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IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

At the IWC watches booth at SIHH 2016, the theme will be all about pilot watches with two of the flagship limited edition models being the new IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 and the related IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 48. Each of these watches is directly inspired by the 55mm-wide IWC Big Pilot’s Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) the company produced in 1940 for military purposes. Pictures of the original 52-calibre T.S.C. (Tirette Seconde Centrale) are below, with one amusing one showing the comparative 55mm-wide size with other older IWC pilot watches.

A few years ago at SIHH, IWC also chose its pilot watch collection as the main aesthetic theme of the year. Then, it was all about modern aircraft and jet fighters with an emphasis on some new Top Gun versions of IWC Big Pilot’s watches. Thus, my suspicion is that this year in 2016, the theme at the IWC booth will be one of more historic flight to recall the World War II-era origins of the 1940 watch that inspired these two new limited editions.

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) from 1940 compared to other previous generation IWC pilot watches.

Truly, the main difference between the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 (reference IWC510401) and the Big Pilot’s Heritage 48 (reference IWC510301) is the size of the case. The former being the same 55mm width of the 1940 original, while the slightly higher-production IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 48 will predictably come in a 48mm-wide case that is going to be actually wearable for more wrists compared to the almost novelty-sized 55mm-wide model.

With that said, some people actually can pull off the 55mm-wide size (and I don’t just mean Arnold Schwarzenegger – because he quite can). See, for instance, the 60mm-wide Zenith Pilot Type 20 on my wrist here. Design-wise the watches are certainly more “retro-revival” sport watches that are modern in construction with an old (but not aged) look. In what is probably a good move, IWC decided to produce the cases in sandblasted titanium that helps shed some of the weight of these larger-sized cases. IWC also opts for a traditional “flieger” pilot watch style of dial which is popular with a lot of people.

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

Unlike the original 1940 IWC Big Pilot watch that has a central seconds hand, IWC chose to give the new IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage watches manually wound movements with subsidiary seconds dials. This often makes for a better look on some large-dialed watches, and besides, IWC had at least a couple movements fitted for this purpose. What I suppose is also interesting is that the two watches do not share the same movement. Given the more “collector’s status” of the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55, IWC uses their slower beating and more “vintage-style” in-house made caliber 98300.


The 98300 movement is thinner than the calibre 59215 used in the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 48 watch, but is otherwise a lot simpler in its operation with a 2.5Hz (18,000 bph) frequency and a power reserve of 46 hours. The movement is often easily identified by its long fine adjustment needle. Here, however, you can’t view the movement through the intentionally sparse solid titanium caseback.

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

It is also worth mentioning that the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage watch cases are both water resistant to 60 meters, and each also uses a soft Faraday cage on the inner part of the case to add a high level of magnetic resistance to the watches. The crowns are also fitted with “high friction clutches” that prevent the watches from being overwound. These were originally developed to protect the delicate movements inside of pilot watches from being wound too much, as aviators were often winding them using gloves and could not as easily feel resistance from the movements during winding.

While the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 is clearly wider than the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 48, it is actually thinner at 13.5mm thick as opposed to the 14.5mm thickness of the 48mm-wide case. While these are not ultra-thin watches, given the wide diameter of the cases, they will visually appear to be thinner than they actually are.

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch (52-calibre T.S.C.) from 1940

IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch 48 & 55 Limited Edition Watches Watch Releases

Going back to the dial, it is nice to see the classic flieger watch return with the beige-colored lume and use of “triangle with two dots on the side” icon placed under the 12 o’clock hour indicator. Legibility should prove to be excellent for the dials as well, and I look forward to seeing how the blued hands play with the light as well as the other textures and finishes on the dial of these IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 and 48 watches.

Inside the smaller 48mm-wide model is the also IWC in-house-made calibre 59215 manually wound movement. In my opinion, this is the one to be more excited about, as it has a long power reserve of 192 hours (eight days) and operates at a modern frequency of 4Hz (28,800 bph). IWC matches each of the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage watches with brown calf leather pilot-style straps with the iconic-looking rivets on them. These should prove quite popular with IWC fans, and I look forward to seeing these two new flagship models at SIHH 2016. No final prices yet, but the IWC reference IWC510301 (48mm-wide version limited to 1000 pieces) and IWC510401 (55mm-wide version limited to 100 pieces) will be between 14,000 – 16,000 Swiss francs.



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  • Flav could wear the big one on a chain around his neck (if he is back on street again that is). Larry – we have found your watch (except for the price), ha ha.

    • Shinytoys

      You’re just jealous that he can rock that alarm clock look:)

      • DanW94

        That’s why he has gold teeth, he knocked out all of his own swinging that damn clock around : )

        • iamcalledryan

          It staggers me that he hasn’t yet been swept up as a brand ambassador.

    • Larry Holmack

      Mark…even I have my limits as to what I will wear…and 55 mm’s is just too big for me. Not that I couldn’t easily wear one though. Now the 48 or 46 mm versions…..that’s more like it.
      I have a couple of 52 mm watches…but only one gets much wrist time. With Rheumatoid Arthritis in both of my hands and wrists….my really large watches sometimes get rather painful to wear, since they are quite heavy.
      And yes Mark…they are just tad bit out of my price range.

  • radikaz

    Size aside, IWC is probably asking quite a lots for a flieger inspired watch. Even with Titanium case.

  • iamcalledryan

    Very cool.

  • SuperStrapper

    It almost as though the decision was made to take pocket watches and strap them onto wrists…

    • Wicket

      actually, yeah.


    dial is nice and clean could have done without the date though. Ti makes sense due to size but then due to size it will get scratched a lot so then Ti for that purpose is not ideal. seems quite a hefty price for a watch difficult to pull off on a non alien/predator wrist.

  • “…as aviators were often
    winding them using gloves and could not as easily feel resistance from
    the movements during winding.”

    I’ll never understand the need for a enormously oversized crown on an aviator’s watch. Why wouldn’t the pilots wind them before taking off? Or take off their gloves for ten seconds?

    “See, for instance, the 60mm-wide Zenith Pilot Type 20 on my wrist here.”

    Yeah, it looks ridiculous, as does a watch of that size on anyone’s wrist.

    • iamcalledryan

      It’s because the cockpit of these old planes was excessively cold and they would often need to access the crown for hacking. Even if you give it a full wind before take off, they might need to re-synchronize with the aid of a radio signal later in the flight.

      Also, if you crash behind enemy lines, you can hit people over the head with the giant crown.

  • DanW94

    Nice looking watch, but I think they should of stayed true to the original 55 with a central seconds. I like that one better. At least omit the date window from the seconds sub-dial on the tribute.

    • SuperStrapper

      A proper nod to actual fleiger watches would always have centre seconds. Sub seconds on a watch like this is just a fashion statement

      • iamcalledryan

        There was an original Lange one at auction in NY this season – the price was as shockingly affordable as the diameter was large!

  • simon

    Both of these watches are so frustrating. I am fine with the sizes, that is not the problem. Why cant they leave off the date and small seconds? Its like Longines with their re-sissues and always adding the date to a clean dial. If you are going to do a re-issue of a very specific 55mm watch, then make it look like the re-issue. People who are going to spend 15k on a 55mm watch are most likely not going to care about the date and second hand.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I love it, don’t take this the wrong way, put I could pull of a 48mm. In some instances I would agree that the date window gets in the way,…but not here, the position keeps things nice and symmetrical. I love the little peek-a-boo window at the back.

  • Marius

    Nice watches, but I would rather have the recently released boutique edition with the blue dial and ceramic case. Its also cheaper, and comes in a more useful 46 mm size.
    The blasted titanium cases of these models are not very appealing to me. Plus, the 55 mm reference is using a movement that is good, but a bit antiquated, and certainly can`t warrant such a big price.

  • Shinytoys

    Open up that back casing more, don’t tease me. 🙂 I like it.

  • Mark Baran

    I hope the 55mm version comes with a long enough strap to wrap it around my thigh. IWC looks like they are trying to resurrect the thigh wear watch in the 21st Century. Hope it comes with straps in multiple colors. A proper gentleman would definitely want to coordinate it with his trouser color on any given day. 🙂

  • Luciano Oliveira

    At 15,000 CHF/USD, these IWC make Panerai a “value for money” option…

  • word-merchant

    So far, with their Pilots range, IWC have avoided crossing the line that separates pleasingly retro from pastiche, although heaven knows they’ve come mighty close from time to time. However these new models give me a bit of a sinking feeling about what’s in store for the rest of the range. I see they’ve also saved a bit of money with the old ‘one of 1000’ trick.

    Slightly kicking myself for not purchasing a Portuguese 2000 when I had the chance.

  • JimBob

    In the upcoming year, these are going to be huge.

    • iamcalledryan


  • Chaz

    Ah, but What Would John Mayer Say??

  • Greg Dutton

    Hockey puck? Check. Fauxtina? Check. Outrageous price? Check.

    Someone will love these, but I don’t know who.

  • Waikato7

    There is only going to be 100 made of the 55mm. These will go to collectors as something cool/novel for their collection. 48mm? Yes, that is big. But some of us have big hands/wrists and can wear 48mm. 40mm looks dinky on me, everyone is different. I just wish those who constantly moan about size would consider this. However, having said that, I do appreciate 48mm is large and not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fine. Personally I love the 48mm Heriatge. Looks great.

  • Waikato7

    Me! 🙂

  • I’m pretty sure the window at the back shows the WHOLE movement…

  • Nelson

    I don’t like the oversized crown. It’s so weird.

  • Paul Miller

    The 55 is commemorating a Nazi watch, plain and simple. There were 1000 of the originals made, all delivered to the Luftwaffe in 1940. Don’t know what IWC are thinking.

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