After introducing several editions of the Portugieser (including this superb automatic chronograph and this constant force tourbillon) as well as an unexpected yet desirable “Tribute to Pallweber” watch, IWC continues to deploy its 150-year concept of limited editions across all its collections – and today we move into Pilot’s watches. Meet the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition “150 Years” ref. 5105, the first Flieger watch of the brand with a big date display.
Renewing the concept of the Big Pilot’s watch isn’t an easy task. Indeed, not only does this real piece of history have roots that can be traced back to WWII but its design is governed by precise codes. Adding complications to this watch has to be done with subtlety, in order not to ruin the uncluttered style that is characteristic of Pilot’s Watches – remember that, as military instruments, these watches were meant to be as legible as possible, hence their large diameter, their luminous hands and their specific dial.
For the first time, IWC has decided to add a big date feature on their iconic watch, to be part of the 150 years collection, becoming then the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition “150 Years” Ref. 5105. The big date feature isn’t new in IWC’s collection, as already seen on the Portofino hand-wound for instance. Yet, on that watch, the calibre 59220 not only displays a large date but also a small second, a day-of-the-week and a power reserve. Way too many indications for an instrument-inspired pilot’s watch.
The new Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date benefits from a simplified version of this movement, now becoming the calibre 59235. On the dial, hours and minutes are displayed centrally, together with a small second at 6 and the big date located beneath the triangular index at 12, in a non-obtrusive way. Clearly, the integration of this complication remains subtle and blends well into the dial of the Big Pilot. Also, no more day-of-the-week indication or power reserve (at least on the dial side).
In terms of design, the new Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date 5105 relies on the same inspirations as the rest of the 150-year collection, meaning high-gloss lacquered dials available in 2 colours – white with black indexes and numerals, combined with blued hands or blue with white indexes and numerals and rhodium-plated hands. As we’ve seen on the previous watches of this Jubilee collection, these lacquered dials offer a superb texture, intended to mimic enamel. Quite surprising to see it on a tool watch, yet the result is pleasant.
As for the case, no evolution of style or dimensions, as it relies on the Big Pilot’s Watch case – 46.2mm in diameter, in stainless steel. Being a hand-wound watch, it is slightly thinner (relatively speaking) than the standard Big Pilot, at 15.2mm. The main difference here: the case is polished instead of being brushed. On the wrist, no surprises, the Big Date Ref. 5105 is a Big Pilot… Large, thick, overly present, but this is all part of the concept behind this watch.
The base movement used here is perfectly known, and relies on the single-barrel, 8-day power reserve architecture of the 59xxx family. The power reserve is here displayed through a small circular window cut in the caseback, without compromising protection against magnetic fields allowed by the soft-iron cage enclosing the movement.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition 150 Years ref. 5105 is a surprising mix of styles. Yet, the recipe works in the metal. This watch will certainly become a collector’s piece, as it is strictly limited to 100 pieces per colour. Retail price will be EUR 14,900. More details on iwc.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.