“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

IWC Schaffhausen at Watches and Wonders 2021

CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr presented IWC’s 2021 novelties in a mixed virtual and live setting at the Watches & Wonders fair. The brand enriched its 85 year-old pilot watches line with new additions in size and aesthetics, and showcased an extremely shock-proof model produced by their engineering lab called IWC Experimental.

The Watches & Wonders ‘Pandemic Edition #2’ painted an interesting picture of how the various brands cope with the all-virtual event. Company leaders run a greater part of the show personally in this setting as the small groups they typically entertain on-site expand suddenly to include all participants behind the screen. Last year we’ve already noted that some CEOs and department heads seem to feel more comfortable with this than others. Personalities come through the fibre and as we have seen it in a number of cases, it can result in more natural conversations and greater engagement from the viewers. Therefore, much of the overall presentation success depends on leaders and those with an ease of speaking under such circumstances can create an atmosphere. Of course, WW being the most important watch fair, the grandiose elements of the show will always be a part of it, but many companies shifted the emphasis from the pre-recorded product mood videos to shorter overviews and live web meetings with the top management, with success. 

Christoph Grainger-Herr is one of those who can address the viewers with very sharp and clear messages and engage with them through the screen. This year, he first gave an overview of the Pilot novelties over a themed studio recording and then in a live feed he presented the watches individually and answered questions. Supplementing the official show, IWC also organised WW Special talks on Clubhouse in various topics throughout the event, including sustainability in luxury, collecting, etc. Some of these were rather informal and have given an insight into the personalities of the panelists (including Mr Grainger-Herr) to all listeners.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 

IWC’s Big Pilot’s watches have always been huge – and for a reason. This line stays truest to the mid-century aviation watches the brand produced. The ancestors were worn in harsh conditions and under stress in the cockpit, which required great legibility, a large size and a decent crown for winding. If you would learn more about IWC and aviation, please see our article here.

In 2021, the company goes below the 46mm diameter by 3mms. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 is still on the larger side, but the designers deliberately placed a high emphasis on improving wearability in multiple ways. The case has been reshaped not only to keep the aspect ratio, but also to enhance ergonomics. Lugs and even the crown have been adjusted to remain bold but not collide with the wrist. IWC offers it with a new well thought-out steel bracelet. It doesn’t twist for lateral moves and conforms nicely to the wrist. It also features IWC’s novel EasX-CHANGE strap system that lets the owner swap this to a rubber or leather strap without tools. The bracelet can be adjusted on two levels: minor fittings up to 5mm can be done via the clasp; links can be removed with the pushers at the back on each.

In order to maintain the same design codes in spite of the reduction in size, IWC created a dial with as little visual distraction as possible. There’s no date, power reserve indication, only time with centre seconds on the either black or blue dials.

Inside, the automatic 4Hz 82100 manufacture calibre has the sensitive Albert Pellaton winding mechanism and virtually wear-free zirconium oxide ceramic components. The power reserve is 60 hours when fully wound.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL 

Another big shot this year was the launch of the new shock absorbing structure IWC’s Experimental (XPL) department developed. The goal was to dissipate the acceleration in excess of 30,000 g during an impact (an accidental hit of a hard surface is between 300 – 1,000 g). The SPRIN-g PROTECT system is based on a cantilever spring that suspends the movement inside the case. The calibre moves independently from the case thanks to a unique crown system, which is in contact with the movement only when winding. The spring is made of a highly elastic material called Bulk Metallic Glass. 

The less the weight of the movement is, the higher the shock absorbing performance gets. Therefore, IWC manufactured the automatic 4Hz 32115 calibre with lighter alloys. As a side-effect, the power reserve has also been increased to 120 hours. The futuristic journey of the Big Pilot does not end here as the 44mm case is made of Ceratanium®, an IWC-developed material based on a proprietary titanium alloy. 

The timepiece will be produced in 10 pieces per year for the next 3 years and sold exclusively at IWC boutiques and the company’s concierge service. Each buyer will receive the shock testing report of the purchased unit conducted by the Fracture & Shock Physics group at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University in England, U.K.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar and IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Edition ‘Mojave Desert’

Kurt Klaus’ perpetual calendar complication has seen 37 editions in the Big Pilot’s Watch collection since 2006. This year IWC introduced two novelties in the line with the 7-days automatic 4Hz calibre 52615 that incorporates the QP mechanism.

Following the initial 2019 sand-coloured ceramic ‘Mojave Desert’ edition chronograph, the Big Pilot design is infused with a sandy military style. The 46.5mm ceramic case protects the perpetual calendar movement. Just like in the 2019 chrono, a dark brown dial, sand-coloured hands, sand-coloured rubber strap with textile inlay builds up the tone-in-tone look. Annual production is limited to 150 pieces.

A more civilian version is the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar in the steel case and with a blue dial. Hands are rhodium-plated and a calf leather strap holds the watch tight on the wrist.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN Edition ‘Mojave Desert’

The strong sand-coloured identity appears on another Big Pilot’s Watch with a simpler look that resembles the original models. Based on the automatic 7-days 4Hz calibre 52110, this indicates time (with central hacking seconds), date and power reserve only. 250 pieces will be made annually. Just like all models introduced, it is eligible for registration under the ‘My IWC’ care program and thus benefits from a 6-year extension to the standard 2-year International Limited Warranty.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41

Building on the 41mm Spitfire chronograph, IWC presents the same case size and mechanical content in new colour options. The blue and green dials go with a stainless steel case. As a novelty, this model also boasts the EasX-CHANGE system. Inside is the automatic 4 Hz calibre 69385.

Photo credits: IWC Schaffhausen
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