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IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

Hey mister? You want a big watch that is easy to read? Well do I have something for you! The iconic classic aviator watch look is one that IWC has been more than successfully perpetuating for quite some time. They probably do it the best, and at the least they are the best at selling it. It is an classic look that feels great on the wrist as was originally developed for optimal legibility and ease of operation. What more could you want from a timepiece?

As you’ll be hearing over the year, 2012 is the year of the Pilot watch for IWC. At SIHH 2012 their booth was pretty amazing by most standards. It didn’t have much to do with watches, but the spectacle really pulled you into the world that IWC was trying to create for the new Pilot watch collection. IWC CEO George Kern is actually quite clever in having each year focus on one watch. That allows the brand to fully tailor their theme and message around the concept to get retailers, journalists, and buyers as excited as possible on what they want to promote. If they released a series of new nice watches from different collections it would dilute from the image they are trying to further.

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

There are actually a lot of new Pilot watches and several in the Top Gun range that has done well for IWC over the years. For watch lovers, the biggest news is that all new Big Pilot watches will contain in-house made IWC mechanical automatic movements. Previous Top Gun models for instance housed based ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movements. The move to fully in-house made should up the value proposition for most people and is sure to enhance already high excitement around the collection.

As it was in the past, all IWC Big Pilot Top Gun watches will come in ceramic cases. There is a matte black case for standard Top Gun models and a polished dark gray case for the retro looking Top Gun Miramar line. Included in this article is one or two images of steel cased watches that show the slightly updated non-Top Gun IWC Big Pilot. While more or less visually unchanged for 2012, the new IWC Big Pilot watch benefits from mechanical and structural upgrades to made it better than ever. One important move was a serious upgrade in the crown and stem system to make it more durable.

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

The Top Gun collection is large. Perhaps too large for some. Not me, but for you it may be the case that the diameter of the case doesn’t feel right. You really need to try it on. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have massive wrists – not in the least. I just like look of a large watch. The Big Pilot Top Gun watches are between 46 and 48mm wide. Oddly enough the chronograph models are smaller at 46mm while there rest (including the time-only) models are bigger. That is an interesting move at it is usually the other way around.


Watch detailing is as always impressive. IWC far and away makes the best pilot watch hands anywhere. The trick is contrast. The detailing is crisp and the hands perfectly pop off the dials to create a strong, legible look. Others try to duplicate this, but I’ve never seen anyone do it quite as well as IWC. The three hand watches use the outgoing IWC made caliber 51111 automatic movement with that super long 7 day power reserve. The handy power reserve on the dial helps keep the look interesting as well. This is one of the 48mm wide watches and comes in both standard Top Gun and Top Gun Miramar styles.

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

The standard Top Gun uses a matte black ceramic case with a titanium caseback and large crown. The same goes for the chronograph version. Depending on the model there is a Top Gun logo engraved into the caseback or offered as a colored print under a protective sapphire crystal. It looks cool either way. Most people claim to not care about the Top Gun collaboration but I promise you it adds just a nice little icing to this sweet cake.

At 48mm wide it sits nice and big on the wrist. Why else do you think they call it the “Big Pilot?” The Miramar version has a polished gray ceramic case and dial with different colors and a little bit of a different style. It has has a green canvas style strap. If there is anything that you can say about IWC it is that a lot of attention goes into their dials and straps (or bracelets).

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

Most people will like the subtle Top Gun branding on the watches. There is no mention of it on the dial or case sides. The old model I believe has some type of Top Gun logo on the side of the case. Only the rear of the watch talks of the Top Gun connection. While the steel Big Pilot watches look excellent, ceramic is a great material. It is very hard and will wear gracefully as it is very scratch resistant. For the most part these should be really durable watches in terms of looking good for a long time.

One person said something interesting to me about how they didn’t like the metal crown and pushers as matched to the ceramic case. They felt the ceramic look was incomplete. I see their point but it doesn’t bother me. The truth is IWC really can’t do that. Machining ceramic is a pain in the ass, and the technology doesn’t yet exist for tiny ceramic pieces with intricate details like crowns and pushers to be made in any cost effective manner. As it stands these watches use grade 5 titanium for the crowns, pushers, and casebacks.

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Watches For 2012 Hands-On Hands-On

At the top of the new IWC Big Pilot Top Gun collection is the Perpetual Calendar. It uses IWC’s outgoing great perpetual calendar automatic movement with a seven day power reserve. In the cool ceramic case with bold dial, this is a killer timepiece. The chronograph models uses IWC’s new 89365 automatic movement that measures up to 60 minutes. IWC opted for a two versus three dial look on the watches. Though three register chronographs are available in the non Top Gun Big Pilot line.

The overall new IWC Top Gun collection of Big Pilot watches is impressive, highly wearable, and going to be quite popular when they start shipping. I am not sure about pricing but they will be in the ballpark of what IWC’s Big Pilot and chronograph watches currently cost.



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  • star42

    One word came to mind after viewing the collection: Busy. There’s just a lot going on with the dial, maybe too much. This is especially so for the perpetual calender. On top of all those numbers and letters,the weird “perpetual calender” symbol and the 2 planes on either side are superfluous, and adds nothing to the design. IMHO remove those two elements, and place their IWC logo in their place. Tradiational, yes. Boring? Prehaps. But it certainly would go a long way in restoring some semblance of coherence to what would otherwise be a great dial design.

  • Kris C

    Personally, I find the whole Top Gun colaboration to be utterly retarded, but what do I know. I don’t see how it helps top sell anymore watches, anyway. Would a customer have passed if the logo was missing? Their loss; I’m sure if all you wanted was a Top Gun logo one your watch, eBay could help you out for like $5.

    Anyway, the logo doesn’t stop the perpetual calendar model from being totally want. I would love to have a view of that movement through the back rather than the silly logo, but as long as the back is the only place you see it, IWC is moving in the right direction.

  • CG

    What! Those two little jet compass indicators don’t move!? No O2 mask hookup either? Not worth it on military grade pay, actually unaffordable for military pilots. Get the DoD to test this watch and I bet it doesn’t stand up to military use, looks too delicate and pretty.

  • jerryfking

    listen……if you’re going to buy a perpetual calendar, you better buy one in gold or platinum, or maybe even polished steel, but matte black? cmon now. little planes on the face and no exhibition case back? I would get this in the time/date/power reserve complication, and thats it.

  • Jon W

    Playing devil’s advocate here (and speaking from a little experience)… put on a long sleeved nomex flight suit, nomex/kevlar flight gloves, polarized smoke-tinted visor, and sit in a cockpit that glows with indicator lights (including a clock!). Now try and operate the tiny pushers on the watch and measure elapsed time on the subdials (especially at night). Nope. Not very functional. Most flight crews wear watches with an LED digital analog screen…that you can buy at Target. Not to say that they/we don’t appreciate the finer things in life, but seriously, if we could afford this stuff, why would we wear it on combat sorties?

    • cluedog12

      @Jon W

      The same issue crops up with high mechanical dive watches, but there is one scenario you did not consider. Perhaps one day we will need to wage war in the skies and in the seas against a line of sentient robots that employ technology that disrupts all our electronic devices. I’d rather be sporting an IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition that is suddenly off by 30 minutes a day rather than a suddently-nonfunctional G-Shock.

      In all seriousness you are correct. These are luxury items, first and foremost, not professional tools. The rest is really about helping pragmatic adults formulate white lies that they can tell themselves to justify their luxury good purchases. I really see no harm in IWC’s marketing tactics as we all need some help telling ourselves white lies from time to time…

  • MID

    What’s the use of a chrono without hash-marks to sub-divide the seconds? With all that’s going on, on the dials, including hash-marks could not have made anything any busier.

    And what’s with the little planes on the perpetual calendar? Does IWC now make the world’s finest Chase-Durer?

  • MichaelG

    I agree with some of the points raised in the previous comments but one thing I find laughable is considering these watches as possible ‘tool’ watches for actual pilots. I would have thought it would be clear by now that these are aviation themed watches, all style yet reflecting a specific heritage. Unfortunately, the Top Gun name will have little meaning/worth to most and regrettably will evoke memories of a certain cheesy 80’s movie. IWC doesn’t seem to care, and nor do I (owning a Top Gun already) and yes, some are closer to a fashion watch than anything else, and that’s fine if that’s what IWC is interested in producing. But it’s a bit facetious to question their legitimacy because an actual pilot wouldn’t wear one or even afford it or if they aren’t ‘the real article’. They are military/aviation themed watches by a fine watchmaker that will be purchased by people that like how they look and can afford one. Simple as that really. /Rant over/

    • Jon W

      @MichaelG Agreed. Aviation themed watches are a neat ‘niche’ within Swiss watch making. I’m guilty, as charged; I own a Tutima I wear during R&R. My posit remains that they shouldn’t be marked as ‘functioning flight watches’ (they are not a tool), but as ‘flight themed watches.’ Good observation sir.

  • JohnnyJohnnyJohnny

    When I bought my Big Pilot, the saleswoman asked me if I was I pilot. I looked her directly in the eyes with a straight face and said “Mam, I’m not at liberty to say.”

    I thought she would laugh, but she totally bought it. I could sense the moistness emanating from her.

  • r_s_g

    The lugs of the Perpetual Calendar are hanging off Ariel’s wrist–it looks ridiculous. IWC has been surpassed at this game by Bremont at this point.

    And ceramic is not an appropriate material for a tool watch, mostly because it’s not durable. This would not have happened to a steel or titanium watch: