IWC Introduces the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch Historical Remake

Plus a Whole Range of New Pilot's Watches

IWC‘s contemporary aviator’s watches are inspired by the beobachtungsuhr, or observation watches, it supplied to airmen of the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

Those pilot’s watches get a makeover this year – acquiring a more conservative look that traditionalists will appreciate – with the new model range making its debut at SIHH 2016. The line-up starts with the entry-level Mark XVIII, and also includes a pair of historical remakes in titanium, the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 ref. IW510301 and Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 ref. IW510401.

The numeral suffix for each model refers to the case size, 48 mm and 55 mm respectively. While the larger size is historically correct, being identical to the Second World War originals, it is too large to be practical.

Fortunately, both of the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watches have titanium cases, making them relatively lightweight, with the 55 mm model weighing less than 150 grammes and the smaller one 120 grammes. The titanium case is sandblasted for a grained, matte grey finish that approximates the look of the chrome-plated brass cases of the WWII originals.

The dial is likewise similar to the original, with the most notable feature being the return of the “9” numeral, something that was exiled from IWC pilot’s watches starting in 2002. And the distinctive triangle marker at 12 o’clock has also been lowered to more closely resemble the originals (in recent years the marker was almost at the edge of the dial). But in contrast to the original, the new Big Pilot’s Heritage remakes both have a sub-seconds at six o’clock, instead of a centre seconds.


That’s a consequence of the movements used in each watch. The larger Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 is powered by the hand-wound calibre 98300, also known as the F.A. Jones movement.

Distinguished by its elongated, needle-like regulator index, this movement used only in limited edition Portuguese watches in the past (and also a few Ralph Lauren watches).

It is a basic movement designed to resemble a pocket watch calibre and was absent from the catalogue for some time, so IWC has either put it back into production, or has yet to run down its  inventory.

The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 is a limited edition of 100 watches, each individually numbered on the back.

Inside the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 is the more modern calibre 59215, the same eight day power reserve movement found in the Portuguese Hand-Wound Eight Days.

This has a power reserve display on the rear, visible through a porthole on the case back.

The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 is an edition of 1000 watches, each labelled “One Out of 1000”, rather than having a specific number.

And all the other pilot’s watches

While no images have been released yet, here’s are the rest of the new pilot’s watches. Most of them take after the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watches, with a “9” as well as a lowered 12 o’clock marker. Additionally, the triple date window that was previously a hallmark of the line has been exorcised. All in all, the look is more traditional.

Pilot’s Watch Time-zoner Chronograph Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36

Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

Big Pilot’s Watch Pilot’s Watch Chronograph

Big Pilot’s Watch Spitfire Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Spitfire

Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”

Big Pilot’s Watch Edition “Le Petit Prince”

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince”

Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince”

Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition “Antoine de Saint Exupéry”

Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Antoine de Saint Exupéry”

Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN

Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Miramar

Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII TOP GUN Miramar

More details will be posted on January 18.


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Predictions for the Watch World in 2016 (Part 1)

The fine watch industry is entering the new year with caution and some pessimism, giving the tepid demand for its products. This two part story will explain what I think will happen in 2016. 

Last year was generally a slow one for the business of luxury watches. Demand is largely stagnant, with the biggest markets in Asia faring badly. So what does 2016 hold for the watch business? The two part story will detail your correspondent’s thoughts, with the first part covering the mainstream watch brands and pricing, while the second will deal with independent watchmaking.

Fantasy meets economic reality

Economic reality is having an impact on mainstream brands, many of which will have to drastically reimagine their strategies. Ralph Lauren, despite having watches that are put together with taste and quality, is just not selling enough of them to make money. With a new chief executive having taken the helm last year, Luc Perramond, who had the top job at Hermes watches, Ralph Lauren’s direction will change in favour of more affordable timepieces. Already it has pulled out from SIHH, the trade fair in January that is focused on high-end brands.

Decamping for simpler digs

Even other brands that are performing better will find it difficult to ignore market realities, so steps will be taken to introduce lower priced watches. There are several obvious candidates who might benefit from a tweak in strategy. Roger Dubuis, for example, still has all its movements hallmarked with the Poincon de Geneve. Might a lower priced line of watches without the Geneva Seal sell a lot better? Probably.

Musical chairs tho’ the music has stopped

Rethinking strategy and direction will also arise because of personnel attrition. Despite the slow market, the established brands are sitting pretty, having squirrelled away enough money during the goods times. Richemont ended its last financial year with over €5.6 billion in cash on its balance sheet, with the other watchmaking groups similarly flush.  But while their employers will be able to sit it out, employees will have a harder time staying put as the pressure to perform in a poor market becomes overwhelming.

Five prominent brands, including De Bethune, Greubel Forsey and Parmigiani, saw their chief executives depart in 2015. Whether it be for “personal reasons”, or taking advantage of a convenient retirement age, the number of resumes in the mail will certainly rise in 2016. A changed business environment is also an opportune time to bring a new captain on deck. Montblanc, for example, grew from a luxury pen maker into one of the world’s largest luxury brands, led by Norbert Platt and his successor Lutz Bethge. But with the increased profitability of fine watches and stagnation in the pen market, Jerome Lambert, formerly the chief of Jaeger-LeCoultre, was parachuted into the top job two years ago, bringing along with him a different worldview.

And it’s all good news…

Most of what’s going to unfold in the near future is good news for watch buyers and collectors. It’s already obvious that watches are becoming cheaper than before, something that’s happening in three ways.  The first is that brands are introducing new products that cost less – Montblanc is a prime example of this. Another is less obvious but perhaps more challenging, replacing existing models with something superior, but at the same price (or maybe a bit more). Instances of this range from the affordable, like the second generation Tudor Pelagos with a new in-house movement, to the high-end, in the form of the new Lange 1.  Less palatable to watch brands but something that will still happen, being driven by market reality and also currency volatility, is price reductions. That happened for some brands in some markets in 2015 – Cartier cut prices in the U.S.A. and Hong Kong, Patek Philippe did so in Asia – and will happen again in 2016.

Be it new or used

The secondary market will not be unscathed, despite having a banner year in 2015. Records were set for the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction (the steel Patek Philippe ref. 5016A “Only Watch”), the most expensive Tudor watch ever, and the list goes on. But prices on the secondary market (and by extension the grey market) will weaken. For modern watches that will be driven by the same factors afflicting new watches at retail, but also by something watch brands are embarrassed to talk about.

The $7 million Patek

In order to keep factories going and workers employed, watch brands have to continue production, even if demand wavers. Many will quietly sell inventory to grey market dealers, or turn a blind eye to authorised retailers who do the same. Such watches will naturally cost less than the same at an authorised retailer. The outlook for vintage watches is foggier. There is some evidence that demand for vintage watches in poor or questionable condition is waning, while even prices top grade watches have reached a plateau.

Results at auctions during the year tended to droop towards the year end, even the highly anticipated Phillips’ inaugural sale in Hong Kong ended on am ambivalent note, with just over 70 percent of lots sold. Your correspondent is bearish on this market, though there is not significant indication of the market’s bearing yet. Stay tuned for the second part, to be published on January 6.

Updated January 6, 2016: Click here to read part two

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