The IWC Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium™ watch hands-on
As most brands keep reducing their new watches' overall size, there's another market trend growing at a swift pace; some brands keep releasing new alloys and unconventional materials, with ceramics being, once again, under the spotlight. Have you noticed, for instance, how many new divers' watches sporting a ceramic case appeared in 2019? That technology is so refined and popular today that a ceramic made professional divers' watch is not a taboo anymore.
From Ceramics to Ceratanium™.
Materials Technology is an exciting discipline and, although I still consider a titanium alloy and a mirror-polished case my first picks when looking for a sports watch, I reckon the pros of adopting a ceramic case are unquestionable and have mainly to do with scratch resistance. Conversely, shocks are a threat as they can irreparably damage the case mono-bloc or some of its parts; much depends on how the case came up during the design process.
If we ideally draw a graph including non-conventional materials that range from zirconium oxide all the way up to Richard Mille's exclusive NTPT composite, Ceratanium™ represents an unexpected new option, that paves the way for further developments. The alloy IWC developed in-house and then patented aims at combining the best of scratch-resistant ceramics and light yet mechanically resistant titanium, in one go.
Ceratanium™ is, in my opinion, the most remarkable innovation IWC Watches introduced since they officially cut the ribbon of their new manufacturing facility and an exciting step forward towards technological innovation for the brand that teams up with the leading Formula One team.
Ceratanium™ first appeared on the flagship Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar, to be then adopted by the Pilot's Watch collection.
The IWC Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium™.
IWC has always pioneered new and innovative materials; the 1986 IWC Da Vinci Zirconium was the first timepiece ever to adopt a zirconium oxide built case. It then launched the first Top Gun collection, that followed suit a couple of limited edition ceramic made Pilot's Watches.
The Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun, for example, was and still is among the coolest highly-complicated sports watch, often spotted wrapped around Toto Wolff's wrist during a Grand Prix's weekend, although I still believe the IWC Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph Ceramic Limited Edition IW378601 is the best outcome so far and one of the most exquisitely designed sports chronographs ever made, other than being highly-sought after too, today.
2019 is a landmark for the industry, with the Ceratanium™ being a game-changer and IWC re-gaining the leadership as a pioneering brand in sports watchmaking. Ceratanium™ is not just a new alloy, but a mission statement instead: it paves the way for IWC to re-affirm its position among avant-garde brands; it opens new scenarios and will be exciting to find out what to expect in the coming future.
From a product perspective, the most significant step forward is that the watch, and not just the case, is entirely made of Ceratanium™, pushers, and crown included.
The unstoppable quest for perfect proportions.
IWC Watches unceasingly update size, proportions, and dial design of their Pilot's Watches. The Double Chronograph's case width has, for example, gone from 46mm to 44mm, the classic sports chronograph is no different, and same goes with the 2019 Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar, as we explained in-depth when we reviewed the bronze version earlier this year.
The 2019 IWC Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium™'s case is not matte black; it instead tends to a dark gray color that IWC has called "jet black." It has a grayish appearance to it that sets it apart from an IW389101's deep black.
IWC's Pilot's Watch dial has long since abandoned the signature altimeter-shaped day window, I have always considered being a distinctive trait of any IWC Pilot's Watch, and something I sincerely hope will one day be retrieved. The case-back sports the official Top Gun school: IWC has signed an exclusive partnership with the Fighter Weapons School.
The double chronograph, a real rarity.
The split-seconds chronograph is a rare complication that only IWC and a few other brands still offer today, and it's geared to a selected group of connoisseurs. As long as I remember, this group includes brands like Habring2 and Sinn (and Breitling too). That complication is loving and, along with the Flyback chronograph, makes the specs sheet more intriguing than any classic chronograph's.
The brand is widening its offering of double chronographs, it has recently re-issued the never-forgotten Portugieser Chronograph Rattrapante, with the difference that the latter is hand-wound, while the former, the IWC Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium™ is automatic with a 44-hour power reserve.
The Caliber 79420 that equips the Top Gun Ceratanium™ adopts a base Valjoux chronograph, with the addition of an IWC-developed double chronograph complication. Not utilizing an entirely in-house movement might look as a let down for a brand that has now a vertically integrated organization and a fully industrial capability, and it somehow is, but I recognize that designing and producing a manufactured movement for a very low number of pieces per year is unprofitable.
Probably, the brand might adopt their new in-house Chrono mechanical movement in the future, if that architecture has been conceived to house additional complications. Last but not least, I hope IWC will soon enlarge its offering of Ceratanium™ based chronographs and launch some limited series too while reinforcing its co-operation with the Top Gun school. That is the roadway to highly-collectible timepieces and grow brand awareness even further.
(Photo credit: Peter Tung for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®