Reeling back to last week’s fake IWC unveiling, it did feel like a breath of fresh air. IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr’s presentation had a clear focus on the brand’s Pilot’s watches. One theme, one collection, and a message for 2021’s aviation aspirations. I think the Pilot’s Watch collection from top quality copy IWC is the brand’s best line of watches and seeing the new introductions only strengthened that belief. The star of the show was undoubtedly the stunning Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL concept. This modern aviation watch combines a unique construction allowing the watch to withstand forces up to 30,000g with a very clean almost minimalist dial. As a result of this clever choice, all the focus is directed to this unique construction.
Sometimes less is more
The pick of the bunch was the clone IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 with a blue dial. It’s a return to a smaller-sized 41mm Pilot’s Watch Chronograph closer to the models IWC gave us in the ’90s. We did have the IWC Spitfire Chrono from 2019 also with a 41mm case. But this was with a solid case-back and no bracelet option. IWC only gave us a 43mm regular model in steel with bracelet and transparent case-back — until now. IWC now introduces the Pilot’s Chronograph blue dial in 41mm with a contemporary cut. While 43mm is not necessarily a problem for me, a 41mm diameter more closely resembles the charming 39mm Flieger chronograph ref. 3706 from 1994.
Ben: I agree that IWC had its day in the ’90s to mid-2000s, but the upmarket shift still doesn’t sit right with me.
Jorg: Maybe with other models, but the Pilot’s Chronograph is the IWC above all the others I have always felt was on point with value. Ever since I got into watches some twenty years ago, it’s luxury fake IWC Pilot collection that’s been unwavering in its appeal. I admire how the design allows for clear readability despite its relatively modest size. Being a pilot’s watch, it needs to tell you all you need to know at a fleeting glance. But even outside of the direct usage by aviators, it has to be wearable and work on a day-to-day basis. It’s why the ’90s version worked so well, and I feel this new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 recaptures that.
Great modern-day appeal
I had the chance to check out the new 41 mm replica IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph and go hands-on. The sizing was perfect, but perhaps even more impressive was thoroughly modern touches for quality of life. The 5-link stainless steel bracelet is an absolute joy to wear. Initially, I had doubts about the bracelet’s design and finishing with the link adjustment system’s complexity. Yet it does wear incredibly well on the wrist. But suppose you still prefer the more era-appropriate leather strap. In that case, IWC’s proprietary EasX-CHANGE system offers the opportunity to switch between the bracelet and strap — without sacrificing the option aftermarket straps.
As mentioned earlier, its 41mm Spitfire counterpart has more vintage appeal, but this new regular model feels like the watch’s perfect contemporary version. That tremendous blue dial is a brilliant backdrop for all the familiar elements to shine. I am very particular about colors, especially blue and green. But IWC casts a hue that nails the contrast between the white hour markers and hands, with a glowing sunburst effect offset with the circular graining of the sub-registers.
Ben: At this point, I couldn’t agree more with you, Jorg. IWC produces one of the most beautiful blue shades in the industry. I used to own the IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers Watch ref. 3548, and it’s the best blue watch I’ve ever seen. Shame that the movement was a very poor derivative of the ETA 2892 with an inefficient rotor.
IWC Caliber 69385
Speaking of automatic movements, inside the stainless-steel case, we find another significant update in the form of the IWC’s Caliber 69385. To realize this reduction in size for the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph replica for men, the brand had to scale a new movement to fit inside the case. This automatic column-wheel caliber is part of the 69000 family that also powers the current Portugieser line of watches.
The 4Hz movement offers a 46-hour power reserve and is visible through the sapphire case-back. As Rob explained in his introduction article, to maintain the proportional dial layout, IWC had to reorganize the sub-dials. The red running seconds hand, which had previously occupied the 9 o’clock register, moved to 6 o’clock. In its place, the 9 o’clock dial is now the elapsed 12-hour counter. I do not mind this change as the emblematic 6, 9, and 12 tri-compax layout with day and date indication is synonymous with the Pilot’s Chrono.
Ben: This was the perfect opportunity to switch to the more symmetrical 3, 6, 9 compax layout. Or, at least, move away from the Valjoux 7750 construction. I mean, why would you want to keep the association to an off-the-shelf caliber with an infamous rotor imbalance?
Jorg: My counter-question is why would IWC abandon something that fans of the watch associate with the Pilot’s Chronograph rather than the Valjoux movement? Overall, the new cheap copy IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 feels like it nails the target as an aviation chronograph. But Ben still thinks the fussy Navitimer is still the ace of the skies.