It might be the year of the monkey, but for IWC, it’s been the year of the pilot watch. After a series of well-received updates to both its Top Gun and Classic pilot collections announced at SIHH 2016, it could be argued that the Schaffhausen manufacture’s bread-and-butter fare is punctuating a return to its former glory, and not a moment too soon. After spending a little in-person time with the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Miramar (ref. IW389002), our initial impressions of the collection’s latest updates are affirmed. In both execution and spirit, this is a considerably more reasonable, yet still ultra-masculine pilot’s watch finally deserving of its name shared with the most elite flight school in the military.
At first glance, the mid-century “B-uhr” observer DNA is still very much a part of the bi-compax IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Miramar, with signatures like the cream-colored outer minute track sharply contrasting with the matte-grey dial and red inner hour markers – details which persist from the outgoing version. As before, the polished black ceramic case and military-inspired livery yield a rugged exterior that certainly feels as though it’d be right at home in the cockpit of an F-22 – or at least behind the wheel of a Willys Edition Jeep Wrangler, for those of us mortals who don’t pull on a Nomex flight suit before heading to the office.
So what’s all the fuss with the new Top Gun Miramar iteration? First and foremost, is how the case has been mercifully reduced to a more practical 44mm down from 46mm, which better suits the watch for a wider range of wrist sizes and casual-wear contexts. The ceramic case composition, coupled with the new dimensions yields a deceptively lightweight wrist presence that wears much more comfortably than any of its stainless steel cousins in the Pilot’s family. The decrease in size also helps consolidate the dial a fair bit – reducing the overall amount of unused real estate and improving the overall proportions between the hour and minute hands, and the information they relay.
Another appreciated change is how the critically panned altimeter-style date window has been edited down to a single date aperture, which balances out the dial with greater efficiency. Granted, a next-level move on IWC’s part would have been matching the date wheel to the gray dial, or at least using red instead of white-colored numerals. If Sinn can do it, IWC’s in-house movement manufacture certainly could, but we’ll just have to be happy with the standard, albeit vastly improved date window as it stands.
One last improvement from the 2012 variant is the stepped subdial at 12:00, which now integrates a 12-hour totalizer into the 60-minute counter, and ultimately complements the running small seconds at 6:00 while introducing an additional layer of information that doesn’t disrupt the watch’s otherwise excellent legibility. Powering it all is the IWC-manufactured 89361 calibre – a super efficient 40-jeweled flyback chronograph movement that packs an impressive 68 hours of power reserve, which is helpful for anyone who likes to devote equal wrist time to everything in their collection.
I’d be remiss to forgo an explanation of the Miramar designation, though I’d bet a vast majority of readers here are familiar with it already. Miramar is the name of the air force base in San Diego, CA, where TOPGUN pilots were trained, though that base has actually moved to Nevada. IWC retains the rights of the logo from the movie Top Gun and, to the glee of some and the cringing of others, it is right on the caseback as with previous Top Gun watches. Thankfully, it’s not done in full color like the models from a few years back. It annoys some people, but it’s easy enough to overlook if you otherwise like the watch overall.
Four years since the introduction of the inaugural version, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Miramar keeps the retro pilot watch aesthetic going albeit with some improvements and refinements. It’s not terribly exciting and doesn’t do much in the way of bringing something new to the genre. Whether or not it’s worth the five figure price tag is really up to the buyer, but if you’re into this aesthetic but can’t afford or are ambivalent to the IWC brand perception, there are alternatives. Pieces like the Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss and Airboss Mach 9 are cool alternatives that you can get for a tenth or a quarter of the price of the IWC, respectively.
With an unabashed, all-matte-everything tool watch aesthetic that belies its asking price of $10,900, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Miramar is hardly the utilitarian statement it appears to be. It’s a tough pill to swallow for those who prefer their watches employ more dynamic visual cues to affirm their value. Even the olive-drab green calfskin strap, though exceptionally well-made, seems to all but disappear on the wrist, particularly when camouflaged against an earth-toned shirt or jacket. But there’s also beauty in this austerity – just ask any Sinn or Damasko owner – and a certain innate confidence to be demonstrated for those who prefer to make a statement by understanding the complexity of ceramic case manufacturing, or the impressive technical prowess beating within – and isn’t that what watch collecting is all about? iwc.com