IWC Pilot's Watch Watches


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Introduction to the IWC Pilot Watch Collection

For nearly a century, IWC Schaffhausen has created pilot watches. In the 1930s, IWC became the first watch company to conquer the issue of magnetism while in flight by developing a soft iron inner case to surround the movement. Since then, the brand has created many iterations of its pilot watches and is considered one of the top sources for aviation timepieces. 

IWC Pilot Watch History and Cultural Significance

Originally conceived of as a true tool watch and instrument for early aviators, IWC pilot watches remain among the most coveted on the market today. The first IWC pilot watch was built in 1936 in response to a request from the United Kingdom government. It wanted a watch for military pilots that was antimagnetic and could withstand temperature changes from –40 degrees to +40 degrees Celsius. Thanks to thorough research and development, the Swiss brand, located in the German-speaking region of Schaffhausen, Switzerland, discovered a solution. A soft inner iron covering protects the movement from magnetic fields and temperature fluctuations. 

That first watch was an immediate hit with both military and civilian aviators. Features included a shatterproof crystal, a rotating bezel with an index for recording short periods of time and, of course, antimagnetic properties. Just four years later, in 1940, IWC unveiled its first Big Pilot’s watch in a limited edition of 1,000 pieces that were sold to the German Air Force. That watch, made according to strict criteria from the Luftwaffe, measured 55mm in diameter and was the largest wristwatch IWC ever created. It also boasted an oversized crown to make it easy to set with flight gloves on. 

In 1948, IWC created a pilot watch for the British Royal Air Force that came with the brand’s first-ever NATO strap. Named the legendary IWC Mark 11, it was supplied to the RAF for more than 30 years. Since then, IWC has evolved and grown its pilot watch collections to include the IWC Spitfire, IWC Top Gun and many other iterations. The brand’s unrelenting dedication to constantly creating more precise and highly functional aviator watches has earned it a top spot in the pilot watch culture. 

IWC Pilot Watch Modern Variations

The modern-day evolution of IWC’s pilot watches began in the 1990s, when the brand expanded its beloved Mark and Spitfire lines, and branched out with new materials, updated movements, contemporary designs and more for its aviation timepieces.  

In 1994, IWC unveiled its Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Ceramic with an automatic mechanical movement in an ultra-hard high-tech black ceramic case with chronograph movement and day/date function. That same year, a new Mark 11 watch was also released to pay homage to the original. Following that, IWC unveiled the Pilot’s Watch UTC (for universal time indication) and the much-coveted IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, which was reintroduced in 2002. 

IWC Top Gun

In 2007, IWC made a revolutionary step in its pilot watches by unveiling the IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition Top Gun. It was the first pilot watch to bear the Top Gun name and was the result of a partnership between IWC and the elite United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as Top Gun. Within a few years, in 2012, IWC established its Top Gun watches as its own separate pilot watch collection. The brand continues to add to this series, and it remains one of the most sought-after lines within IWC’s pilot watches. 

IWC Antoine De Saint Exupéry and Le Petit Prince

After establishing a relationship with the Antoine de Saint Exupéry Foundation, IWC rolled out several limited-edition watches to honor the author and aviator. The Antoine de Saint Exupéry collection features pilot watches with brown dials, while the Le Petit Prince editions boast rich ocean-blue dials and commemorate his famed book, The Little Prince.

IWC Pilot Watch Affiliations

In addition to building its core line of pilot watches, IWC has established other relationships in addition to the Top Gun and Antoine de Saint Exupéry cooperations, including a partnership with the daring U.S. Navy Blue Angels and Goodwood Aviation. In this way, the brand can celebrate both vintage and modern IWC pilot watches. 

Collectibility of IWC Pre-owned, Used and New Pilot Watches 

You can find some of the many iterations of IWC Pilot watches in the vintage and pre-owned marketplaces. These watches tend to hold their value over time and are typically in good supply, depending on the model. A simple pre-owned IWC pilot watch in steel can range from $2,000 to about $6,000 online. The more coveted versions, like Top Gun watches, are more difficult to find and are generally pricier. 

When purchasing a new IWC pilot watch, be prepared to spend more. A simple three-hands pilot watch from IWC starts at about $5,000, and the more complex ones can retail for $15,000 and more. IWC pilot watches are generally thought to be a good investment, since they don’t cost that much to begin with. In addition, they enable you to showcase your love of aviation with a good Swiss watch and a great history. When you buy a version tied to an affiliation, there is a story to tell, and that makes for great conversation.