Big, Bigger and Biggest with 2021 IWC Pilot’s Watches
Once we know our budget and the “type” of watch we want: 3-hander, chronograph, etc., the obvious questions are: Round or rectangular? Date or no date? Black, blue, or green dial? Red? Manual-wind or automatic? Strap or bracelet?? Water resistance?
Among the details that can make or break a deal, the most divisive of all is SIZE. In this past year alone, we’ve seen how an increase or decrease of one to three millimetres can provoke endless discussion.
Large watches are essential for divers and pilots, to provide easy use and clear legibility in high-risk situations. But for non-professional users of these “tool” watches, attracted by their functions, yes, but also their style and history, size is a debatable matter. “Purist” fans reject any change of size from earlier models that have since become “icons”, while others find “the same but smaller” more versatile and easier to strap on the wrist for everyday wear.
And so it is that IWC triggers a debate with the introduction of the 2021 1st semester Pilot’s Watch collection. Indeed, among the new models is a 43 mm Big Pilot’s Watch, a full 3.2 mm smaller than the “reference” 46.2 mm Big Pilot’s Watch launched in 2002.
The new 43 mm model, a three-hander in stainless steel with a stunning blue or black dial, is waterproof to 100 meters, and equipped with mechanical automatic winding IWC calibre 82100 for a power reserve of 60 hours. Superb!
However, while favourable to its aesthetic appeal, some on-line commentators have criticized this new beauty for its smaller size.
Bearing in mind that IWC’s pilot’s watch history dates back to the early days of aviation, and the 2002 model was inspired by the dial and crown design features of the 1940s Big Pilot’s Watch with a case diameter of 55 mm, today’s downsize seems minor in comparison.
So does it matter THAT much? As it turns out, YES, and, when I asked them, even my two favourite IWC watch collectors on Instagram have divergent opinions.
For Michael R. Friedberg, aka @mriwc “The new Big Pilot 43 mm is simply non-sensical. I’m personally glad IWC is slightly downsizing many of its watch references. I only hope IWC continues its 46 mm Big Pilot’s Watch. As a traditionalist, I consider a ‘small Big Pilot’ to be an oxymoron.”
Opposing this viewpoint, Mark Fleminger aka @constellation_m tells me he has always found the 46 mm model “uncomfortable and bulky on his wrist”. Also, he prefers the “no date” on the new dial, and he’s now “saving for the new 43 mm Big Pilot”.
In fact, everyone wins! IWC assures us the 43 mm size is not a replacement of the 46.2 model, but an addition to the Big Pilot’s collection. As proof, the 46.2 mm case in steel is presented this year with a new eye-catching green dial that displays hours, minutes and seconds, and 7-day power reserve at 3 o’clock.
There are even two new Big Pilot’s Perpetual Calendars that display date, day, month, and year, a perpetual moon phase, and small hacking seconds. The mechanical automatic IWC calibre 52615 that powers them has a reserve of 7 days, and they’re available with a blue dial in a 46.2 mm steel case, or, in a 46.5 mm case: the “Mojave Desert” in sand-coloured ceramic used for the first time for a Big Pilot’s Watch. These “Big Big” Pilot’s models are water resistant to 60 meters.
Another new model, a steel chronograph with blue or green dial, is introduced for the first time as a member of the classic Pilot’s Watch family, having been presented in the past within the Top Gun and Spitfire collections. While not a “Big” Pilot’s watch, it’s worth mentioning here for the question of its 41 mm size. Expert Fleminger has followed the evolution over the years of the Pilot Chrono with different sizes and dial configurations, and is very favourably impressed: “My 3717 (ran from ca 2006 to 2012) at 42 mm grew to a 43 mm 3777 (ca 2014) with a triple date window and seconds around the dial, making it very busy. This was revised to remove the triple date and seconds track, and it has now been revised again. The size drops to 41mm, and the current model has returned to the design language of the 3717, with just the subdials in different positions due to the new in-house movement.” Yay!!
Ah, did I mention it? All their dials are luminescent, and they all have see-through sapphire case backs. And for the first time, ALL the new Big Pilot watches are powered with 100% in-house movements. Extra bonus: they all have interchangeable leather and rubber straps and bracelets with a fine-adjustment clasp on the metal bracelets to adjust to slight variations in wrist girth.
And THESE features divide no-one : )