History of IWC’s Big Pilot’s Watch

IWC’s Big Pilot’s Watch became an instant classic when it was relaunched in 2002, and the watchmaking world saw the debut of new models from the IWC Pilot’s Collection at SIHH 2019. But it goes back much further than that. We explore the Big Pilot’s Watch and its many evolutions over the decades.
The history of IWC’s popular Big Pilot’s Watch goes back further than most wristwatches. IWC first made the watch for the German Air Force in 1940. The shape of this 55mm diameter timepiece was inspired by the observation fake watch, which housed a pocket watch with a 52.T.S.C movement.
What makes this watch unique is the military triangle formed by two dots at 12 o’clock, the sans-serif font of the numerals, and the diamond-shaped hands. Today, these features can be found on almost all IWC pilot’s watches. Even the Mark XVIII retained the family’s design, although its prototype, the Mark 11 Pilot’s Watch made for the Royal Air Force in 1949, used other markings and hands.
But the successor to the original model didn’t debut until 2002 when IWC reissued the Big Pilot’s Watch with a 46mm-diameter steel case and in-house seven-day power movement 5011. The watch quickly stood out on the wrist as a statement piece for men thanks to its large, striking size and sleek, minimalist design. In addition to the characteristic dial, the tapered crown is another uncompromising and user-friendly feature, as the shape of the crown makes it easy to use while wearing gloves.
The case diameter of the Classic Big Pilot’s replica Watch has remained unchanged since 2002, although the current version encapsulates an improved 51111 movement. Over time, IWC has built the Big Pilot’s Watch family into a smaller collection. Here, IWC pursues several different paths: the new models are more historic, more modern, more complicated, or more elegant than the classic ones.
The Classic collection also includes four Heritage models that are definitely worth a closer look: the 48-millimeter-diameter Big Pilot’s Watch Heritage 48 is equipped with the IWC-manufactured hand-wound eight-day power movement 59215 and date display, but the fake Rolex watch Heritage 55 achieves even more: the 55-millimeter-diameter case is equipped with a hand-wound eight-day power movement 59215 and date display. The chain-manufactured movement 98300 accumulates a power reserve of 46 hours. Here, IWC has reverted to its original diameter of 55 mm. With its beige luminous material and matte case, the new creation is very close to its predecessor, even if it has a small seconds subdial; the original model had a central seconds hand.