IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London

The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London is a limited edition timepiece, sold exclusively at the IWC London Boutique. Angus Davies reviews this interesting variation of the brand’s iconic Big Pilot’s Watch.

This detailed review of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London includes live images, specification details and pricing.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch can trace its lineage to 1940 and the advent of the Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T.S.C, a horological leviathan, measuring 55mm in diameter. This watch was endowed with a hand-wound movement and issued to pilots during WWII. Its appearance was inspired by the cockpit instruments of the JU 52 plane. A large fluted crown allowed adjustment with glove-clad hands and a hacking seconds provided the means for pilots to synchronise their watches.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

Big PIlot’s Watch 52 T.S.C (1940)

In 2002, IWC unveiled the Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. 5002. Sharing some of its genetic make-up with the Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T.S.C, the watch immediately won the hearts of many horophiles with its overtly masculine appearance. The case of the Ref. 5002, measuring 46mm in diameter, was substantially smaller than its forebear, the 52 T.S.C. The Ref. 5002, a modern-day timepiece, incorporated an automatic movement, a power-reserve indicator at 3 o’clock and a date display positioned at 6 o’clock. While these latter details were absent from the 52 T.S.C, some of the key ingredients of this historical watch were retained, including the hacking seconds, fluted crown and triangular index at noon.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. 5002 (2002)

Over the years, the specification of the IWC has evolved. Subtle changes have been made that would only be discernible to the most ardent IWC fan. For example, on some versions, the dial features an Arabic numeral at 9 o’clock, while on other references the hour is denoted with a rectangular baton.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

Big Pilot’s Watch circa 2012

IWC has also blended the design language of IWC Big Pilot’s Watch with an array of complications, including an annual calendar and even a perpetual calendar. However, despite introducing many variants of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, the Schaffhausen-based watch company has always ensured the family likeness has been preserved.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

Big Pilot’s Watch circa 2018

Recently, IWC unveiled a new, limited version of the iconic watch, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London. This Swiss watch has been created exclusively for clients of IWC’s prestigious boutique at 138 New Bond Street, London.

The dial

The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London sets aside the utilitarian black dial of the standard model, ref. 501001, instead incorporating a sumptuous blue horological vista. This vivid shade of blue is paired with white and red detail, a reference to the British Union Jack. Rest assured, despite being endowed with this triumvirate of hues, the three colours tastefully coexist. The resultant appearance of the dial is less austere than the original Big Pilot, exhibiting a slightly warmer, gentler character.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

The hour and minute hands are a facsimile of those fitted to the 52 T.S.C. The plump profile of each hand augments legibility. Arabic numerals, sans serifs, are used to denote each hour. The modern font used for each hour marker differentiates the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London from the 1940 original, although the family likeness remains in tact.

Unlike the 52 T.S.C, the Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. 5002 features a power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London also includes this latter feature but, unlike its forbears, it forgoes the customary central sweep seconds hand in preference for a small seconds display at 9 o’clock. Both subdials are recessed and adorned with snailing. By equipping the dial with two registers there is an agreeable symmetry which is lacking with the standard model.

A date display is presented at 6 o’clock. Crisp black numerals sit atop a white date disc conferring a highly lucid indication.

The case

While the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London is much smaller than the 52 T.S.C, it remains a substantial timepiece, measuring 46.2mm in diameter. 

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

The large fluted crown upholds the styling of the 52 T.S.C and, more pertinently, proves eminently practical, conferring ease of adjustment. Consistent with its predecessors, the ‘glass is secured against displacement by drop in air pressure’. In addition, the sapphire crystal features anti-reflective coating on both sides.

IWC has blended different surface treatments to splendiferous effect. The bezel is highly polished, the lugs are faceted, with gleaming bevels juxtaposed with satin-brushed surfaces, and a circlet of gleaming brightwork adorns the case-back. All other surfaces are presented in a muted satin-brushed finish.

The case-back is solid and engraved with a depiction of Lord Horatio Nelson’s ship, a motif which adorns the façade of IWC’s London Boutique. Interestingly, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London is limited to just 138 examples, referencing the Boutique’s address, 138 New Bond Street.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Edition Boutique London

Throughout the design of this limited edition model, there is a mix of military-inspired austerity with notable opulence. The strap on the ‘standard’ IWC Big Pilot has historically featured four circular strap fastenings, two each side of the watch head. The strap on the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London eschews this utilitarian feature, incorporating a sumptuous blue alligator strap free of any circular fastenings.

The external surfaces of the case are stainless steel, while the inside features a soft-iron inner case, protecting the movement from magnetic fields.

The movement

The ‘IWC-manufactured movement calibre 52010’ is one of the brand’s latest generation movements. Each member of the ‘Caibre Family 52000’ is endowed with twin barrels which provide a prodigious 7-day power reserve.

Despite being hidden from view, the movement is embellished with circular Côtes de Genève motif, perlage, blued screws and an open-worked oscillating weight.

The movement features an ‘indexless balance’. The ‘winding pawls and the automatic wheel are made of black ceramic, while the rotor bearing is made of white ceramic. These extremely hard high-tech materials make the automatic winding system practically wear-free’. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 31 jewels. A feature which perfectly illustrates the quality of this movement is the fitment of a ‘Breguet spring’. This detail enhances the concentricity of the hairspring and, by default, augments precision.

Closing remarks

A prerequisite for any pilot’s watch is excellent readability. This is a trait found with all versions of the IWC Big Pilot’s watch. Despite the dial of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London differing from its siblings, it upholds the model’s reputation for lucidly conveying time.

By positioning the small seconds display opposite the power-reserve indicator, the dial exhibits wonderful symmetry. Furthermore, the snailed detail on the registers, the ebullient red hands and the resplendent blue dial imbue this limited edition timepiece with a dressy appearance. While I prefer the large seconds hand fitted to the standard IWC Big Pilot, this minor gripe does little to diminish my love for this limited edition watch.

The case exhibits a wonderful robustness as if hewn from granite. The crown is a tactile delight, with each fluted contour enticing fingers to manipulate its form.

IWC has observed tradition, equipping this watch with a solid case-back and setting aside the current trend for exhibition case-backs. Personally, I think the watch company from Schaffhausen was correct in respecting the past and retaining one of the key elements of the original 52 T.S.C.

The calibre 52010 illustrates the Maison’s watchmaking prowess. It embraces modernity, utilising modern materials while respecting watchmaking traditions. I was impressed to see that the brand has equipped the watch with a ‘Breguet spring’, a detail normally found on costlier timepieces.

There is no doubt the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch is an iconic timepiece. Its wonderful history, quality, robustness and design all distinguish this watch as special. Those companies which have an ‘iconic’ timepiece in their collection have a huge responsibility. They need to stimulate demand with subtle updates and new variants without losing the essence of the ‘original’, something this Swiss watch company has accomplished with the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Boutique London
  • Reference: IW501008
  • Case: Stainless steel case; diameter 46.2mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid case-back.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; power-reserve indicator
  • Movement: Calibre 52010; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 31 jewels; power reserve 7 days.
  • Strap: Blue alligator strap
  • Price: £11,750 (RRP as at 4.9.2018)
  • Limited Edition: 138 pieces

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