The current luxury sports watch market is embroiled in a materials arms race, with brands across the industry bringing exotic cases in carbon composites, ceramics, and lightweight titanium alloys to a wider scope of watches than ever before. IWC has been at the forefront of this material boom for years, particularly with its use of ceramics, but perhaps its most intriguing material innovation is the brand’s proprietary Ceratanium alloy. Combining the lightweight and impact-resistant properties of titanium with the scratch resistance and durability of modern zirconium oxide ceramics, Ceratanium is a best-of-both-worlds hybrid that deftly covers the technical bases for a truly modern sports watch. It’s no surprise, then, that the material has become a mainstay for the brand’s aggressive fighter jet-inspired TOP GUN pilot watch series, and for its latest release IWC combines this proprietary material with one of its most interesting proprietary complications designed with air travel in mind. Blending ultramodern resilient construction with a satisfyingly tactile and easy-to-use complication, the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium is a bold and stylishly executed showcase of the brand’s contemporary capabilities in a package that should please fans of the series.
There’s no getting around the fact that the IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium is a seriously big watch. At 46mm-wide and 15.1mm-thick, it cuts an imposing figure on the wrist, and the simple military-inspired case geometry does little to hide the design’s overall bulk. On the contrary, like many releases in IWC’s pilot lineup this model wears its size as a badge of honor, embracing its status as a statement piece through its trademark oversized conical crown and long tapering lugs. IWC mitigates the sense of mass here in several ways, however, helping to make this boldly sized case more manageable for a variety of wearers. The most obvious component of this is the finish. Just like it is in clothing, black is a slimming color, and the satiny matte charcoal gray finish throughout the case gives this a less monolithic presence than a polished or brushed steel case would have. The other part of this less massive feel is just that – there’s less mass overall. Like more common forms of titanium, the unique Ceratanium sintered alloy of titanium and zirconium oxide powder is substantially lighter than stainless steel, making this case design far more comfortable than one would assume. Despite the difficult-to-machine nature of this extremely hard material, the engravings of the coin-edge world time bezel are impressively sharp as well, filled with a low-contrast battleship gray color that keeps the modern military vibe of the design intact. The pop of vibrant red for the UTC marking gives this monochrome look some much-needed life, while also allowing for easy at-a-glance orientation. IWC’s decision to add a smoky gray tint to the sapphire display caseback will likely be a divisive move, as it both preserves the moody “tacticool” overall look, and markedly reduces visibility of the movement inside. Despite this design’s ultra-capable, military connotations, water resistance is still a weak point here, with IWC rating the watch at only 60 meters.
The dial of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium follows the same muted monochrome approach as the case, rendering the familiar IWC mix of broad flieger hands and rounded Arabic numerals in a grainy matte black and low-contrast sky gray. Where things get interesting, however, is the broad display window curving from 11 o’clock to 1 o’clock. This 24-hour ring is the crux of IWC’s Timezoner concept. Not strictly a GMT or a world timer, the Timezoner is a stripped-down concept focused primarily on ease of use for travelers. Rather than displaying a second time zone, this 24-hour disk hand is instead directly linked to the main hour hand. Wearers can reset the hours to local time instantly on the fly simply by pressing down on the bezel and aligning the current time zone (indicated by the corresponding city) with the triangular lume plot at 12 o’clock. While some enthusiasts might decry the lack of a second time zone, in practice it’s instantly intuitive and viscerally satisfying to operate, with a pleasantly crisp and weighty click between each position of the bezel. Its integration into the overall design is also remarkably clean, with a gauge-like form that plays well with the aviation theming of the piece. However, the use of a black disk for this element does create a slight visual dissonance in the overall design. The conventional date window at 3 o’clock uses a pale gray disk, and the clash between these two elements seems a bit jarring on the wrist. A Timezoner display in matching gray would likely lead to a smoother look overall.
IWC powers the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium with its in-house 82760 automatic movement. The 82760 is a fascinatingly out-of-the-box powerplant, integrating the gear train directly with the rotating bezel to facilitate the unique Timezoner complication. The blend of finishes visible through the smoked sapphire display window is also praiseworthy, deftly mixing brushed, arabesque, and perlage elements together with select gear train elements marked out in deep black. In terms of overall performance, the 82760 is solidly modern, with a ceramic-reinforced Pellaton winding system helping to deliver a robust 60 hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate.
To complete the look of the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium, IWC turns to one of its modern mainstays with a rubber-lined fabric strap in black. This durable, flexible combination helps to keep the weight of the overall package down while delivering a rugged look that meshes well with the spirit of the TOP GUN series.
With a package that combines its most resilient proprietary material with its most engagingly unique complication, the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium is an unabashedly bold and heady blend of some of the brand’s most interesting ideas. While not strictly limited in production overall, only 500 examples of the watch will be manufactured per year. MSRP for the IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium stands at 18,000 CHF, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.