IWC Big Pilot's Watches: Giants of the Skies
Big Pilot's Watches is a classic collection from IWC Schaffhausen. These impressive timepieces feature precise in-house calibers, fine materials, and first-class finishes. Their imposing sizes make them true eye-catchers.
5 Reasons to Buy a Big Pilot’s Watch
- Successor to the historic Große Fliegeruhr
- Manual or automatic in-house calibers
- Stainless steel, gold, titanium, bronze, ceramic, or platinum cases
- Limited editions with complications like a tourbillon or perpetual calendar
- Large cases from 46 to 55 mm
Classic Oversized Pilot's Watches
The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen is most famous for their pilot's watches. The Big Pilot's Watches series sets itself apart as the direct descendant of the Große Fliegeruhr (big pilot's watch) from 1940. At that time, IWC, Stowa, Laco, A. Lange & Söhne, and Wempe were the only five manufacturers producing watches for the German Air Force according to the famous Baumuster A (type A) standard.
The original was 55 mm in diameter, which was especially large at the time. While the 46 mm of the current Big Pilot's series is much smaller, it still lives up to its name. Its large, conical crown also dates back to the first edition and is easy to operate wearing gloves.
Big Pilot's Watches have cases made of stainless steel, gold, titanium, bronze, platinum, or ceramic. What's more, IWC offers some models with complications like a perpetual calendar, moon phase display, annual calendar, power reserve indicator, or even a tourbillon. These timepieces are powered exclusively by in-house calibers.
Then as today, the Big Pilot's greatest strength is its superior readability. Luminous sword hands, indices, and sans-serif Arabic numerals all shine brightly in the dark. A pilot's triangle at 12 o'clock makes it easy to tell up from down at a glance.
How much does a Big Pilot's Watch cost?
|Big Pilot's Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Le Petit Prince||260,000 USD||94805||Tourbillon, moon phase, power reserve indicator|
|Big Pilot's Watch Spitfire Perpetual Calendar||35,000 USD||52615||Perpetual calendar, moon phase, power reserve display|
|Big Pilot's Watch Annual Calendar Antoine de Saint-Exupéry||26,500 USD||52850||Annual calendar, power reserve indicator|
|Big Pilot's Watch Heritage Bronze||11,500 USD||52110||Date, power reserve indicator|
|Big Pilot's Watch Classic||11,000 USD||52110||Date, power reserve indicator|
|Big Pilot's Watch Top Gun Miramar||10,500 USD||51111||Date, power reserve indicator|
Price and Model Information for the Big Pilot's Classic
Introduced in 2002, the Big Pilot's Watch Classic bears the strongest resemblance to the original from the 1940s. Its 46.2-mm case is made of stainless steel, and its matte black dial follows the design specifications of Baumuster A (type A). This design first appeared in the early 1940s when the former German Imperial Ministry of Aviation set standards for German pilot's watches. However, unlike their historical predecessors, current models feature a date display at 6 and a power reserve indicator at 3 o'clock that lets you know how much of the Big Pilot's Classic's seven-day power reserve remains. The in-house caliber 52110 powers these modern timepieces. Previous editions used the calibers 5011 and 51111, both of which also have a seven-day power reserve.
Plan to spend between 10,000 and 12,000 USD for a new Big Pilot's Classic, depending on the movement. You can purchase a pre-owned timepiece for around 8,500 USD.
The Heritage models are a nice alternative to the Classic series. They are the same size as the Classic and have the same features but are made of titanium or bronze. Their prices range from about 10,000 USD for a pre-owned piece to 11,500 USD for a new one.
IWC used to offer the Heritage as a 48-mm model and a historically correct 55-mm timepiece. Both are made of titanium and are easily recognizable by a small seconds dial at 6 o'clock. Each houses a manual caliber: The 59215 with an eight-day power reserve powers the Heritage 48, while the 98300 with a 46-hour power reserve ticks away inside the Heritage 55. These giants change hands for around 12,500 USD in good condition.
Big Pilot's Spitfire: Fine Materials and Complications
The IWC Spitfire series combines the classic looks of a pilot's watch with the elegance of a dress watch. It also contains some Big Pilot's models, such as the Big Pilot's Watch Spitfire, Big Pilot's Watch Annual Calendar Spitfire, and Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Spitfire.
The Big Pilot's Watch Spitfire sets itself apart from its sister models in the Classic series via its 18-karat rose gold case and slate-colored (known at IWC as Ardoise) sunburst dial. A new watch costs about 23,500 USD, while prices for pre-owned pieces start around 20,000 USD.
In addition to the power reserve indicator at 3 o'clock, the Big Pilot's Watch Annual Calendar Spitfire features a small seconds dial at 9 and an annual calendar . The calendar is composed of a date display flanked by windows for the week and month at 12 o'clock. It can even account for whether a month is 30 or 31 days in length and only has to be manually corrected at the end of February. The in-house caliber 52850 provides this watch with all this functionality. The sunburst Ardoise dial and white numerals and indices combine beautifully with the satin-brushed stainless steel case. A polished bezel rounds off this refined timepiece. You can purchase this watch starting around 16,000 USD in mint condition. The least expensive pre-owned models sell for about 13,500 USD.
IWC introduced a new member to the Spitfire family at SIHH 2019: the Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Spitfire. As its name suggests, this watch comes with a perpetual calendar. This sophisticated mechanism automatically adjusts to the correct month length and even recognizes whether or not it's a leap year. It won't need manual correction until the year 2100. What's more, this timepiece has a special moon phase display at 12 o'clock that can depict the correct moon phase in both the northern and southern hemispheres simultaneously. A sapphire glass case back offers a stunning view of the in-house caliber 52615 at work.
Beyond being a technological marvel, this timepiece is also a feast for the eyes. Its dark olive green dial and bronze case are in perfect harmony. The hands and moon phase are also bronze, lending this watch a particularly refined feel. This treasure has a list price of 28,200 USD.
Special Editions for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
IWC regularly creates special models in honor of French pilot and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his famous story The Little Prince. Their dials help these watches to stand out: Le Petit Prince has a shimmering blue sunburst dial, while the tobacco brown sunburst dial of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry takes its inspiration from his flight suit. These timepieces also have elegant cases in platinum or rose or white gold.
The designers decided on 18-karat rose gold for the Big Pilot's Watch Annual Calendar Edition Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. From a technological perspective, this timepiece is identical to the Annual Calendar Spitfire and uses the same caliber. However, the numerals on its dial are much bolder. It's also worth flipping the watch over to see the in-house caliber 52850 with a rotor in the form of a P-38 Lightning. Saint-Exupéry undertook his reconnaissance missions in this aircraft in 1944.
This timepiece is limited to a run of 250 pieces and costs around 26,500 USD. You can save about 3,400 USD by purchasing its predecessors with a perpetual calendar and stainless steel case. Some three-hand models even sell for as little as 10,000 USD.
The stainless steel three-hand Big Pilot's Edition Le Petit Prince sits in a similar price range at about 11,000 USD. However, if you're looking for more refinement and exclusivity, you might consider the Big Pilot's Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition Le Petit Prince introduced at SIHH 2019. The manual caliber 94850 ticks away inside its case and lends this timepiece its power reserve indicator, moon phase display, and tourbillon with IWC's constant-force mechanism. This technology provides a constant and even flow of energy between the mainspring and the swing and escapement systems. Both the rose gold and platinum editions have limited production runs of ten pieces and demand around 260,000 USD.
Top Gun: The Ceramic Big Pilot's Watch
The Top Gun series is the most modern branch of IWC's family of pilot's watches. The most notable detail of these timepieces is their ceramic cases. You'll also find Big Pilot's watches in this line. One current example is the Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition Rodeo Drive. Presented at SIHH 2019, this watch has much in common with its counterpart in the Spitfire series: It uses the same caliber 52615 and boasts a perpetual calendar, a moon phase display for the northern and southern hemispheres, and a power reserve of seven days. Its matte black ceramic dial is especially scratch-resistant and gives this watch a modern touch. This ceramic timepiece has a list price of 33,000 USD. You can purchase the previous model with the caliber 51614 for about 26,000 USD pre-owned.
The Big Pilot's Miramar is a particularly popular Top Gun model. Its black ceramic case is 48 mm in diameter, making it 2 mm larger than the other watches in this series. Its power comes from the caliber 51111 with a seven-day power reserve, a power reserve indicator at 3 o'clock, and a date display at 6. The khaki dial follows the standards of the historical Baumuster B (type B). That means the scale around the edge of the dial is solely for the minutes, while the hours are shown on a smaller circle in the middle of the dial. Plan to spend around 10,000 USD on a mint-condition timepiece and about 8,600 USD on a pre-owned one.
This watch is also available in the classic Baumuster A (type A) design with a black dial. Its second hand has a bright red tip. Prices for this version range from 10,500 to 13,000 USD, depending on its condition.