Given that IWC has been a partner of Mercedes-AMG since 2004 and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team since 2013, I always found it slightly unusual that the Schaffhausen-based brand hadn’t previously created a watch specifically designed for the world of automotive racing. That has since changed with the arrival of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 series, and while the new model itself is largely based upon the core platform of the brand’s classic 41mm pilot’s watch, the cumulative results from the updates and changes ultimately create a timepiece that feels significantly different from the traditional aviation-themed chronograph that serves as its foundation.
To say that IWC has never made watches dedicated to its long-standing automotive partnerships is entirely false, and even within the brand’s recent history, we have seen models such as the Big Pilot’s Watch AMG G 63, which is inspired by the Mercedes G-Wagen, along with other models that have been specifically dedicated to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. With that in mind, there is a significant difference between creating a thematic version of an existing model that is inspired by an automotive partnership and creating a new watch that is specifically designed for automotive racing itself, and the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models aren’t just AMG-branded Pilot’s watches but rather the brand’s distinct take on the classic racing chronograph.
While speaking with the brand, I confirmed that the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 series isn’t a replacement or evolution of any existing model, but rather an extension of the Pilot collection that brings it into the world of motorsports. While the Ceratanium version of the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 is specifically dedicated to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, it is not going to be replacing the existing Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Edition “Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team” that debuted last year in 2022, and both of the F1 team models will be offered alongside each other within the brand’s current catalog.
The middle case of the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models is more-or-less identical to what can be found on the standard 41mm Pilot’s Watch Chronograph in terms of its general shape and dimensions. However, while the Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 AMG in grade 5 titanium has an identical overall thickness with a height of 14.8mm, the Ceratanium Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team is slightly thinner at 14.7mm due to the different that is alloy used for its case components.
The matte black finish of the Ceratanium model makes it appear slightly smaller than its grade 5 titanium counterpart, although both versions of the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 wear larger than the 41mm version of the classic Pilot’s Chronograph, and this is simply due to the presence of the tachymeter bezels that surround their slightly convex sapphire crystals. On the classic Pilot’s Watch Chronograph, the bezel is a simple stepped stainless steel element that resides well-within the outer diameter of the 41mm middle case. However, on the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models, the black ceramic tachymeter bezels slightly extend past the outer edges middle case, and this ultimately has a noticeable impact on the perceived size of the new Performance Chronograph watches.
The rest of the external components on the new duo of IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models are largely the same as what you get from the regular Pilot’s Chronograph, with a set of pushers on the right-hand side of the case, along with a signed screw-down crown that helps ensure the same 100 meters of water resistance. Similarly, the reverse side of the cases on the new Performance Chronograph models are also fitted with screw-down display casebacks, although rather than receiving clear sapphire crystals, they have tinted display windows with additional printing on their underside surfaces to denote their respective partnerships.
The dials of the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models offer the most significant departure compared to the standard Pilot’s Watch series; however, they possess many of the same hallmark traits that are shared across the collection, and retaining this aesthetic connection was important for IWC when creating the Performance Chronograph. IWC already has a well-defined design language within its Pilot series that lends itself incredibly well to at-a-glance legibility, so the aim of the new Performance Chronograph models was not to completely reinvent the wheel but rather to give it a more premium and sporty feel that would be more in-line with the world of performance automobiles.
The actual size of the dial is unchanged on the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 watches, although all of the proportions have been reworked to alter their visual impact and the perception of their size. For example, while the sub-dials are actually the same size on the new Performance Chronograph watches, their multi-layered structure, combined with a slightly smaller handset makes the registers themselves appear larger on the new models. Similarly, the hands and surrounds for the applied hour markers all receive a glossy black finish, and this simultaneously gives the hands a slightly more slender and refined appearance, while also allowing the enlarged Arabic numeral hour markers to more easily integrate into the gloss black surface of the dial.
Unlike the standard IWC Pilot’s Chronograph that only features luminous elements on its hands and cardinal points, the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models have Super-LumiNova applied to all of their hour markers, although the white tachymeter markings on the bezel do not glow at all. While the additional luminous hour markers undeniably help promote low-light visibility, the rest of the dial offers a noticeably more refined and premium feel compared to the fairly straightforward design of the dials that are fitted to the brand’s classic Pilot’s Chronographs. Lastly, while the Ceratanium Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team version receives accents in the F1 squadron’s signature teal green color, the grade 5 titanium AMG version features these same elements in a muted gray hue that adds a subtle touch of contrast against the crisp white markings that appear throughout the rest of the watch.
Internally, both of the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models are powered by the same manufacture Caliber 69385 automatic movement that can be found inside the standard 41mm Pilot’s Chronograph series. Running at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 46 hours, the IWC Cal. 69385 offers a similar 6-9-12 layout for its sub-dials like the classic Valjoux 7750, although it uses a column wheel to control its chronograph complication and belongs to IWC’s modern range of in-house movements. The Cal. 69385 is fairly well-decorated and sits visible through the tinted sapphire window in the caseback, although I do wish that IWC had refrained from printing the large AMG logo in the center of the window on the titanium version.
Setting aside the AMG branding on the caseback, I also find it rather interesting that IWC chose to debut the new Performance Chronograph series in the form of two different partnership models, rather than one Mercedes-themed piece and one standard-collection offering. Given that Mercedes-AMG is the whole reason why IWC is involved in the world of automotive racing, I fully understand the sentiment to introduce the new model within the context of its partnerships, and the Ceratanium model is aesthetically inseparable from the championship-winning Formula One team. However, the standard grade 5 titanium version of the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 could just have easily been a core-collection offering, and while the co-branding is limited to its caseback, I can’t help but feel that the Mercedes-AMG association ultimately detracts from the widespread appeal of this particular model, which could have otherwise easily served as cornerstone option within the brand’s budding collection of racing chronographs.
The standard configuration for the IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 is a black rubber strap, although both models are also available with matching metal bracelets. While examples of the bracelet were not available at the time that I was photographing the new watches, I did ultimately get to go hands-on with the new bracelets, and aside from their materials (grade 5 titanium or Ceratanium), they are otherwise identical with an H-link structure and push-button folding clasp. The bracelets are quite well-made, and the clasps include integrated extension systems that offer incremental adjustment by simply pressing the IWC logo on the outside of their folding structures. Additionally, the black rubber straps are fitted with tang-style buckles in either grade 5 titanium or Ceratanium to match their respective cases, and all of the different strap and bracelet options include IWC’s EasX-CHANGE system, which offers a rapid and tool-free way to swap out straps without forcing users into a proprietary ecosystem.
Although most people rarely ever use them, tachymeter bezels are emblematic of the world of automotive racing, and the revised dials and tachymeter bezels help to transform one of IWC’s most famous pilot’s models into a timepiece that feels like a proper racing chronograph. The cumulative results from the changes create a noticeably different impact when experienced in the metal, and the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronographs are ultimately far more than just the sum of their parts. As someone who is a big fan of the classic 41mm Pilot’s Chronograph, I wasn’t sure how much I would like the new Performance Chronograph models, but they ultimately proved to be far more impressive in person, and I am eager to see how this new line of watches will continue to expand and evolve within the coming years.
Across the board, the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 models are more expensive than their standard stainless steel Pilot’s Watch siblings, and the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 AMG in grade 5 titanium is accompanied by an official retail price of $9,800 USD on a rubber strap (ref. IW388305), while the Ceratanium IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team costs $13,700 USD in its strap-equipped configuration (ref. IW388306). Alternatively, should you want the matching bracelet, you can expect to pay $11,700 USD for the titanium AMG model (ref. IW388304) or $19,900 USD for the full-Ceratanium Formula One Team edition (ref. IW388307). While some may feel that the design of the new IWC Performance Chronograph is a bit safe and familiar, it is important to remember that these two watches are the debut models from an entirely new sub-collection for the brand, and it seems rather inevitable that we will only continue to see the Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph series expand into more outlandish offerings in the future. For more information on the IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 collection, please visit the brand’s website.