IWC Pilot's Watches: Classics of the Skies
IWC Schaffhausen's Pilot's Watches collection has a long history. There's something for everyone, from classic models and ceramic chronographs to complicated pieces with a perpetual calendar or tourbillon.
A Tradition of Pilot's Watches Since 1936
IWC Schaffhausen has a closer connection to pilot's watches than almost any other Swiss watch manufacturer. The company introduced their "Spezialuhr für Flieger" (special watch for pilots) back in 1936. Today, most enthusiasts consider models like the "Große Fliegeruhr" (big pilot's watch) from 1940 and the Mark 11 from 1948 classics, and both are coveted collector's items.
IWC continues this tradition in the modern Pilot's Watches collection. These timepieces resemble their historical predecessors from the early 1940s, including luminous Arabic numerals and indices, sword hands, and a pilot's triangle at 12 o'clock for optimal readability.
The current collection contains an impressive variety of models, from three-hand watches and chronographs to timepieces with a perpetual calendar, moon phase, and tourbillon. The case materials are just as diverse and include stainless steel, gold, platinum, titanium, bronze, and ceramic. In recent years, IWC has been equipping more and more models with in-house calibers. That being said, the manufacturer still outfits some timepieces with movements from ETA or Sellita. With diameters ranging from 36 to 55 mm, there are plenty of options for men and women alike.
5 Reasons to Buy an IWC Pilot’s Watch
- A long tradition of pilot's watches
- The Spitfire series with high-quality in-house calibers
- Optimal readability thanks to luminous hands, numerals, and indices
- Coveted special editions like "Le Petit Prince" and the "Antoine de Saint-Exupéry"
- A wide range of materials: stainless steel, gold, titanium, bronze, and ceramic
Prices at a Glance: IWC Pilot's Watch
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Material, features|
|Big Pilot’s Constant-Force Tourbillon "Le Petit Prince," IW590302||280,000 USD||Platinum, tourbillon, moon phase, power reserve indicator|
|Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium, IW371815||18,500 USD||Ceratanium, split-seconds chronograph, date, day|
|Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun, IW389101||8,800 USD||Ceramic, chronograph, date, day|
|Pilot’s Watch Mark 11, 6B/346||7,300 USD||Stainless steel, legendary caliber 89|
|Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire, IW326802||5,700 USD||Bronze, date|
|Pilot’s Watch Classic Chronograph, IW377709||5,600 USD||Stainless steel, chronograph, date, day|
|Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, IW327003||4,600 USD||Stainless steel, date|
|Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36, IW324001||4,500 USD||Stainless steel, date|
How much does a Pilot's Watch cost?
Prices for an IWC Pilot's Watch begin around 4,500 USD for a 36-mm stainless steel model from the Classic series. The standard 40-mm edition is only slightly more expensive at roughly 4,700 USD. If you're interested in a Pilot's Watch with a chronograph function, the most affordable option is the stainless steel Pilot's Chronograph Classic, which changes hands for about 6,800 USD.
Those who prefer bronze cases should consider the Spitfire series. This collection contains everything from simple three-hand watches to complicated timepieces like the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar, and covers a price range of 5,400 to 36,000 USD.
The ceramic watches in the Top Gun series sell for between 6,000 and 30,000 USD. Once again, you can choose from three-hand models as well as timepieces with sophisticated complications.
At the very high end of the price range, you'll find special editions like the "Le Petit Prince" and "Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Most of these timepieces are made of precious metals like gold or platinum and boast special complications. For example, the Big Pilot’s Constant-Force Tourbillon "Le Petit Prince" costs approximately 280,000 USD.
Detailed Price and Model Information: The Mark Series
The Classic series within the Pilot's Watches collection comes closest to IWC's vintage timepieces. One example is the Mark XVIII, a descendant of the famous Mark 11 pilot's watch, which became part of the Royal Air Force's official equipment in 1948. This 40-mm stainless steel watch bears a strong resemblance to the "Große Fliegeruhr" thanks to its sword hands, hefty line indices, and sans serif Arabic numerals. Only a date display at 3 o'clock distinguishes the modern watch from its historical predecessor. This timepiece is available with a black dial and white markings or a white dial and black markings.
The Sellita SW300-1 has powered these watches since 2017. Older models use the ETA 2892-2. An inner soft iron cage protects the movement from magnetic fields. You can purchase a Mark XVIII on a leather strap for around 4,700 USD. Set aside another 1,100 USD for the version on a stainless steel bracelet.
The Pilot's Watch Heritage and Pilot's Watch 36 are two worthy alternatives to the Mark XVIII. The former shares the Mark edition's technology, size, and dial. The only difference is the use of titanium for the case. Its price is also the same at roughly 4,700 USD. As its name implies, the Pilot's Watch 36 is 36 mm in diameter and, thus, a great choice for small wrists. Otherwise, this model is identical to the Mark XVIII. You can call this timepiece your own for about 4,500 USD.
Vintage Pilot’s Watches
The pre-owned market contains a wealth of earlier Mark models. You can recognize these timepieces by their lack of numerals at 6 and 9 o'clock. Prices for well-maintained and mint-condition examples range from 3,200 USD for a Mark XVI to 4,600 USD for a Mark XV.
Collectors are particularly fond of the original Mark 11 and its direct successor, the Mark XII. Their dial designs help them stand out from other models. The most obvious difference is their hands. They feature a narrower, tapered baton minute hand and a wide, non-tapered hour hand. What's more, their line indices are much less imposing. You'll need about 7,200 USD to purchase a pre-owned Mark 11 in good condition. A stainless steel Mark XII in the same condition demands prices starting around 5,000 USD. Finally, those who prefer the gold edition should expect to pay roughly 9,400 USD.
The Big Pilot's Watch With an XL Case
Like the Mark series, the Big Pilot's Watches line is another cornerstone of the IWC catalog. It continues the legacy of the "Große Fliegeruhr" from 1940, including an extra-large case, a massive conical crown, and the classic Baumuster A dial. This dial type features sword hands, line indices, Arabic numerals, and a characteristic pilot's triangle with two dots at 12 o'clock. The hands, numerals, and indices contrast perfectly against the dial and glow in the dark, guaranteeing optimal readability in all lighting conditions.
Most of the current models are 46 mm in diameter, though some special editions measure up to 48 or a historically accurate 55 mm. No matter the size, every Big Pilot's Watch comes with an in-house caliber.
IWC produces numerous Big Pilot's Watches in different price ranges. Three-hand models made of stainless steel, titanium, or bronze cost between 10,500 and 13,500 USD. You'll need about double that to purchase a rose gold edition like the Big Pilot's Watch Annual Calendar "Antoine de Saint-Exupéry." The Spitfire series includes Big Pilot's watches with a perpetual calendar and moon phase display. The bronze model introduced at SIHH 2019 demands around 35,500 USD. Also from 2019, the "Le Petit Prince" Constant-Force Tourbillon is especially exclusive. It boasts a tourbillon, moon phase display, and IWC's patented constant-force mechanism that ensures a constant flow of energy from the mainspring to the swing and escapement systems. This timepiece is limited to a run of 20 pieces, ten in rose gold and ten in platinum. Each sells for around 280,000 USD.
The Elegant Pilot’s Watch Spitfire
The Spitfire series puts an elegant spin on the otherwise technical and plain looks of pilot's watches. These timepieces pay tribute to the famed British fighter plane made by Supermarine. Every Spitfire case back features an engraving of this legendary aircraft's silhouette. The Royal Air Force used this plane throughout the 1950s, and it is one of the most produced aircraft of all time.
IWC equips most of this collection's watches with in-house calibers. Some even feature complications like a perpetual calendar, moon phase display, chronograph, or second time zone. A sense of refinement comes from the gold, bronze, or polished stainless steel cases. Dials with a shimmering blue, matte olive green, or metallic gray sunburst finish round off these tasteful timepieces.
Entry-level Spitfire models have three hands and a date at 3 o'clock. Plan to spend about 4,900 USD on a never-worn watch. Prices for the bronze version sit around 5,500 USD. The series' chronographs require a larger investment and begin around 6,300 USD for a stainless steel timepiece with the Valjoux caliber 7750. The bronze edition with an in-house caliber changes hands for roughly 7,200 USD. Top models with a perpetual calendar or GMT display cost between 12,000 and 36,000 USD.
You can save a fair amount by purchasing an earlier edition. Three-hand pieces change hands for as little as 2,700 USD, while chronographs demand just under 3,700 USD. However, it's worth noting that ETA calibers and other non-IWC movements power these timepieces.
The Pilot's Watch With a Chronograph
Chronographs appear in every series within the Pilot's Watches collection. The Perpetual Calendar Chronograph "Le Petit Prince" and the Timezoner Chronograph are especially interesting. The in-house caliber 89630 lends the Petit Prince its flyback chronograph, perpetual calendar, and moon phase display. Its 43-mm rose gold case pairs beautifully with the blue sunburst dial and dark brown calf leather strap. Only 250 copies of this timepiece exist, and it sells for approximately 43,000 USD.
The Timezoner Chronograph is a flyback chronograph that allows you to effortlessly switch between the 24 most important time zones. This is made possible using a so-called city ring: a rotatable bezel with a city name representing each of the 24 time zones. The city name for the time zone currently on display sits at 12 o'clock. Whenever you turn the bezel to a different time zone using the patented internal-external bezel system, the main hour hand and the hand on the 24-hour display automatically jump to the correct time. The date also adjusts as necessary. This practical stainless steel timepiece uses an automatic in-house caliber and costs around 12,500 USD new.
There are also less conspicuous options available. One example is the Pilot's Chronograph in the Classic series. This 43-mm stainless steel chronograph features a modified Sellita SW500 caliber. You can purchase this timepiece for as little as 6,800 USD in mint condition. Prices for well-maintained models from earlier generations start around 3,700 USD. The least expensive timepieces come from the early 1990s and use quartz movements. They change hands for between 2,100 and 2,600 USD.
Ceramic Pilot's Watches
The Top Gun Double Chronograph is yet another interesting model. Its caliber is based on the Sellita SW500 and comes with a split-seconds mechanism for measuring intervals. An additional crown at 10 o'clock operates this feature. The case is also extraordinary. It's made of a special titanium-ceramic alloy called Ceratanium. This material is shatterproof and scratch-resistant. It also lends this watch its elegant, matte black finish. A silky black dial and light gray hands and indices complete the look. This high-tech stopwatch demands roughly 15,000 USD.
IWC introduced the Pilot's Watch Chronograph "Tribute to 3705" in spring 2021. This 41-mm timepiece pays tribute to the ref. 3705, which debuted in 1994. It was the brand's first pilot's watch to feature a black ceramic case. Unfortunately, this model flopped, and IWC quickly pulled the plug on its production before producing even 1,000 copies.
The "Tribute to 3705" bears the reference number IW387905. Its black Ceratanium case contains the automatic in-house caliber 69380. This movement comes with a day-date display at 3, a small seconds at 6, an hour counter at 9, and a minute counter at 12 o'clock. The resulting dial is nearly identical to its historical predecessor; only the subdials are slightly larger. IWC even retained the previous edition's hour hand without a point. The Pilot's Watch Chronograph "Tribute to 3705" is limited to a run of 1,000 pieces and has a list price of 11,900 USD.
The Pilot's Watch Top Gun in Ceramic
IWC combines classic pilot's watch aesthetics with state-of-the-art materials in the Top Gun series. The secret is ceramic; it makes for particularly scratch-resistant, light, and comfortable watches. Its black hue also looks slightly futuristic. This series is home to three-hand watches and chronographs, each with an in-house caliber. One exception is the Top Gun Double Chronograph, which gets its power from a Sellita SW500 movement that IWC has outfitted with a split-seconds chronograph. You can easily recognize this model by the additional pusher at 10 o'clock. The Top Gun Double Chronograph requires an investment of roughly 15,000 USD. Mint-condition models with in-house calibers and stopwatch functions demand around 8,800 USD.
Three-hand watches with a 41-mm case require an investment of about 6,100 USD. You'll have to dig quite a bit deeper in your pockets if you'd like to call the 46-mm Big Pilot's Watch Top Gun your own. This timepiece sells for approximately 13,500 USD. Those looking for watches with a perpetual calendar or moon phase display should expect to pay around 30,000 USD.
The Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun "Mojave Desert" made its debut at SIHH 2019. This watch was inspired by its namesake desert and features a sand-colored ceramic case with a dark khaki brown dial. It's limited to a run of 500 pieces, powered by the in-house caliber 69380, and changes hands for about 13,500 USD.
Le Petit Prince and Saint-Exupéry
IWC regularly releases limited editions in honor of French pilot and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his famous book "The Little Prince." You can recognize these timepieces by their dials: That of the "Le Petit Prince" series shines in a shimmering blue with a sunburst pattern, while the "Antoine de Saint-Exupéry" has a tobacco brown sunburst dial.
Both collections contain extremely complicated gold and platinum watches. Prices for models with a tourbillon and moon phase or perpetual calendar can easily climb above 280,000 USD. However, there are more affordable versions available. These include stainless steel watches with a Sellita or ETA caliber. You can purchase a simple chronograph starting around 5,700 USD. Those with a split-seconds chronograph cost about 11,000 USD. Three-hand watches demand roughly 4,600, while prices for timepieces with a gold case and annual calendar begin around 25,500 USD.