If you’re on the market for a pilot’s chronograph, my guess is you’re looking at an IWC.
Since the ’90s, IWC has championed the look of the pilot’s chronograph. The 3705 Fliegerchronograph has always been a cult favourite — IWC knows this too, having released a limited edition Tribute to 3705 just earlier this year, which paid homage to the legendary Ceramic Fligerchronograph of 1994.
The brand is launching its brand new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 at the digital Watches & Wonders exhibition this year, which in its new downsized 41mm (although not quite the original 39mm), and new coloured dial executions, are clear recipes for success. And with a new quick-change system, a choice of straps between calfskin, rubber and stainless steel, here’s why we think the 41mm is well worth your consideration.
For 85 years, IWC has been engineering pilot’s watches with the functional requirements and specific needs of professional pilots in mind. Conceived as precise and reliable tools for navigation in the war-time period, these modern-day Pilot’s Watches still bear that classic war-time Flieger aesthetic: with strong legibility and the iconic cockpit instrument design.
Ahead of its launch date, we were offered the chance to try out the Ref. IW388101 with the blue dial and blue calfskin strap. Here’s what we love about the new chronograph — 41mm really is the sweet spot for a Pilot’s Watch. It’s still a substantial watch, but beautifully proportioned, practical and wearable for slimmer (even ladies) wrists.
The new 41mm chronograph follows on the success of the 2019 Spitfire chronograph, which was also in 41mm. But in stainless steel, and a blue or green dial with all white luminous markings, the new 41mm is your typical modern-day IWC watch. Gone too is the closed caseback on the Spitfire version – the new 41mm shows off the in-house calibre 69385 through its transparent sapphire caseback.
Like any IWC Pilot’s Watch, the dial configuration is utilitarian and practical, displaying the time, day, date, and a 12-hour chronograph with central seconds. The running seconds is indicated at the sub-dial at 6 o’clock, which offers a bright pop of red against the intensely coloured dial. The reworked stainless steel case construction also ensures that the chronograph is now water-resistant to 100 metres.
The chronograph movement comes in 231 individual parts and robust-looking as it is, comes with some depth so it’s still very much a joy to examine. The stopwatch function is controlled by a column wheel, which you can see clearly when you swing the bi-directional rotor out of the way. Fully wound, the watch ticks at 4Hz and comes with a power reserve of 46 hours.
Here’s the fun part: the watch is now more versatile than ever with the new quick-change system and new strap choices — bracelet, calfskin leather and rubber straps — that you can purchase separately and change out on your own without watchmaking tools. I loved the watch on the blue calfskin leather strap, but the steel-on-steel combo would obviously be a crowd favourite, and the rubber strap gives it an even sportier, more casual feel.
One last thing to mention is the box that the watch comes in. Gone are the days when watch boxes are bulky things that you don’t dare throw out, but take up valuable space in your homes. The watch box for the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 is cleverly also a travel pouch, yet another proof that functionality, practicality, and versatility are at the forefront for IWC’s designs.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41
Reference Ref. IW388101 (blue dial, blue calfskin strap), Ref. IW388102 (blue dial, stainless steel bracelet), Ref. IW388103 (green dial, brown calfskin strap), Ref. IW388104 (green dial, stainless steel bracelet)
Movement Automatic calibre 69385; hours, minutes, seconds, date and day display, small hacking seconds; 46-hour power reserve
Case 41mm stainless steel; water-resistant to 100m
Strap Calfskin leather, stainless steel bracelet and rubber available with quick-change system
(All images: IWC)
This story first appeared in Prestige Hong Kong.