History of IWC Pilots Watches

History of IWC Pilots Watches

While the IWC Portugieser has taken centre stage for 2020, the brand’s iconic IWC Pilots watches still deserve some recognition for their instantly recognisable DNA. The family of aviation timepieces comes with a pedigree and charm of equal measure, establishing its reputation for optimal legibility and operation with easy to read dials, large crowns and pronounced push pieces. Each design, whether it a legendary IWC Pilots Spitfire or a limited edition Pilots Le Petit Prince, pays homage to the long established aviation roots the brand holds.

There’s no denying that pilot watches are some of the most common on the market, with almost every watch manufacturer disclosing their own take on the genre. But if there is one brand that still manages to captivate avid aviators and luxury watch collectors with every new design, it’s IWC Schaffhausen. Considered one of the world’s most prolific watchmakers, IWC and their stunning selections of Pilots watches are designed not just as a fancy piece of wrist wear but as a requirement for all professional and amateur pilots alike who need legibility, precision and effortless functionality all in one place.

Setting the standards for years to come, the first IWC Pilots watch was introduced in 1936 and was nicknamed the “Special Pilot’s Watch”. It was specifically designed to measure precision down to the millisecond with a famously robust case that could withstand high pressures and varying temperatures of -40 to +40 degrees Celsius. Then, just four years later, the first legendary IWC Big Pilots watch was revealed. The design was originally supplied to the German Air Force as a limited edition of 1,000 pieces and measuring to 55mm wide, it remains the largest wristwatch ever made by IWC Schaffhausen.

Several years later, in response to a product requirement from the British government, IWC developed their own service watch used for the Royal Air Force. The model was nicknamed the IWC Mark 11, now seen as a modern reiteration Mark XVIII. Its technical specifications ensured it was incredibly durable, anti-magnetic and boasted a high precision movement. In November 1949, the watch was supplied to airborne personnel of the RAF and other Commonwealth nations and remained in service until 1981.

Most noteworthy in the history of IWC Pilot watches was the reintroduction of the IWC Big Pilot in 2002. The modern interpretation of the 1940’s original was known as Reference 5002 and remains one of the brand’s most iconic and collectible watches. It featured an automatic movement with a 7-day power reserve, a large date display at 6 o’clock and a unique power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock. While much smaller than the original, the 2002 version still measured to a hefty 46mm in diameter and was instantly recognisable to IWC Schaffhausen enthusiasts everywhere for its monochromatic aesthetic.

One year later and the world welcomed the iconic IWC Pilots Spitfire, a handsome collection that pays tribute to the elegance and sophisticated technology of the legendary fighter plane of the same name. Shortly after, IWC Schaffhausen made history with the first IWC Pilots Top Gun0 watch. Designed to pay homage to the famous flight school and of course the famous 1986 film starring Tom Cruise, the collection encapsulates the brand’s original Mark XI pilots watch but with striking all-black aesthetics.

2016 marked a significant milestone for IWC Schaffhausen with the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the IWC Pilots collection. To celebrate, the brand launched the Mark XVIII Edition Le Petit Prince which payed tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s famous novel. Considered a national hero, Antoine De Saint Exupéry was highly regarded as a great humanist, writer and pilot and it is argued that no other writer was able to convey the excitement of the pioneering days of aviation.

In 2019, IWC Schaffhausen made history with an all-new innovation they named Ceratanium. The remarkable material debuted on the IWC Pilots Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium and matched the collection’s completely jet-black design code with a case engineered from both ceramic and titanium. The material is based on titanium alloy and features the same lightweight and rigid properties of titanium alongside the hard, wear-free and scratch resistant properties of ceramic. All of the case components including the push buttons and pin buckle are engineered from Ceratanium, a material that showcases once again the brand’s ability to evolve and innovate.    

To this day, IWC Pilots watches remain some of the brand’s most popular, most distinctive and most coveted by collectors. If you’d like to learn more about the IWC Pilots collection, head over to the Jura Watches website today where they have all the latest releases available to order alongside interest free finance and free next day delivery.

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