IWC: What makes the ultimate starter watch?


IWC’s famous pilot’s watch is so iconic for its scale that it is literally known as the Big Pilot. What makes the news of the great watchmaking show this year that the Big Pilots of IWC are becoming more …

IWC, explained Christopher Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC, brings the retractable spoke to many of its most iconic pieces to make them even more portable. Grainger-Herr knows better than anyone how big matters: he came into the business through the brand museum. The Big Pilot started at 55 millimeters and until Wednesday it came to a weight still heavy 46 mm. Now it’s 43. He says they tested different sizes, spending time debating the 42 and 44mm iterations. In the middle of this process, he would wake up in “the middle of the night having nightmares or sweet dreams” about those millimeters, he told me. But I wondered: what happens when a Big Watch becomes something a little more like an average? I spent a week testing the Pilot Chronograph, which went from 43 to 41mm, to find out.

The chronograph on a leather strap.


The Grainger-Herr IWC is designed for beginners: prices typically range from $ 4,000 to under $ 15,000 before jumping for special editions. No watch exemplifies this spirit better, says Grainger-Herr, than the chronograph I wore: the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph IW388101. “You have the horological complexity of the chronograph in a daily use watch,” he says. “I think if you had to pick a first watch, you could wear it anywhere and keep it for 20-30 years and enjoy it.”


So how did you feel? Hefty, above all. I don’t mean this in a bad way, in that it anchored my noodle arm or made me feel exhausted. Despite its small size, the watch is heavy like gold or the big ideas of the “duuuuudeVariety – From the initial interaction it’s clear that something substantial is happening. Once I got used to the very substance of the watch, I found new, more childish ways to entertain myself. The blue of the dial changed from a dark navy blue like a lagoon to something softer as I turned my wrist to catch the light. I clicked on the pusher that activated the chronograph and imagined the complex series of whirring gears and wheels in action. I kept the watch on my bedside table and peeked into it at night to observe the now glowing hands. John Mayer once said that he used an IWC Big Pilot as a bedside clock because of its size. I had less success than Mayer with my version.


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