for something different, and from another brand too. Additionally, it represents a Big Pilot's Watch on a budget offering the same foothold, a substantial 30% retail price cut, packed with a thoroughly-thought and superbly engineered bracelet on par with the best ones in its class.
The Big Pilot's Watch 43's heritage
First and foremost, if you're opting for a new IWC Big Pilot's Watch 43, be sure you'll pick the full steel option and opt for a leather strap (which is not the best so far) as a replacement strap; I'll explain why afterwards.
You find yourself a bit sceptical while taking your hands on the new Big for the first time. Just place four generations of Pilot's Watches on a table as we did during the product presentation, and prove me wrong that you won't end up considering the new Big Pilot's Watch 43 a fair and legitimate addition to a legacy started with the original 52 TSC and pursued with the 2002 Big Pilot's Watch reference 5002, and the Top Gun option in ceramic along the way.
Although the new collection aims at applying the original Big Pilot's equation to a contemporary timepiece, thus feeling like a "wannabe" Big Pilot's Watch at first glance, I can't deny its no-frills design is paying homage to the forefather to a greater extent than it's 46 millimetres counterpart. The dial is clean, and with no date window; there's no power reserve display, thus offering the quintessential observation-watch look and feel. Once on your wrist, it's quintessentially Big Pilot's Watch from any angle.
The case's diameter to thickness ratio, and the talking point: "the new bracelet".
Take a calculator, and you'll find out that a Big Pilot's Watch 46's case's diameter to thickness ratio is equal to three. The new Big Pilot's Watch 43 stops at 3,16. In both cases, we took IWC's official specifications. The new model is not a small watch by any means; wrap it around your wrist and judge by yourself; the Big Pilot's Watch 43 has a wide stance even on my 20-cm wrist. In contrast, the clean three hands dial is as pure as it looks too mainstream at times.
After several attempts to join the three-hands luxury sports class of watches, IWC has finally opted for a model belonging to the top-selling and highly coveted Pilot's Watch collection. Thus, the Big Pilot's Watch 43 is (unofficially) IWC's challenge to the most wanted full-steel sports luxury watches. Here is why you can now opt for a bracelet in steel so refined, taking the build quality, comfort and usability to new standards across the brand's product portfolio.
Featuring the signature "bead of rice" Pilot's Watch bracelet, it comes standard with a fast-change mechanism, a single link removal kit and an adjustable clasp you can extend to up to 5 mm by pushing the button on top. It is remarkably comfortable, and that's why I would pick this one as my first-choice option. The build quality, brushed and mirror-polished finish, comfort on the wrist, and design remind me of an A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus' bracelet; I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the brands shared their expertise; all in all, it makes sense since they belong to the same Group while competing in different market segments.
In contrast, the bracelet gives a contemporary look and feel, which dilutes the Aviator Watch's legacy you perceive when the case is paired with the thick (and far too stiff) leather strap. If you're replacing the bracelet, something you're usually doing before the summer season, make sure you give the rubber strap with folding clasp and rivets a try. It won't disappoint as the redesigned screw-down crown won't too. It is not pinching your wrist any longer, and the 10 bar water resistance ensures peace of mind while swimming.
The IWC Caliber 82100
The 2021 Big Pilot's Watch 43 is powered by the 82100, a manufactured movement offering standard performance, like a sixty-hour power reserve. Featuring a Pellaton winding system and friction-free ceramic parts to reduce wear provides good finishes for a mass-produced mechanical movement and the signature classic winding rotor with gold "Probus Scafusia" medallion. It seems the project requirements were mainly long-term reliability rather than stand-out performance.
As a result, the watch is so pure and sleek on the front while proudly showcasing the IWC's engineering via the case back. Among the options available, I'd go for the blue sunburst dial without a doubt. It's a deep blue colour palette and the same tone available across the entire Big Pilot's Watch range.
Option, prices and final thoughts
The new IWC Big Pilot's Watch 43 retails between 9050 Euros and 10,100 Euros. I would have gone for a premium price placed slightly under the ten thousand euros threshold, thus attracting as many new buyers as possible, at least during the rest of 2021.
As an enthusiast, I think the new Big Pilot's Watch 43 is a game-changer for the brand and welcome addition to mind the gap between a Mark and the bold BP 46 mm, geared towards a broader and less IWC-hardcore audience. Thumbs up to the collection, and kudos to IWC for crafting a timepiece with such a high build quality and an expected high reliability in the mid and long term.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®