IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar London Edition

Angus Davies reviews the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar London Edition reference IW502805.

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

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Vast swathes of the population seem resolved to conform. They choose to wear similar clothes, drive ‘average’ saloon cars and live in stereotypical suburban houses. The power of branding makes them behave like lemmings and seek the latest so-called en vogue ensembles.

However, I am in the midst of a midlife crisis and I no longer wish to follow the pack. I choose to be different, not at all costs, but where I perceive it confers advantage. For example, I don’t subscribe to the notion of fashion, its intrinsic obsolescence makes it devoid of merit. I prefer to choose clothing which exudes style, irrespective of the prevailing period. Similarly, I often select watches which are iconically styled and unlikely to lose their eye-appeal with the onset of years.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

IWC Big Pilot Reference 5004

 

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

1940 IWC Big Pilot Watch 52 T.S.C.

The IWC Big Pilot is, without question, a design icon and can trace its lineage to 1940 when the Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T.S.C. was released. Incidentally, this remains the largest watch ever produced by the Schaffhausen-based watch brand, measuring a colossal 55mm in diameter. It was worn over the sleeve of a flying suit and was treated as part of the prerequisite cockpit instrumentation necessary for flight.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Reference 5029

In 2012, IWC revisited its legendary collection of pilots’ watches, releasing the visually striking IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Reference 5029, a model which remains in the current collection.

 

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Reference 5029

The Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun sports a larger case than the classic Big Pilot, measuring 48mm in diameter. It is presented in a state of the art ceramic case with a black ‘soft strap’. In contrast with the classic model, this complicated stealthily-hued timepiece exhibits a high quotient of modernity while still remaining instantly recognisable as an IWC pilot’s watch.

A new landmark retail location

In order to celebrate the recent opening of its London Boutique, IWC has released an exclusive limited edition of 38 watches which harness elements of the classic IWC Big Pilot Reference 5009 and fuses them with some aspects of the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Reference 5029. The resultant outcome is a handsome timepiece, especially suited to British lovers of haute horlogerie given the charming references to their home nation.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

IWC Boutique, New Bond Street, London

The dial

At first glace the dial appears anthracite, but the sun-pattern finish of its surface wonderfully toys with light and evinces different shades from various angles. The bold luminescent hour and minute hands confer superb functionality, aiding interpretation irrespective of the ambient light available.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

A triangular index is positioned at noon, typical of ‘deck watches’ of the 1930s and 1940s. Hours are denoted with bold Arabic numerals, employing the same font as several other members of the IWC pilot’s collection. Where subdials have been positioned on the dial, these have sometimes usurped the hour markers, but not at the expense of ease of interpretation.

Four subdials dominate the dial. The subdial at 3 o’clock combines a power reserve indicator at its hub and a date display surrounding this, set against a contrasting grey, snailed circlet. The hands for the power reserve indicator and date indicator are white and red, respectively. The choice of these two colours, together with the blue alligator strap, are ‘a deliberate reference to the British flag’, according to the brand.

At 6 o’clock, a month display features, again on a snailed, grey ring.

Positioned between 7 o’clock and 8 o’clock is a four-digit year display. This will not require intervention by a trained watchmaker until 2100 when the conventional leap-year does not apply. The caseband is absent of correction buttons often found on perpetual calendars, an aspect which can be attributed to IWC’s watchmaking guru of over 50 years, Kurt Klaus.

A small hacking seconds populates the central area of the subdial at 9 o’clock. The hacking facility is part of the DNA of IWC pilot’s watches and can trace its origins to a time when military pilots needed to synchronise their watches precisely. The means of hacking the seconds is incredibly user-friendly. Unscrew the crown, pull it out and then push home on command to recommence the seconds hand.

A date display surrounds the central area of the subdial at 9 o’clock and shares the design language of the aforementioned subdial positioned opposite at 3 o’clock.

Unlike the Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Reference 5029, which features a double moon phase display for the northern and southern hemispheres, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar London Edition depicts one moon against a blue nocturnal sky with brilliantly gleaming stars and spherical lunar form. The moon disc has a delightful depth and bestows a sublime sumptuous appearance.

The case

The case is steel, measuring 46mm in diameter and shares the same width as the classic IWC Big Pilot.

Gracing the satin brushed caseband is the unique number of the timepiece within the limited series of 38 watches.

The fluted crown can trace its origins to the 52 T.S.C and facilitates adjustment with glove clad hands. One potential drawback of the crown is that it can chafe the wrist, however, this has not detered legions of admirers who appreciate the über-masculine styling.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Unlike other iterations of the Big Pilot, including the Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Reference 5029, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar London Edition is not fitted with a solid case back. Indeed, this limited edition timepiece presents a wide-screen view of the self-winding movement courtesy of a sapphire caseback.

The movement

The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar London Edition contains the 51613 calibre. This movement has previously been employed in the Portuguese Perpetual Calendar Ref 5023. However, further to the release of the new 52000-calibre family at SIHH 2015, the new Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Ref 5033 contains the latest IWC-manufacture 52610 calibre.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Reference 5029 continues to use a close relative of the 51613 calibre, the 51614 calibre. It shares the same dimensions, frequency and jewel count as the 51613 calibre, but with the previously mentioned, alternative moon phase display.

Close examination of the 51613 calibre reveals a plethora of charming details. The oscillating mass is open-worked and is adorned with the words ‘Boutique Edition’ and ‘London’. The bridges are decorated with comely circular Côtes de Genève motif and the ratchet wheel is decorated with a sunray motif.

The 51613 calibre has a frequency of 21,600 vph (3Hz) and contains 62 jewels. Most notably, it has a power reserve of 168 hours which is especially impressive considering the numerous functions of the timepiece.

Part of the secret to the impressive power reserve is the bidirectional Pellaton pawl-winding system which efficiently captures subtle movements of the wearer’s wrist.

Whilst the 51613 calibre is not the latest movement from IWC and the newer 52610 calibre offers some very appealing enhancements, make no mistake, this remains a very impressive movement.

Closing remarks

When I placed the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar London Edition upon my wrist I immediately warmed to its many attributes. In my opinion, it is the finest example of the Big Pilot to date, which is high praise indeed. The references to Blighty are subtle and don’t overplay the British angle too much.

Some purists may mourn the absence of a solid caseback, but I adore the sight of a mechanical movement and this particular calibre proffers a delightful vista I would never tire of admiring.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar manufactured exclusively for the IWC London Boutique - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Most notably, this watch is limited to only 38 examples worldwide and bestows a wonderful quotient of exclusivity which appeals to my need to rebel against being pigeonholed. I may be 47 years of age and expected to drive a specific car, watch particular television programmes and vote for certain political parties but I like to celebrate being an individual. In this regard, I feel IWC has produced a watch which would happily sate my need for self expression. Moreover, it appeals to my patriotic tendencies and won’t be seen on the wrists of numerous other men of a similar age.

Technical Specification

  • Model: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar London Edition
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 46mm; water resistant to 6 bar (60 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small hacking seconds; power-reserve indicator; perpetual calendar with displays for date, day, month, year in four digits and perpetual moon phase.
  • Movement: Calibre 51614, self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 62 jewels; Power reserve 168 hours.
  • Strap: Blue alligator leather strap presented on a stainless steel folding clasp.
  • Price: £23,950 (RRP as at 20.7.2015)
  • Limited Edition: 38 pieces

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