The ultimate pilot’s watch?

This year, IWC Schaffhausen launched a range of new pilot’s watches. Is the ultimate model the Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month? 

IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

IWC have crafted fine pilot’s watches since the mid 1930’s. The watches from the Swiss manufacturer have long been renowned for their functionality, with dials that readily aid the interpretation of time.

The Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T.S.C was a behemoth which would be worn on the outside of the flying suit.

IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

The deck or observation watches used by military pilots including the Royal Air Force in the case of the IWC Mark 11, were primarily designed to be functional.

IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

In recent times pilot’s watch bearing the IWC logo have become luxury items coveted by many. However, they have always retained their practicality and robust appearance.

The design language of pilot’s watches suits a masculine wrist with bold lugs, prominent hands and in many instances a large case diameter.

This year, the brand from Schaffhausen launched a range of new pilot’s watches. Some are subtle evolutions of previous models, whilst others are the result of “blue sky” thinking and the product of a 21st century designer’s imagination. Yet, the title role has to be reserved for the Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month.

IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

This is a pilot’s watch presented in a noble metal, featuring a perpetual calendar and a flyback chronograph. It must rank as the most luxurious pilot’s watch ever produced by IWC or indeed anyone.

The dial

Careful examination reveals that the dial is not black, but slate-grey. It sits in sympathy with the warmth of an 18-carat red gold case.

Large white batons, outlined in gold indicate the quarter hours with the exception of noon which features the triangular shaped index typical of traditional pilot’s watches.

The chapter ring is marked with small white marks imparting information with lucid brevity. Every 5 minute integer is marked with numerals presented in Arabic text using a clean font, devoid of serifs.

The hour and minute hands are outlined in 18-carat red gold, yet lined with luminous material enhancing decipherability in fading light conditions.

The chronograph counters for hours and minutes are located on a combined totalizer at 12 o’clock.

A white chronograph seconds hand is located centrally. It is rapier like in profile, aiding interpretation.

A leap year display features on a subdial located adjacent 6 o’clock. A red subsidiary seconds hand, outlined in gold, circumnavigates the subdial. The sparing use of colour provides interest without appearing tawdry.

The subsidiary seconds hand again doffs its hat to tradition. It is a hacking seconds, allowing the wearer to pull out the crown and synchronise the seconds with other members of the squadron.

A stroke of design genius is the inclusion of the large double-digit displays for both the date and month. The legibility of the digital date and month are wonderful and far removed from the hideous LCD characters depicted on vile quartz offerings. Beneath the apertures for the displays are two white cartouches, outlined in red gold. One is labelled, “Date” and the other “Month”, simple and elegant.

The case

A diameter of 46 mm may be significantly smaller than the 52 T.S.C but with a case height of 17.5 mm, this watch is certainly no shrinking violet. I recently placed the watch on my wrist and it resided comfortably, looking perfectly at home.

My working class origins are probably the reason I enjoy the substance of this watch. I feel there is tangible value imparted to the wearer by the significant amount of precious metal used for the case and deployant.

Red gold may be a little extravagant for a pilot’s watch and it may glint in the vigilant searchlights of enemy forces, but I adore the decadence and character it bestows on the wearer.

The bezel is highly polished and this finish is repeated on the crown and chrono pushers. Yet, visual contrast is provided by the satin brushed caseband and lugs. All aspects live together in amiable accord.

The strap is brown alligator leather, fitted with an 18-carat red gold deployant. The folding sections of which are highly polished and again contrast with the brushed effect of the IWC branded clasp.

Pilot’s watches always had a solid case back with a soft-iron inner case to protect against magnetic fields. However, IWC have eschewed tradition in this instance and indulged wearers with a splendid view of the Calibre 89365 courtesy of a sapphire case back.

IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month

The movement

The automatic movement features a rotor depicting a Spitfire.

Beneath the rotor the fine finishing of the Calibre 89365 can be admired. Côtes de Genève features on the bridges and circular graining appears on the plate. All aspects of the movement should appeal to those who appreciate fine finissage.

The numerous functions of this watch differentiate it from other pilot’s watches.


I have long admired the functional and practical persona of IWC’s pilot’s watches. I saved and bought one several years ago and have never regretted the decision.

This watch is recognisably an IWC pilot’s watch, yet is a bold departure from former models. It is an über-luxury, high-end timepiece, perfectly at ease with formal attire.

The IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month lavishes potential customers with a handsome watch laden with functions, yet presented in a user-friendly format.

The ultimate pilot’s watch? I can’t think of a finer pilot’s watch currently available.

Technical specification

  • Model: IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month
  • Reference:  IW379103
  • Case: 18-carat red gold; diameter 46.00 mm; height 17.50 mm ; water resistant to 6 bar (60 metres); sapphire crystal to front and back.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small hacking seconds; flyback chronograph with hour and minute counters and central chrono seconds hand; leap-year display; digital date and month display; perpetual calendar.
  • Movement: Calibre 89800; Self-winding; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 52 jewels; power reserve 88 hours.
  • Strap: Brown alligator leather strap with 18-carat red gold deployant.

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