December 11, 2019
by Bilal Khan
It may be too subjective to call the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph ref. 3706 the best chrono from the (German part of) Swiss brand, but it’s definitely among my favorites, along with the IWC Doppelchronograph Ref. 3713. History continues to be kind toward the duly beloved Ref. 3706 aka the Fliegerchronograph (as well as the rarer ceramic Ref. 3705), which held the line for smaller-cased, non-“luxurified” pilot’s watches over the course of more than a decade. It was a more innocent, quainter time when a 39mm-wide case housed a 7750 and there was nary a “sporty dash of red” to be found anywhere on the dial.
Though it might look closer to contemporary offerings like the Sinn 356 from Germany rather than its IWC descendants (other than a reissue here and there), the 3706 has those Mark hands that elicit the purest rush of nostalgia for the glory days of the pilot watch. The 3706 began production in post-Quartz revolution 1994 until it was discontinued in 2005. It was replaced with the Ref. 3717, which has been the first of a long-lasting design language that remains to this day, utilizing broad sword-shaped hands and a larger 42mm case (that’s now grown to 43mm in the modern Ref. 3777).
These days, having such a no-nonsense instrument watch measure 39mm-wide can almost come off as a statement on one’s secureness. In actuality, the 39mm-wide and 14.6mm-thick (with a 48mm lug-to-lug measurement) case can best be described as “democratically sized,” as it looks as good on my 7.5-inch wrist as it would on a wrist that’s a bit bigger or one that’s a bit smaller. The case is on the thicker side due to the anti-magnetic soft iron cage housed within, which most everyone familiar with IWC pilot’s watches is accustomed to.
Though this version doesn’t have the tritium dial, the lumed hands and indices are set over a matte black dial that enhances legibility, while the 12-hour chronograph sub-dials and slender Arabic hour numerals are also done in white and easy to read. Ditto, the day and date windows at 3 o’clock have black text against a white background. One thing I would change? Some more AR coating on the sapphire to really cut down on glare.
Reducing the worth and merit of a watch down to sweeping dismissal of “generic” movements seems to be slightly less in fashion now than it has been in recent years, thankfully. Yes, the 3706 is outfitted with the Cal. 7922, a modified Valjoux 7750 that is outfitted with IWC parts. The 44-hour power reserve movement operates at 28,800 vph and can be likened to some steed that never says die. Protected from magnetization from its soft iron cage rather than some newfangled silicon, the 3706 really is a resilient watch. And the quick-adjust for the day and date is simple and foolproof, operated by the crown that sports that classic old IWC fish logo.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Ref. 3706 undoubtedly marks a high point for pilot’s watches and chronographs in the post-Quartz revolution years in which it was introduced. An exercise in purpose-driven design, I really just find it to be one cool watch. Like Weezer’s eponymous debut blue album that was also released in 1994, it gets to the roots of what makes a hit and distills it into an amazing package. And though you’re glad they’re still around today, it’s a version that’s drastically different and more “mainstream” than that first masterpiece.
Looking around at currently available examples of the 3706, most are in that ~$3,500 range, give or take a few hundred dollars. That’s about $1,500-$2,000 less than a new pilot’s watch chronograph goes for, though they are really are two fundamentally different products. A while back I did a Cost of Entry article on the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, which, as a base model for the brand just got its priced bumped $200 to $4,150. It’s hard to dispute the refinements and benefits of a new IWC watch, but I also believe that having more awareness of modern classics like thee Ref. 3706 is nothing but a boon to both to the brand and the watch enthusiast community. You can browse the inventory of currently available IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Ref. 3706 watches here.