IWC Top Gun: A Guide To The Robust Chronograph

Mar 16, 2022
IWC Top Gun: A Guide To The Robust Chronograph

Paying heed to the needs of modern patrons, in 2007, IWC has launched a new series of aviation watches  –the IWC Top Gun. Part of the brand’s legendary Pilot collection, the IWC Top Gun consists of powerfully built, reliable, and innovative timepieces made especially for navigators of the sky.


The IWC Top Gun was very favourably received upon its release. This was largely due to its rugged and sturdy exterior, boasting a professional military look that makes it stand out from its competitors. Named for the US Navy Fighter Weapons School, TOPGUN, the IWC Top Gun shows off capabilities and durability meant to match its namesake. Without further ado, let us take a closer look at all the outstanding features the IWC Top Gun comes with, along with its history and a few of the best models in this collection.

A Brief History of IWC Top Gun

IWC is one of those companies that has had a long and storied history with the US military. In fact, even before the release of the IWC Top Gun, IWC had already proven itself many times over by supplying the US Naval Forces with robust timepieces over decades. As such, in 2007, IWC’s deep connection with the military was further honoured as it became the first watch brand to receive a license from the U.S Military to produce the IWC Top Gun watches. Named after TOPGUN, the Navy Fighter Weapons School, the IWC Top Gun is a contemporary pilot watch released under the brand’s Pilot series.


The first IWC Top Gun model released by the brand was the IWC Pilot Double Chronograph Edition Top Gun, Ref. IW379901. As its name suggests, this version came with a unique double chronograph function, allowing wearers to record two different time intervals simultaneously. Housed in lightweight, scratch-resistant ceramic cases, these early Top Gun watches also came with day-date functions and comfortable textile straps.


After the success of the first Top Gun model, IWC then decided to establish an independent line of Top Gun watches in 2012. Since then, the company has produced more variants of the IWC Top Gun. Utilising high-grade materials like ceramic and titanium, this line of watches is well-known for its robust durability and prestigious military background.

Up Close with IWC Top Gun 

side view of IWC Pilot Top Gun IW379901 watch
Photo from eBay

As we mentioned, the very first Top Gun model was released in 2007. For this section of the article, we will be looking at this specific timepiece, the IWC Pilot Double Chronograph Edition Top Gun, Ref. IW379901, and what it has to offer. 

Case, Strap, and Crown

The IWC Top Gun Ref. IW379901 shows off a black ceramic case. Ceramic is a very strong material, and is exceptionally resistant to scratches and impacts, bolstering this watch’s durability. The surfaces of this watch, including its case, sloped lugs, and ceramic fixed bezel, are unpolished, giving it a matte, rustic look that emphasises its practicality. This is paired with a soft fabric strap in black, completing the watch’s all-black, no-nonsense aesthetic. Fitted on top of the case is a luxurious sapphire crystal, which further protects the dial from any external damage. 


On the right side of the case, you can find a well-sized crown and two extended pushers, along with a third pusher on the left side of the case. These pushers and crown are all made from lightweight titanium, which takes away a little from the heft of this timepiece. You can use the pushers to control the watch’s chronograph functions. With the screwed-down crown and securely screwed-in ceramic caseback, this watch has a decent depth rating of 60-metres, keeping the inner mechanisms of the watch safe from moisture and dust. 


front view of IWC Pilot Top Gun IW379901 watch
Photo from eBay

One of the most striking components of the IWC Top Gun Ref. IW379901 is its handsome black dial, which perfectly complements its all-black exterior. It is adorned with a day display, an elongated date aperture that resembles an altimeter, and a split-second double chronograph, which allows wearers to measure two different time intervals simultaneously. A third sub-dial also acts as a sweeping seconds counter. These functions make the IWC Top Gun Ref. IW379901 an incredibly handy tool for flight missions. 


Aside from those features, this dial is also furnished with rectangular hour indices, a minute track with white indicators, Arabic numeral markers in a neat white typeface, and pronounced sword-shaped hands. The black and white watch face also has a few vibrant red accents scattered across it, specifically on the seconds hand and the hand of a sub-dial, making the watch more visually interesting. The hands and markers of this watch are all generously coated in lume, allowing for optimal legibility in low-light environments.


The IWC Top Gun is equipped with a powerful in-house Calibre 79230. Held together by 29 jewels, this is a rattrapante chronograph movement that has a beat frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour. In addition, it possesses a substantial 44-hour power reserve, making it a great companion as you navigate the skies. 


The IWC Top Gun is packed with advanced features that are incredibly useful for aviation missions. Crafted using high-quality materials, this watch is powerfully built and made to withstand all sorts of adverse conditions. Given its durability and functionality, it is no surprise that this pilot watch costs around $14,600 USD. If you seek a truly reliable, professional pilot watch, then the IWC Top Gun should definitely be on your radar. 

IWC Top Gun: Best Models

1. IWC Top Gun “Mojave Desert” Ref. IW506003

front view of IWC Pilot Top Gun Mojave Desert IW506003 watch
Photo from IWC Official Facebook

If you are looking for a rugged, lighter-coloured IWC Top Gun piece to bring on your next flight mission, look no further. The IWC Top Gun Mojave Desert Ref. IW506003 is a watch that looks quite different from the classic all-black IWC Top Gun Ref. IW379901, while delivering just as capable a performance. This is a limited edition watch, with only 250 pieces in existence. It boasts a unique style that evokes the image of sandy dunes, inspired by the Mojave Desert where the Navy’s weapons testing facility is located. 


The IWC Top Gun Mojave Desert Ref. IW506003 utilises a 46mm sand-coloured ceramic case, paired with a textile strap in beige that befits the watch’s ‘Mojave Desert’ title. On the right side of the case is an oversized, titanium crown shaped like a diamond. Its bulky build and grooved edges provide wearers with a better grip, so they can turn and adjust the crown more easily.


The dial of this watch shows off a highly legible layout in a dark brown hue that blends well with the sand-coloured exterior. It is adorned with Arabic numeral markers in a clean beige typeface, dark brown sword-shaped hands, a compact date aperture at 6 o’clock, and a sub-dial at 3 o’clock that serves as the power reserve indicator. The hands and markers are also coated in lume, illuminating the watch face in the dark. 


Inside this watch, you can find a superior Calibre 52110 movement. This calibre beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour and has an incredible power reserve of 168 hours, so you can leave this watch aside for a whole week without ever having to worry about winding it. It also comes with a valuable 60-metre water resistance capacity, enabling it to survive showers and downpours.


The IWC Top Gun Mojave Desert Ref. IW506003 sells at an estimated price of $14,800 USD, making it slightly more expensive than the classic IWC Top Gun Ref. IW379901. 

2. IWC Top Gun Ref. IW389101

front view of IWC Pilot Top Gun IW389101 watch

For an upgraded version of the IWC Top Gun Ref. IW379901, take a look at the IWC Top Gun Ref. IW389101. This watch is instantly recognisable, with its quintessential black and white design. It is presented in a 44.5mm black ceramic case, paired with a glamorous black dial and matching black fabric strap. This case size is quite standard, allowing this watch to fit wrists of all sizes.


On the right side of the case, you can find a titanium crown, with two extended titanium pushers on either side for the chronograph functions. This crown is tightly screwed-down, protecting the watch’s inner mechanisms from any moisture or dust. It also shows off grooved edges, so wearers can grip and turn the crown more easily to wind it. 


The stylish black dial of this watch also stands out, thanks to its three chronograph sub-counters, which flaunt appealing black sunray finishes that add more personality to this watch face. This dial also comprises a day-date display, white hour indices and Arabic numeral markers, and thick sword-shaped hands. The 60-second chronograph sub-dial, in particular, flaunts a vibrant red hand that adds a touch of colour to this monochrome watch face. Fitted on top of the dial is a luxurious sapphire crystal that protects it from scratches and impacts.


This watch runs on an impressive in-house Calibre 69380 movement. It has a 60-hour water-resistance rating that allows for light water activities and sports. In addition, it possesses a 46-hour power reserve, enabling this watch to accompany you on two-day flight missions. 


Priced at around $8,009 USD, this top-notch pilot watch is an affordable grab that you should definitely consider adding to your collection.

3. IWC Top Gun Ref. IW326901

front view of IWC Pilot Top Gun IW326901_1565864345 watch

Last but certainly not least, we have the IWC Top Gun Ref. IW326901, with its simple yet sporty appearance. This watch is presented in a 41mm black ceramic case, making it the smallest IWC Top Gun piece in this article, and better suited for small-to-average-sized wrists. This is coupled with a straightforward, exquisite black dial and a black fabric strap.


Of the IWC Top Gun watches listed here, this watch has the simplest layout. Its dial comprises just Arabic numeral markers in a bolded typeface, a minute track, bevelled sword-shaped hands, and a small date window at 3 o’clock. Its round face is covered with a sapphire crystal that adds an extra layer of protection to the dial.


This watch runs on a robust in-house Calibre 32110. This is an automatic movement that possesses a 60-metre depth rating and a notable 72-hour power reserve. As such, you can leave this watch aside for a weekend before picking it back up without ever having to wind it.


If you are seeking a classic, highly legible, and straightforward aviator piece, this IWC Top Gun model is one of the best watches available. It retails at just $5,549 USD, making it one of the most accessible Top Gun timepieces.

Alternatives to the IWC Top Gun

1. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Ref. H64666135

front view of Hamilton Khaki Aviation H64666135_1559591307 watch

If you are working with a limited budget, the prestigious IWC Top Gun watches might not be the best idea. Instead, consider Hamilton, a reputable Swiss-American watch brand that also boasts an extensive aviator watch catalogue. Like IWC, Hamilton has had a long history with the military and is especially known for producing marine chronometers for the U.S Navy during World War II. One chic pilot watch from Hamilton that we recommend is the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Ref.H64666135.


This Hamilton Khaki Aviation watch comes in a 42mm stainless steel case, coupled with a three-link stainless steel bracelet and a handsome black dial. This black dial is quite busy, silver-tone skeletal hands, double-digit Arabic numerals, a legible minute track, three chronograph sub-dials, and a date window at 6 o’clock. Like the IWC Top Gun, the hands and markers of this watch are all filled with luminous pigments, contrasting strongly against the dark background.


As a chronograph piece, this watch is equipped with counters for the 60-second, 30-minute, and 12-hour chronographs. You can control these functions using the stout pushers on the side of the watch’s case. Also located on the right of the watch is a thick screw-down crown, which is protected by crown guards. Although these crown guards keep the crown safe from any impacts or scratches, they make it slightly harder to turn the crown, so you might have to try a few times before you can get a good grip on it.


Driving this watch is an in-house Calibre H-31. It has a beat frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and is held together by 27 jewels. In addition, it possesses a 60-hour power supply and a useful 200-metre depth rating, so you could even take this watch scuba diving if you so please. You can admire this movement through the watch’s transparent caseback, which is crafted from sapphire crystal.


This Hamilton watch sells at just $1,699 USD, making it a very budget-friendly pilot watch option.

2. Sinn Instrument Chronographs Ref. 917.010

front view of Sinn Instrument Chronographs 917.010 Leather Cowhide BLK CSW watch

For a more vintage-influenced aviation piece, check out the Sinn Instrument Chronographs Ref. 917.010-Leather-Cowhide-Blk-CSW. This Sinn watch is housed in a 44mm stainless steel case with a classy black leather strap. The positioning of the crown and pushers on this watch is quite unusual; instead of a single crown placed on the right side of the case, this watch has two screw-fastened crowns, which can be found at 9 o’clock and 4 o’clock respectively. The pushers of the watch are also located on the left side of the case, which is more convenient for right-handed users. 


This Sinn watch showcases a lovely beige dial, which enhances the timepiece’s whole old-school aesthetic. This dial is quite busy, containing long black plume hands, Arabic numeral markers in a black typeface, a date display between 4 and 5 o’clock, and three chronograph sub-dials for the 60-second, 30-minute, and 12-hour chronographs. A green and red power reserve indicator is also located at 9 o’clock, adding a splash of playful colour to the watch face.


The Sinn Instrument Chronographs Ref. 917.010-Leather-Cowhide-Blk-CSW is powered by a Valjoux 7750 Calibre. This is one of the most ubiquitous, reliable watch movements today, with a 48-hour power supply and 100 metres of water resistance. In addition, this Sinn Instrument Chronographs watch is also equipped with advanced Ar-Dehumidifying Technology. This keeps the watch from fogging up during flight missions, ensuring that the watch face remains clear and legible.


You can get your hands on this excellent aviator watch for around $3,599 USD.

3. Breitling Aviator 8 Ref. A133161A1L1X1 

front view of Breitling Aviator 8 A133161A1L1X1 watch

The last IWC Top Gun alternative we recommend is the Breitling Aviator 8 Ref. A133161A1L1X1. Over the years, Breitling has made a name for itself developing top-notch, hardy pilot watches, and the Breitling Aviator 8 Ref. A133161A1L1X1 is no different. This watch utilises a 43mm stainless steel case partnered with an alluring deep green dial and a brown fabric strap. On the right side of the case, you can find a chunky stainless steel crown along with two elongated pushers. Unlike the other timepieces on this list, this Breitling watch is fitted with a rotating bezel, which bears black indicators that count from 1 to 12. 


The military green dial of this watch has a very legible layout, consisting of slender white sword-shaped hands, Arabic numeral markers in a neat typeface, and a day-date complication at 3 o’clock. It also has three sub-dials, outlined in white and red, for the 60-second, 30-minute, and 12-hour chronograph functions. The hands and markers are coated in lume for optimal readability in the dark. Inside this Breitling Aviator 8 timepiece, you can find an in-house Calibre 13 movement. It possesses a 48-hour power supply and a depth rating of 100 metres.


The Breitling Aviator 8 Ref. A133161A1L1X1 sells at approximately $3,999 USD. 

Final Thoughts

On the whole, IWC did a great job crafting a robust and professional tool watch suited to pilots’ needs with the IWC Top Gun. Designed to handle any adverse conditions you might encounter on a tough flight, the IWC Top Gun is sleek, legible, and hardy. Along with its famous, unique Navy connections, this watch is a great choice to add to your collection.


All images are courtesy of unless otherwise stated.

Featured image courtesy of eBay.


If you are searching for the best entry-level luxury watches, spare some time to read our article about Best Entry-Level Luxury Watch: Top 10 Picks.

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