IWC 2021: Smooth Touchdown of the Highly-anticipated Big Pilot’s Watch 43

by Li Yuling

The 43mm-wide new arrival from IWC is big on style and presence.

The latest collection of timepieces from IWC Schaffhausen have landed, and fans of the Big Pilot’s Watch will be pleased. Meet the fleet, fresh off the digital runway of the Watches and Wonders exhibition: the Big Pilot’s Watch 43,  Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”, and The Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”.  This article zooms in on the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 – from its ancestry to its conception and creation.

From Tool Watch to Icon

Originally designed to meet the exacting requirements for military observation watches, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch is now one of the Swiss Manufacture’s most globally recognised and emblematic designs.

With a diameter of 55mm, the legendary Big Pilot Watch Calibre 52 T.S.C. of 1940 remains the largest wristwatch among IWC’s creations. Relaunched 62 years later, the Big Pilot’s Watch Reference 5002 retained the style code of its ancestor – oversized conical crown, supremely legible dial, and riveted straps – but measured a tad smaller with a 46.2mm diameter and 15.2mm height.

The Big Pilot’s Watch exemplifies how a purely functional design can transform into a cultural icon.

Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen

Attesting to its popularity and IWC’s creative prowess, the Big Pilot’s Watch has, since its 2002 relaunch, been reinterpreted into nearly 100 different editions. This well-loved timepiece has seen numerous aesthetic and functional modifications, having been crafted in a variety of materials, from ceramic and carbon to white gold, platinum and titanium, and matched with various sophisticated complications.

Now, the smallest-ever Big Pilot’s Watch has been introduced. Does it punch above its weight?

Purity meets Ergonomics

With a bold, outsized personality that’s comparable to its predecessors, the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 (Ref. IW3293) has several defining characteristics that make it a unique statement. 

First off, shaving millimetres off its case diameter and height makes a big difference in wearability, especially for wrists that the 46mm models do not sit well on. Numerous prototypes were created before the IWC designers arrived at the sweet spot of a 43mm diameter and 13.6mm height. Because the proportions of the case, horns and crown remain unchanged, the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 eschews bulk but delivers on presence.

Creating a more ergonomic case size also presented the opportune moment to “return to the extreme purity of the original 1940s design,” said IWC’s Creative Director Christian Knopp. Achieving the three-hand timekeeper’s simple yet bold aesthetic took a lot more than just stripping elements from its dial: Every detail, from the case and crown size to the dial graphics and hands, was reworked and refined. The resulting look? Clean but none too austere. Classic yet contemporary.

Unlike many IWC Pilot’s Watches that secure the movement in a soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields (a feature first found in the Mark 11), the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 has a sapphire glass back which reveals the intricately decorated in-house 82100 calibre. The mechanical movement features an automatic Pellaton movement to deliver utmost precision. A boon for water-loving horophiles, the case is water-resistant up to 10 bar, or 100 metres.

With a new quick-change system and choice of interchangeable straps, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 offers versatility of wear for the modern, dapper gentleman. In addition to calf leather straps and rubber straps, the timepiece can now also be paired with a handsome stainless steel strap, a notable first in the 80-year history of the Big Pilot’s Watch.

The five-link execution adds to the design’s purity and gives the watch a crisp and contemporary look.

Christian Knopp, Creative Director of IWC Schaffhausen

Put Through its Paces

The journey of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 begins at the steel mill, where stainless steel is refined and processed to become extremely pure, corrosion-resistant, biocompatible, and skin-friendly. From these stainless steel bars, the case components are then individually manufactured – with minimal tolerances permitted so as to ensure the watch’s 10-bar water resistance. The parts then undergo comprehensive quality checks, starting at the coordinate measuring machine where a ruby-tipped touch probe gauges the components’ geometric features. Next, the case is fastidiously hand-finished by IWC’s surface specialists. Mostly made of brass, the components of the IWC-manufactured 82100-calibre are carefully milled to have precisely defined geometric features. The bottom plate, for instance, has about 310 such features including recesses and bores. Comprising 192 individual parts, the automatic movement is assembled layer by layer, beginning with the bottom plate and ending with the winding system. At every step of the assembly line, stringent quality checks are conducted to meet IWC’s impeccable standards. Finally, the dial, hands, glass bottom and front glass are meticulously hand-fitted under magnification to ensure the finished product is absolutely immaculate. Every time you admire the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 on your wrist, know that it underwent close to 100 rigorous tests spanning several months before finding its home – with you.

IWC Launches Mobile App with Virtual Watch Try-on

If you’re wondering how the 2021 IWC novelties will look on your wrist, here’s some good news: Now you can try them on virtually, using the all-new IWC App. Launched in time for Watches and Wonders, the IWC app brings the luxury watchmaker even closer to watch lovers, connecting the IWC global family digitally. Its most exciting feature is the Augmented Reality (AR) watch try-on, where all you need to do is point the mobile camera at your wrist to try your chosen watch on.

Images courtesy of IWC, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related Links:

IWC 2021: Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun “Mojave Desert” Editions At Your Command

IWC 2021: Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 is Right on Time

Understanding the Luxury Steel Sports Watch

IWC Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “SFTI”: The Ultimate Wingman

IWC: Edition “150 Years” Top Picks

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