The new year is upon us, which means it’s just about exhibition season for the horology industry. The festivities kick off with SIHH 2019 (Salon International de la Haute Horologie), which takes place in Geneva from January 14-17. SIHH 2019 will be followed by Baselworld, taking place from March 21-26. Big news has already shaken up the exhibition calendar, with the announcement that, starting in 2020, Baselworld and SIHH will coordinate the calendars so that the events occur in back-to-back weeks, meaning watch journalists can write glowing reviews of whatever new stuff brands are releasing for two whole weeks. This is yet another effort by the exhibitions to stay relevant in a digital world defined by immediate consumer feedback and rapid product cycles. The biggest blow came last year when the Swatch Group announced that all of its brands will no longer participate in Baselworld.
That’s the bigger picture. Today, we’re excited about what the 35 exhibitors at SIHH will be announcing. In an effort to build buzz and anticipation for the exhibition, some of the brands have already released previews of what’s to come. First up: IWC and its new Pilot’s watches. IWC is one of Richemont’s brands exhibiting at SIHH.
IWC SIHH 2019 Releases
In the buildup to SIHH 2019, IWC has already announced four new pilot’s watches, staying true to the model the brand is most known for.
Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight”
The IWC Timezoner is already a watch with a cool complication: In order to set the watch to another time zone, the wearer simply needs to push down the bezel, turn it to the desired time zone and let it go – the hour hand, 24-hour day/night display and the date automatically move with the bezel. That original Timezoner is a chronograph, so it’s interesting to see IWC introduce the complication on its own in this Spitfire edition, Ref. IW395501. The watch contains a new in-house automatic movement, the caliber 82760, and production will be limited to 250 pieces. This Spitfire special edition is dedicated to the “Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight” project. It has been specially developed for pilots Steve Boultbee Brooks and Matt Jones to coincide with their flight around the world in a Spitfire. The color scheme of the watch design, with its stainless steel case, its black dial and its green textile strap, is meant to be reminiscent of the cockpit of a Spitfire.
It’s a large watch — what you’d expect from a complicated pilot’s watch — measuring in at 46mm in diameter and 15.2mm in height. IWC has tentatively set the price at $12,400.
Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire
If the Timezoner is a little large or complicated for your tastes, the Chronograph Spitfire may be more your style. The Ref. IW387902 is the backbone of IWC’s new Spitfire line, inspired by the iconic Mark 11 watch originally produced for the Royal Air Force beginning in 1948. This watch is 41mm in diameter, sits 15.3mm high, and has 60mm of water resistance. On the inside, IWC is using a calibre 69380, the first time it has packed a movement from its core 69000 series into a pilot’s watch case. The release of this bronze watch continues a trend of bronze releases that I’m not mad about. Over time, these cases should develop a cool patina that will go nicely with the green dial.
IWC estimates it will be available starting in October 2019, and has set pricing at $6,250.
BIG PILOT’S WATCH CONSTANT-FORCE TOURBILLON EDITION “LE PETIT PRINCE”
From a mass-market chronograph to true haute horology. The Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince”(ref. IW590303) is the first pilot's watch from IWC to feature a constant force tourbillon. It is available with a hard gold case (a special version of red gold, says IWC) and is limited to just 10 watches. The watch has the case of a Big Pilot and the blue radiant dial instantly recognizable as the signature of the Petit Prince variations, but other than that is a beast of its own kind.
Inside is IWC’s manufacture calibre 94895, which, thank goodness, you’ll be able to view through the exhibition caseback.
A quick diversion to address a question many will now be asking: what the fuck is “constant force”, and why should I care?
Constant force is something of a holy grail in haute horology, and a complication IWC has executed in previous timepieces. The watch barrel, which stores the energy powering the entire watch movement when it is wound via its mainspring, delivers more torque to the rest of the gear train when it is fully wound than when it is not fully wound. As the tension in a mainspring decreases, so too does the balance amplitude. This varying driving force delivered to the regulating mechanism of a watch (i.e. the balance wheel and hairspring) affects its rate of ticking. The constant force mechanism works by integrating an additional escapement between the escape wheel and the fourth wheel. Every second, this winds a balance spring that serves as a temporary storage space and keeps the escape wheel supplied with sufficient energy to keep the balance moving.
Enough technical gibberish. The watch measures in at 46mm in diameter and 13.5mm in height. It’ll retail at $235,000.
PILOT’S WATCH DOUBLE CHRONOGRAPH TOP GUN CERATANIUM
Finally, we reach an addition to the TOP GUN watch family. The watch implements IWC’s Ceratanium material for the first time in a Pilot’s watch. It’s a unique blend of the scratch-resistant ceramic and lighter titanium. This Ref. IW371815 measures in at 44mm and 16.8mm in height. The matte black finishing of the case is designed to combat light glare for pilots, but really just looks awesome with the matching black dial and hands.
It’s also a double chronograph, a more complicated implementation of the classic chronograph complication. Altogether, the watch is a fresh take on the TOP GUN line and the chronograph complication. It’s got the price tag to match, coming in at $15,000. It’ll be available beginning in June 2019, according to IWC.
As SIHH approaches and more brands provide previews of their releases, we’ll have more news. So stay tuned.