IWC zooms in on its Pilot’s range this year, adding a litany of novelties to the line-up. The collection is anchored by the Big Pilot’s Heritage watch, a tribute to the original IWC watches that were used by the military during World War II. It is guided by the same utilitarian elements that shaped the B-uhr watches, namely an oversized case; ultra legible markers; a soft iron core that protects the movement from magnetic forces; and a sturdy frame. The watchmaker harks back to the past (a recurrent theme nowadays) with a 55mm version, common during that period. Aesthetically, it follows the codes of the B-uhr range, while technically, it benefits from IWC’S advanced horological know-how and is equipped with the hand-wound 98300 calibre.
Keeping with the theme of aviation, IWC also pays homage once again to well-known aviator and author Antoine De Saint-exupéry. A metallic blue dial, signature of his tribute watches, adorn four of the Pilot’s timepieces: Le Petit Prince Big Pilot’s, Pilot’s Watch Chronograph, Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, and Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”. The latter is encased within a rose gold frame. The magic happens at the back, where the rotor takes the form of the little prince standing atop an asteroid, gazing in amazement at the heavens above.
Jewels & Time: IWC’S Pilot’s watches of the 1940s gained popularity because of their soft iron casing that protected the movement from magnetic fields. How has this soft iron casing changed over the years?
Stefan Ihnen: The material is quite the same. Our knowledge of course has become better and better. For example, for the Big Pilot’s Heritage watches, we have used this soft iron core. For the 55mm, it was easy as the case back is completely closed. For the 48mm, we opened a part of the case back to show the movement where the power reserve indication is. With the technologies today in our lab, we found that the influence of this hole is not that big. It reduces protection by maybe 10 per cent, which is still 10 times higher than the norm. The norm for an antimagnetic watch [to be resistant to magnetic field strengths] is 4,800A/m. Here, it is a lot higher, more than enough to resist the magnetic fields of iphones and ipads.
J&T: Kurt, what are your sentiments when you see the Pilot’s watch today?
Kurt Klaus: In the 1950s, the idea was to make a wristwatch that was really useful for pilots. At that time, everyone liked it; of course, not only for the design, but for its high precision too. I worked a lot on this movement in the 1950s when I first started. It was more difficult at that time to regulate a wristwatch to high accuracy. Today, as I walk into the IWC manufacture, I see watchmakers on the desk doing the same as I did in the 1950s. The handicraft is the same, and all the IWC movements are still handassembled. They have modern tools, but it’s the same. This is for me the fascination; the industrialisation that’s parallel to handicraft.
We speak to former IWC watchmaker and legend Kurt Klaus, and associate director of R&D, Stefan Ihnen