One of 2021’s most dramatic current events is the rise of civilian space travel. Although efforts in piloted civilian spaceflight have been limited to pet projects for the ultrawealthy, at this stage, these early endeavors may lead to broader future innovations, and IWC has joined the effort for the latest of these piloted civilian missions. Scheduled for September 15 through September 18, 2021, Inspiration4 will launch from the renowned NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida and send four crew members into low-Earth orbit roughly 357 miles above sea level. Beyond simply reaching space, Inspiration4 is dedicated to spreading a message of leadership, hope, generosity, and prosperity by raising funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The unique four-of-a-kind IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4” will play a crucial role in this space mission, both as equipment strapped to the wrists of each of the four civilian astronauts during the spaceflight, and as fundraising tools when all four examples are auctioned off for charity on November 6, 2021.
Even in this age where perfectly accurate electronic timekeeping surrounds us at all times, a durable and precise mechanical chronograph can still prove to be an important backup in case of equipment failure during a spaceflight. For the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4,” this durability takes the form of a bold 44.5mm zirconium oxide ceramic case. Rendered in stark space-age white, the case follows the clean utilitarian lines of the standard Pilot’s Watch Chronograph, but IWC has made a handful of modifications with the rigors of space travel in mind. Rather than the usual concern of water ingress (for which IWC rates the watch at a mediocre 60 meters), the major pressure-related concern in space is crystal displacement caused by sudden air depressurization. The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4”’s sapphire crystal is reinforced for precisely this purpose, while the movement sits inside a soft iron inner case to prevent accidental magnetization from flight equipment. Each of the four models bears an engraved titanium caseback with the Inspiration4 mission emblem, along with the assigned crew member’s name and one of the mission’s four core values: Leadership, Hope, Generosity, and Prosperity.
For the dial of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4,” IWC coats its standard Pilot’s Watch Chronograph design with a liberal dose of astronaut theming. The grainy matte-midnight-blue lacquered dial surface is speckled throughout with a printed white star pattern motif, and the 6 o’clock running seconds subdial foregoes a scale in favor of a printed Inspiration4 mission patch. Outside of these visually literalist space-inspired elements, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4” closely follows the pattern of the standard model in initial images. The slightly rounded printed Arabic numerals, iconic flieger handset, and day/date complication at 3 o’clock are all present here, with cleanly integrated dial-matching day and date wheels.
Inside the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4” beats the in-house 69380 automatic chronograph movement. While its layout bears a superficial similarity to the long-running Valjoux 7750, the 69380 is a fully in-house design with column-wheel chronograph actuation and a bi-directional pawl winding system. Power reserve stands at a decent 46 hours at a 28,800 bph beat rate. To complete the bright space-age aesthetic of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4,” IWC fits the watch with an optic white rubber strap featuring a matching leather inset.
In addition to creating a vibrant and memorable riff on perhaps the quintessential pilot’s chronograph design, the four-of-a-kind IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4” adds a piece of spacefaring history to a brand with a long legacy in aviation. Only the four examples of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Inspiration4” intended for the mission crewmembers will be made and will be auctioned off to the public on November 6, 2021, with proceeds going to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. As IWC has no intention of putting this watch into regular production, MSRP information is not available for this model. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.