7 Best IWC Big Pilot Watches For the Aviation Enthusiasts

Jan 24, 2021
7 Best IWC Big Pilot Watches For the Aviation Enthusiasts

If you’re a fan of Flieger watches, then you’ll love the IWC Big Pilot watches, too. They’re one of the most highly recommended models in the community when it comes to pilot watches due to their design and history. Let’s find out what makes these humongous watches stand out aside from their size.

During the Second World War, German pilots (also known as Luftwaffe) wore large wristwatches as tools. These were known as Flieger watches, and these models were supplied by several German and Swiss watchmakers including Stowa, Sinn, A. Lange & Söhne, and of course, IWC. Each watch had to adhere to strict design requirements and the highest of chronometer standards. For one, they had to be big and readable. This is the reason why Flieger watches are identical to each other.

Flieger Type A Type B
Photo from Reddit by u/UJL123

In terms of design, these watches are humongous. To be specific, they measure over 50mm in diameter. Furthermore, they have a large onion-shaped crown, a triangle at the 12 o’clock marker, and rivets on the strap. Describing Flieger watches from the past feels like describing a current model of the IWC Big Pilot. That is because they are the ancestors of the current IWC Big Pilot models that we now know and adore.

A Modern Flieger Watch

The war was long over but people’s fascination for the Flieger watches stayed. So in 2002, IWC released a new and improved version of the watch that pilots wore in the past. These watches have roughly the same layout as the vintage watches. But as mentioned above, they went through some minor changes to keep up with the times.

One of those changes is its size. Pilot watches from before had to be really large. To be specific, some watches are more than 50mm in size. While it was useful before, it is overkill in modern times. With that, IWC made a good compromise by making their new IWC Big Pilot models large but at the same time comfortable.

Another change that these watches went through is the movement. IWC uses today’s technology to power the watch. This allows more convenient and more accurate timekeeping. With that said, let’s find out which IWC Big Pilot models to look out for below.

Best IWC Big Pilot Watches

1. IWC Big Pilot Automatic Black Dial

IWC Big Pilot Automatic Black Dial

Specs:

  • Case material: Stainless steel
  • Case dimension: 46.2mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 168 hours
  • Water-resistance: 60m

If I didn’t know better, I would think that the IWC Big Pilot Automatic Black Dial is a vintage watch. From its size to its strap, it looks like it came straight from the ’40s. Likewise, the dial design follows most of the requirements of past Flieger watches. But of course, its smooth and polished case is a dead giveaway that it is new.

An improvement that this watch has over the vintage watches is its movement. It contains a 51111 Calibre that’s manufactured by IWC. One of the most notable features of this movement is its seven-day power reserve, which is more than double the average power reserve in the market. Moreover, it has a central hacking seconds feature that is useful for setting the exact time.

The IWC Big Pilot Automatic Black Dial should be on every pilot watch fan’s radar. Its big size gets close to the original Flieger watches without compromising wearability. Apart from that, IWC’s history of making watches for the German Air Force is impressive enough.

2. IWC Big Pilot Le Petit Prince

IWC Big Pilot Le Petit Prince

Specs:

  • Case material: Stainless steel
  • Case dimension: 46.2mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 168 hours
  • Water-resistance: 60m

The IWC Big Pilot Le Petit Prince may seem like an unusual combination of a children’s book and Flieger watch, yet it is an interesting one. However, if you make a quick background check on Antoine de Saint-Exupery, he was not only the author of Le Petit Prince (or The Little Prince) but also a pioneering aviator. This watch was meant to pay tribute to him and his accomplishments in the field of aviation.

Its dial looks a lot like the previous IWC Big Pilot watch with the exception of the dial colour. Instead of black, this one comes in a sunburst blue finish. It also has a date window at the bottom and a day tracker at 3 o’clock. Overall, it has a readability that you would expect from a Flieger watch.

At the back is an engraved picture of the little prince. This is the only indication that the watch has a connection to the children’s novel. Minimalists who want little to no branding will love this subtle design. Whether or not you’re a fan of Le Petit Prince, the attractive design of this model will definitely catch your attention.

3. IWC Big Pilot Watch Heritage

IWC Big Pilot Watch Heritage

Specs:

  • Case material: Bronze
  • Case dimension: 46.2mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 168 hours
  • Water-resistance: 60m

Bronze watches are becoming more and more popular, and if you’re interested in joining the trend, check out the IWC Big Pilot Watch Heritage in bronze. Physically, it has the same characteristics as the vintage Flieger watches. But between this and the classic IWC Big Pilot watch, this one looks a lot like a vintage watch. This is mainly due to the patina of the bronze case.

Despite looking retro on the outside, it uses modern technology inside. Like the previous models on this list, it runs on the 52110 calibre that can make the watch tick for about a week. Furthermore, its reliability and accuracy are top-notch.

I must say that the bronze case blends in well with the dark brown leather strap. In fact, it gives the watch a classy vibe. This might be pushing it too far, but in some instances, you can get away with wearing it with a blazer. So, if you’re looking for a timepiece that is robust and versatile enough to be your daily driver, this is a good choice. Do note that this model is limited to 1,500 pieces, so be quick to get one!

4. IWC Big Pilot Top Gun

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun

Specs:

  • Case material: Ceramic
  • Case dimension: 46mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 168 hours
  • Water-resistance: 60m

Of course, it is inevitable for IWC to make a watch dedicated to one of the most famous pilot movies of all time. The collection contains several models, but for a stealthy look, check out the IWC Big Pilot Top Gun in black.

Looking at the dial, it is very easy to read with its contrasting black and white colour scheme. And although it sports a contemporary design, it still has characteristics that give it a vintage military vibe. In particular, it has a traditional Flieger watch layout and a large crown. Furthermore, it has a useful day tracker at the 3 o’clock position for folks who want more complications.

Ticking inside this watch is the 51111 calibre. It is automatic and can power the watch for up to seven days. Moreover, it oscillates at a frequency of 21,600 vph. This movement is IWC-manufactured so you’re certain that it won’t let you down.

This monochrome look is attractive and versatile at the same time. So, if you’re looking for an everyday watch that will blend with most of your outfits, this is worth looking at.

5. IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Lewis Hamilton

IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Lewis Hamilton

Specs:

  • Case material: 18k gold
  • Case dimension: 46.5mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 168 hours
  • Water-resistance: 60m

Motorsport fans will love the limited-edition IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Lewis Hamilton in burgundy. While this eye-catching timepiece sports an unusual colourway for pilot watches, it still retains a few classic traits, like the large case and crown.

One of the first things you’ll notice is its wine-coloured dial. This background brings a lot of contrast against the gold accents. Thus, the trackers are still easy to read despite having too many sub-dials. In particular, these sub-dials show the month, day, date, and dual moon for both hemispheres. Apart from those, there is also a small window to indicate the year in four digits.

Inside the watch is the calibre 52615, which is an in-house movement with a pellaton winding system. This calibre beats at a frequency of 28,800 vph and has the same seven-day power reserve as the other watches. It is also decorated with a gold rotor with Lewis Hamilton’s logo, which you can view from the see-through caseback.

This model is a good example of a “baller watch”. Its loud design and jam-packed features are something you can show off to your friends.

6. IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry”

IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry”

Specs:

  • Case material: Stainless steel
  • Case dimension: 46.2mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 168 hours
  • Water-resistance: 60m

In another tribute to the French pilot and novelist, IWC decided to launch the IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry”. This time, it was named after him instead of his novel. This model comes in a tobacco brown dial and a calfskin leather strap. Both are a nod to the colour of his flying suit.

On the dial, you can see various complications. One is the lunar cycle which you can see on top. Another is the perpetual calendar, which displays the year, month, day, date, hours, minutes, and seconds. This calendar takes into account the different lengths of the months and even the leap days until 2100, which means that the user doesn’t need to set the calendar manually in his lifetime.

Powering this watch is the Calibre 52610 which has twin barrels. It has 168 hours of power reserve and oscillates at a frequency of 28,800 vph. This movement’s rotor is made from 18K red gold with an engraving that says “Edition Saint Exupery” and “One out of 750” for a more premium feel. This can be seen at the back through the see-through crystal of the watch.

For folks who want an elegant yet feature-rich watch, this model should be on top of your list.

7. IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Miramar

IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Miramar

Specs:

  • Case material: Ceramic/Titanium
  • Case dimension: 48.6mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 168 hours
  • Water-resistance: 60m

The previous watches in this list have an elegant flair to them. This time, however, we’ll see a rugged version called the IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Miramar. With its NATO strap and army green colourway, this timepiece looks like it was issued to soldiers in the past.

One look at the dial will make it obvious that it’s a descendant of Flieger watches. It has the same B-uhr layout and the familiar triangle at the 12 o’clock position. Furthermore, it shares the same font and onion-shaped crown. However, IWC decided to add a small and unobtrusive day tracker at 3 o’clock and a date window at the bottom.

Under the hood, you’ll see the calibre 51111 which is self-winding. Like in other IWC Big Pilot models, this movement can make the watch tick for 168 hours. However, it beats at a lower frequency of 21,600 vph. Nevertheless, this movement is reliable and will serve you for years.

The IWC Big Pilot Top Gun Miramar is perfect for the pilot and field watch aficionado. Its handsome ruggedness will definitely make heads turn.

Final Notes

If you’re in the market for a pilot watch, one of your top contenders is the IWC Big Pilot. These models are a direct descendant of the Flieger watches that German pilots used to wear. On top of that, IWC tried to maintain as much of the vintage pilot watches as they can without compromising quality.

 

If you’re looking for a sporty watch that you can take on a triathlon, check out our 20 best triathlon watches!

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