Ask any aviation enthusiast which timepiece they covet the most, and chances are they’ll answer ‘an IWC pilots watch’. The Schaffhausen-based house is well-known in the horological industry for its collection of rugged and functional pilots watches, but it has also conquered the world of dress watches with its elegant Portofino and Portugieser families. In recent years, it has expanded its offering to the ladies aswell, via beautiful models equipped with its innovative watchmaking technology. So, if you’re searching for a stellar timepiece to surprise your loved one with this Christmas, read on.
Back to its roots
At the SIHH fair in January 2019 – IWC unveiled a fleet of new aviation-inspired timepieces to buyers, members of the press and horology enthusiasts with a restored silver Spitfire from 1943 as a backdrop. IWC declared 2019 the year of the pilots watch, and for many, this was simply the brand going back to its roots. IWC first created a pilots watch in 1936, when its Special Watch for Pilots first took to the skies. The British Royal Air Force soon picked up on the usefulness of the houses reliable, hardwearing tool watches and, in 1949, IWC began supplying the British Royal Airforce with its now-legendary Mark 11 navigators wristwatch. It remained in service with the RAF until 1981.
Civilians around the world have also fallen for IWCs creations, which are widely seen as a must-have for any collection worth its salt. This Pilots Watch Chronograph ‘Le Petit Prince’ (£4,890 / $5,250) boasts all the qualities one would expect from a high-performance timepiece, such as precision, functionality and reliability. It houses the automatic 79320 chronograph calibre, which can handle single-stop times and aggregate timing up to 12 hours, and powers a day and date display. Its soft-iron inner case protects the movement from the influence of the magnetic fields found in the cockpit and, increasingly, in daily life. There’s a continuing penchant for blue dials – if you’re a fan, this is the watch for you: its midnight-blue dial is beautifully paired with a brown calfskin strap, and its case back is engraved with the little prince wearing his cape and holding a sword. IWC has been creating special Pilot editions in tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s story The Little Prince since 2013, all featuring a trademark blue dial. After all, the French author and aviation pioneer is the perfect fit for the brand’s airborne achievements.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph ‘Le Petit Prince’ – £4,890 ($5,250)
Dress to impress
Back on firmer ground, IWC also creates a collection of dress watches for the dapper gent: the Portugieser. The first Portugieser model, Reference 325, was launched in 1939, taking its name from two Portuguese merchants who ordered large wristwatches from the house that would boast the same precision as a marine chronometer. IWC used two pocket-watch movement calibres for the design, Calibres 74 and 98, which is why the Portugieser collection today features imposing case sizes, slim feuille hands, simple Arabic numerals and a railway-track-style chapter ring — all typical pocket-watch characteristics. The ‘chemin-de-fer’ or railway-track-style chapter ring was particularly popular on 1930s pocket watches — the one-minute sections on the scale make it easy to read the time precisely and add to the watches neat and organised dial design.
The Portugieser Chronograph has been the most sought-after model in the Portugieser family since 1998. At the time, it was the first Portugieser watch that not only allowed the wearer to read the time, but also to stop it. This version has a wearable 41mm steel case, a silver-plated dial, embossed Arabic numerals and perfectly proportioned hands — and it comes on a black alligator-leather strap (£6,550 / $7,600).
IWC Portugieser Chronograph – £6,550 ($7,600)
Male and female watch-buyers alike also love IWCs super-elegant Portofino collection, which has been channelling the laidback lifestyle of the Mediterranean since its launch in 1984 and named after the picturesque fishing village on the Ligurian coast. The first Portofino model, Reference 5251, resumed IWCs tradition of round gold cases, taking inspiration from a minimalist 1970s Lépine pocket watch. In 2014, IWC unveiled the Portofino Automatic 37 – a series of simple yet elegant three-hand watches for slender wrists. We love this Portofino Automatic 37 model, featuring a 37mm steel case and a silver-plated dial with diamond-hour indexes, a sunray finish, and a date display. Its light brown alligator-leather strap from Italian brand Santoni adds a truly luxurious touch. For a more low-key look, there’s also a version with a cool, slate-coloured dial presented on a black leather strap. Both models retail for £4,850 ($5,600) each.
IWC Portofino Automatic – £4,850 ($5,600)
Whether you’re looking for a pilots watch or a classic dress watch, IWC has something that’s sure to tempt you this Christmas.
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