For SIHH 2008, IWC is releasing a line of “vintage” watches that do the company’s heritage proud. I have to say that I am often disappointed with new vintage watches these days because it seems as though not enough effort goes into making them memorable. This line from IWC is certainly an exception. IWC created much more than a mere rehashing of classic designs with more modern materials or construction. They took lasting designs, enhanced their appeal, and improved on the watch functionality overall. The result are decidedly retro watches that are perfectly modern and functional in every respect. Three of these watches stand out to me in particular, and I will discuss one a day for the next three days.
The first impressive Vintage line watch from IWC is that IWC Vintage Pilot Ref. IW3254. A watch with a simple name and appealing look, but you need to notice the details. The numbers on the watch are in true classic aviator style, but with a slight modern twist. They are very evenly painted and legible with a bit of art-deco thrown in. They are sporty in a classic way, without looking outdated. IWC certainly spent a lot of time perfecting these number. Next you will notice one of the finest coined bezels I have ever seen. The time it takes to make bezels like this is rather lengthy given the two types of finishes, and the high level of detail. This is also a functional bezel. Moving it rotates an internal luminant covered arrow that is an interesting and useful touch. Actual vintage pilot watches have this arrow smaller, and on the bezel rather than inside. IWC’s implementation of the rotating pilot bezel is of the finest I have seen for this genre. The small subsidiary seconds dial is tasteful and easy to read, and gives no distraction from the attractive hour and minute hands.
Inside is a manually-wound movement with a sapphire case-back. Some will argue that this watch needs an automatic movement, and perhaps IWC will place one inside of it in the near future, based on the success I predict for this watch. What is curious, is that the IWC Vintage Pilot will be offered in steel and platinum. A very rare material to be used on a pilot watch. I am sure that only a few of these will be made (actually just 500), but it is an interesting decision, and likely due to the fact that polished platinum has a very masculine sheen to it, that is not too glossy. At 44mm in size, IWC did not make the mistake of making this watch too small. Traditional vintage pilot’s watches were large for ease of viewing, and the IWC Vintage Pilot should be no different.
The leather strap is nice, if not a bit boring. High quality, but I would probably find something a bit more stylish to match with a watch of this demeanor. There will also be an available steel strap that ought look nice on this piece. Overall the IWC Vintage Pilot is a major step forward in a watch companies move to bring back the past. IWC proved that a modern vintage styled watch can look modern yet still epitomize a classic theme.
UPDATE: I had an opportunity to handle the entire IWC vintage line and must report that they are all very well done! There is a novelty to them that is unmatched. Because they are classic looking watches, with modern sizes (meaning larger), they are almost cartoonish, but in an excellent way. The Pilot is very vibrant in its colors, and the finish is excellent. Needless to say, you’ll enjoy each of them, especially the IWC Vintage Pilot.
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