IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert”

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert” is the latest in a long line of pilots’ watches from the revered Swiss luxury marque. Carl Eady takes a look at this unusual chronograph, housed within a state of the art sand-coloured case.

IWC was founded in Schaffhausen on the Swiss-German border in 1868 by a young American Engineer and Watchmaker by the name of Florentine Ariosto Jones.  He introduced the ‘American’ or ‘Armoury’ system into watchmaking in Switzerland, though crucially maintained a skilled swiss labour force, to ensure a level of refinement in his production of high quality watches for the American market.  Over its 151-year history, IWC has had multiple owners, including Ernst Jakob Homberger who, in 1936, inspired by his son’s enthusiasm for aviation, produced IWC’s first ‘Special Pilots Watch’. By introducing features such as anti-magnetism and shatter-resistant sapphire glass, IWC put its mark on the aviation watch category. The IWC name has become synonymous with iconic pilots’ watches, delighting enthusiasts and aviators alike, whether they be military or civilian.

In 2007, IWC took its aviation credentials further by launching a hugely popular collection that honoured the ‘United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program’. The name hardly slips off the tongue, but ever since the program was given the Hollywood treatment in 1986, the school has become better known as ‘Top Gun’.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition "Mojave Desert"

Given the heritage of its founder, IWC’s natural association with ‘Top Gun’ has proven to be both popular and commercially successful. The matt black ceramic cases of the collection immediately struck a chord with the brand’s army of passionate fans, so much so that the Top Gun has become a powerful sub-brand for the marque.

In 2019, at SIHH in Geneva, IWC released four new additions to the Top Gun collection. In terms of watch design, the courage of the Top Gun pilots has been matched by IWC, bravely producing the eye-catching, limited edition ‘Mojave Desert’.


In their quest for differentiation, watch brands are increasingly looking at new materials and finishes and IWC is certainly no exception. The Top Gun collection has wholeheartedly embraced ceramic since its inception, with several models encompassing black, matt or polished cases. The Mojave Desert edition is housed in an industry-first ‘sand’ coloured ceramic. The case colour honours the khaki coloured uniforms adopted by the US Navy.

Despite its soft matt finish appearance, the material is not susceptible to corrosion and is scratch-resistant. It should retain its pristine appearance for years to come. The engineering grade ceramic’s strength is achieved by mixing several metallic oxides, chiefly Zirconium in its purest form, and then heating the compound to around 1400°C. The colour is so unique it will undoubtedly polarise opinion and challenge those purists who typically favour a more traditional look. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who reject conformity and will relish the doubletakes this chronograph will attract.  Being a limited edition of only 500 pieces, would-be buyers can be rest assured that only a few examples will be spotted in the wild.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition "Mojave Desert"

With a width of 44.5mm and a depth of 15.7mm, this case has generous proportions and will suit large wrists. The ‘Mojave Desert’ is a rugged, yet refined watch, more than fit for its intended purpose. To protect against magnetic fields, it has a soft-iron inner case while the double-coated sapphire crystal is secured against any displacement owing to a sudden drop in air pressure. Commensurate with the rest of the Top Gun collection, it has the ‘Top Gun’ insignia stamped on the reverse. The case back is forged from titanium which helps to keep the watch gorgeously light on the wrist. The ample screw-down crown and chronograph pushers are also fashioned from titanium and prove easy to use without being unduly obtrusive. In addition to being an aviation watch, the case offers a more than adequate water-resistance of 60 metres.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition "Mojave Desert"


Powering the ‘Mojave Desert’ is the 69380 IWC-manufactured calibre.  The self-winding column-wheel chronograph features a hacking small seconds to enable precise team synchronisation.  The efficiency of the winding system is enhanced by IWC’s bi-directional pawl-winding system, similar to the one developed and patented by Albert Pellaton over 60 years ago. This movement is renowned for its precision and impressive robustness. The Calibre 69380 delivers a credible 46-hour power reserve and beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour.  Such is the brand’s confidence in the movement, original owners can register their watch online and extend the 2-year warranty to 8 years.


IWC have chosen wisely in complementing the case with a dark brown dial.  Despite the fact many of these watches will be purchased by civilians, they must, of course, be fit for purpose as an aviation timepiece and offer optimal legibility in a split-second glance. Rustic sandy tones are set against the dial’s deep brown canvas, providing superb contrast and handsome aesthetics.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition "Mojave Desert"

IWC’s familiar aviator inspired hands are, as one would expect from the brand, highly legible, especially in low light thanks to the vibrant luminosity of Super-LumiNova.

Two sub-dials communicate the hours and minutes of the chronograph at the 9 and 12 o’clock positions, while a further sub-dial presents the small-seconds at 6 o’clock. Even though the brand has added day and date windows, the size of the watch grants sufficient space for everything to feel balanced and uncluttered.


Choosing a strap to accompany the earthy tones of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert” requires careful consideration. IWC have opted for a complementary sand coloured textile strap with a lining of soft calf leather. Leather keepers and pinholes complete the strap and add a nostalgic ‘desert explorer’ characteristic.

Closing thoughts

The colour scheme of the ‘Mojave Desert’ make this timepiece the most unique IWC release of late and as such it may prove less popular with purists. However, the time-old saying ‘fortune favours the brave’ very often holds true in the watch world. The brand’s courage in creating such a boldly styled watch reflects its confidence in the Top Gun partnership and conveys its mastery of modern case materials.

By challenging the norm with this 500-piece limited edition chronograph, IWC further has enriched its Top Gun collection with an eye-catching watch that perfectly complements the US Navy’s formal military uniform. Whether on parade, in the air or out in the desert, this watch is unquestionably fit for duty.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert”
  • Reference: IW389103
  • Case: Ceramic case with a titanium case back; diameter 44.5mm; height 15.7mm; water resistance 6ATM (60 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid case back. A soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields and screw-in crown.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small hacking seconds; day; date; chronograph
  • Movement: Calibre 69380; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 Vph (4Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve 60 hours
  • Strap: Beige textile strap with soft leather inlay and folding buckle
  • Price: £8,490 (RRP as at 4.1.2020)
  • Limited Edition: 500 pieces

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