The IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun
It all began in 1985 with the launch of a complicated timepiece, an outstanding mechanical movement and a man’s engineering as exceptional as the watch itself: that man is master watchmaker Kurt Klaus. The outcome was the IWC Da Vinci ref. 3750 and represented the state-of-the-art in perpetual calendar watchmaking.
Reference IWC 3750 has been a milestone in watchmaking as has been the IWC Novecento, a perpetual calendar without chronograph, featuring a rectangular case. Two calibers for two timepieces that are the Holy Grail of IWC and of all entire horology, as they both embody the concept of a modern perpetual calendar: no correctors on the carrure at all while all main functions are set by simply operating the winding crown.
In 2012, IWC debuted the new Pilot’s collection at the SIHH and has launched the first Big Pilot’s Watch ever to adopt a ceramic case and a perpetual calendar movement. A sporty platform housing for the first time a classic watchmaking complication that until then was more easily found inside a gold or a platinum case.
The in-house IWC caliber 51614 that powers the IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun ensures a massive 7 days power reserve and lets you visualize at a glance date, day, month, a four digit year and the moon phases cycle, including leap years and according to the Gregorian calendar up to the year 2100. Why up to the year 2100? Because the leap years cycle, that lasts 4 years, changes in 2100, so please don’t forget to leave your son a memo. The moon phases visualization, available for both northern and southern hemispheres, is so precise that it deviates by only a single day after 577 years!
So I feel pretty safe in stating that I believe that timepiece to be the forerunner of the present one. Design wise roles have changed over the years as today’s Da Vinci has a rectangular case, and its technical successor is most probably the IWC Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar, also a chrono, but we’ll discuss that in a whole new post.
The IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun is bold, lavish on your wrist but, despite its 48mm wide and 16mm thick case, it is way lighter than its brothers with a metal case and comes mainly in two colors: matte black and white. All the relevant info are arranged on four counters, placed symmetrically on the dial, with the addition of a small window for the digital visualization of the year and are extremely easy to be read at first sight. A month ago, while at Harrods, I was lucky enough to wrap around my wrist the Boutique Edition, featuring red counters. It was mesmerizing but I do think after some time now that the standard version, photographed while visiting the IWC boutique in Rome, is way better in the long run.
This timepiece is light as the ceramic has been coupled with grade 5 titanium for the case back and crown, cutting off an additional 50% of weight compared to a stainless steel solution. The case back is embellished with the brand logo of the Fighter Weapons School, also known as Top Gun, that has signed an agreement with IWC years ago. The logo is not just applied but is covered by a sapphire crystal. The oversized diamond shaped crown pays homage to the early days of aviation when an aircraft’s cabin was not pressurized yet and a pilot’s watch was part of the on board equipment that pilots needed to activate quickly while wearing a pair of thick leather gloves.
The closed case back does not provide a view, unfortunately, of the IWC caliber 51614 that features a Pellaton winding mechanism, a bidirectional winding rotor, a Breguet spring and a balance wheel made of Glucydur, an alloy of copper, iron and beryllium (a metal used in F1 piston rods up to a few years ago), ensuring high thermal stability, amagnetic properties and resistance to corrosion.
Once on your wrist the IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun is imposing. It’s not a watch you’d wear to opening night at La Scala in Milan and is not intended as such. For that occasion a Portuguese Perpetual Calendar with an alligator strap would be much more appropriate. The Top Gun is mostly your everyday complicated wristwatch: the ceramic case and lightness, plus the fact that it is virtually 100% scratch-proof, makes it good for anything.
I have a big wrist but, since the watch is so light, it fits even a broader audience that you might ever expect. It retails for 34.600€ but has no competitors: anybody out there who can afford one would already have a bunch of other complicated timepieces and needs no recommendations. To those who, like me, that have many watches costing around 5,000€-7,000€ in their collection and are looking for something more, here is my recommendation: trade in some of those watches and try on a IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun.
(Photo credit: courtesy of IWC; Ebay; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®