The Low-Key Debut of the Coolest Recent IWC Big Pilot

Carbon composite case and "fish" crown.

Last month IWC premiered a limited edition that has all the qualities of a hit: a bestselling classic in an exotic material, made in a very small run – and also incorporating nerdy, collector-oriented details. Instead, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Black Carbon was debuted quietly, delivered to clients, and pretty much went unnoticed around the world.

The first ever Big Pilot with a carbon fibre composite case, the Big Pilot Black Carbon has a black dial with grey hands and markings, replicating the colour of the composite case. It’s livened up by red accents on the power reserve indicator and seconds hand (and also the date disc, for a small number of special watches, more on that below).

The famous “fish”

More unusually, the Big Pilot Black Carbon has a “fish” crown – the oversized, onion-shaped winding crown has a stylised fish logo on its top. Despite being a seemingly trivial detail, the “fish” crown is dear to IWC enthusiasts, being a memorable element from IWC’s 20th century history – one many collectors regard as a golden age.

From the 1950s until the mid-2000s, most water-resistant IWC watches featured a “fish” crown. The very first generation of the Big Pilot, the ref. 5002 introduced in 2002, featured a “fish” crown. Not long after, the “fish” crown was dispensed with in favour of a crown featuring the IWC “Probus Scafusia” emblem.

This happened sometime in 2006, first with a “transitional” ref. 5002 that was equipped with the new cal. 51110 and “Probus Scafusia” crown, and soon after with the all-new ref. 5004 with both new movement and crown.

As a result, the “fish” crown also takes pride of place on the case back, which bears large “fish” crown emblem cast in relief.

In the vast library of Big Pilot editions – and there are many – the Big Pilot Black Carbon ranks up there as one of the coolest. So what explains the under-the-radar launch?

In short, coronavirus.

The former “Hong Kong Edition”

Firstly, it has to be noted that IWC itself has absolutely nothing to say officially about the creation and launch of the Big Pilot Black Carbon. But the backstory is well known amongst those who were involved, and some of it has already been detailed on social media.

The genesis of the watch was formed at an IWC “design workshop” that took place in October 2018. It was attended by many of the city’s leading IWC collectors – including a gentleman who is reputedly the biggest collector of Big Pilot’s Watches in the world – who got the ball rolling for limited edition exclusively for Hong Kong.

Over the course of the following year, the group of enthusiasts refined the idea, which was eventually given the go-ahead by IWC. But as that was happening, protests and civil unrest engulfed Hong Kong, followed by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in early 2020.

Launching a luxury wristwatch dedicated to a city that undergoing near-constant turmoil became untenable, so the Hong Kong aspect of the edition was shelved and the 100-piece run was renamed.

Despite the name change, the origins of the limited edition were not forgotten and live on in a small number of watches. Fourteen watches were reserved for the participants of the design workshop that gave birth to the idea. Delivered in a commemorative box with a NATO-style strap only for the 14, these watches are identical to the standard versions save for one special detail: the “10” on the date wheel is in bright red, a reference to the 10th anniversary of the IWC flagship boutique in Hong Kong that opened in 2009.

Key facts and price

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Black Carbon
Ref. IW506101

Case diameter: 46.5 mm
Case height: 14.8 mm
Material: Carbon-fibre composite
Water resistance: 60 m

Movement: Cal. 52110
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and power reserve display
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 168 hours (7 days)

Strap: Calfskin

Limited edition: 100 pieces
Availability: Upon request, at IWC boutiques only
Price: 136,000 Hong Kong dollars (equivalent to US$17,500)

For more, visit


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Breitling Introduces the Top Time “Zorro” Dial

A remake of an exotic reference.

Following the faithful and well-received Navitimer 806 and AVI Ref. 765 1953 re-editions – both very much instruments for pilots back in the day – Breitling has now recreated a distinctly different watch from the archives – the Top Time “Zorro”. And while the new Top Time takes its cues from the past, it will be sold entirely online via Breitling’s website, at least initially.

Produced from the 1960s to the 1970s, the Top Time was Breitling’s simpler and more affordable line of chronographs designed to appeal to younger buyers – which is also the rationale behind the new remake. Unlike the Chronomat or Navitimer, which were mostly no-nonsense tools equipped with slide-rule bezels for pilots to do in-flight navigation, the Top Time did away with the slide-rule bezel and relied on a more generic style emblematic of the era.

The Top Time limited edition

Despite being an entry-level mode, the original Top Time had a starring appearance on the big screen: a Top Time ref. 2002, with a “reverse panda” dial and a fictional Geiger counter, was worn by Sean Connery in Thunderball. The very watch worn in the movie sold for £103,875 at Christie’s in 2013, not long after surfacing at a car boot sale where it was purchased for £25.

While the “panda” or “reverse panda” variants are arguably the iconic versions of the Top Time, the new remake is modelled on the more unusual Top Time ref. 2003 equipped with a gold-plated case and “Zorro” dial (or the ref. 2001 with the same dial and a solid 18k gold case).

The Top Time ref. 2003 pictured in a 1960s catalogue


Unlike the Navitimer 806 and the AVI Ref. 765 re-editions that were straight-up reproductions down to the smallest detail, the new Top Time is a mix-and-match of various vintage Top Time references, combined with a few tweaks.

The most distinctive aspect of the new watch is the unusual “Zorro” dial, which embodies the experimental spirit of watch design in the decade before the Quartz Crisis.

With luminous hands and lume plots

Named after the black bands framing the chronograph registers that bring to mind Zorro’s half-face mask, the dial is found only on the gold-plated or solid-gold versions of the vintage Top Time. In fact, the “Zorro” dial is more commonly found on the Breitling Sprint, another line of entry-level chronographs the brand produced in the 1960s.

The remake adopts the “Zorro” dial, but with a few changes. One is the decimal scale, instead of a tachymeter scale. And the other are the bright red central hands.

Though the dial is derived from the gold-plated vintage model, the case of the remake is in steel. As a result, it reproduces the look of the vintage model in steel and remains true to the original, with the same polished finish, slim bezel, and angular lugs.

And like most remakes, it is larger, being 41 mm instead of the original’s 35 mm.

The vintage Top Time was powered by a hand-wound Valjoux 7733, but the remake naturally relies on a newer calibre, though produced by the same company (or more specifically, its successor). It’s equipped with the COSC-certified automatic Calibre 23, which is actually the cost-effective and robust ETA Valjoux 7753 (basically an Valjoux 7750 sans hour counter and date).

Lastly, the Top Time remake is also distinguished its digital “passport”. It’s the first Breitling wristwatch that utilises blockchain technology (the same thing that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin) to verify and guarantee its authenticity as well as track ownership and servicing. All of that information is secured in its “passport”, which was built together with Parisian tech start-up Arianee.

Fittingly, the watch will be available only on Breitling’s website for now, and then at its boutiques upon request later in the year.

Key facts and price

Breitling Top Time
Ref. A23310121G1X1

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 14.27 mm
Material: Steel
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Caliber 23
Functions: Time and chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Brown nubuck with pin buckle

Limited edition: 2000 pieces
Availability: Already available on
Price: US$4,990, or 4,950 Swiss francs

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