IWC is probably not the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of ceramic watches, but this year, the brand is highlighting its expertise in the lightweight and scratch-resistant high-tech material. It all started in the 1980s with the launch of the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (Ref. 3755), which was made from black zirconium oxide ceramic. The brand has since offered several ceramic timepieces in different colours and in recent years, the material has been used in the Pilot’s Watch family, mostly for Top Gun models.
One of our recent favourites was the sand-coloured ceramic case of the Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”, with its stealth-with-a-twist look inspired by the Mojave Desert, home to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, a major US Navy installation. This year, IWC completes the collection with two new 44.5 Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun models — one in Woodland Green (a dark olive green) and Lake Tahoe White (a crisp white). The colours are inspired by the training grounds and uniforms of the US naval aviators IWC works with for its Top Gun editions.
Recently, I had the chance to go hands on with these timepieces for a couple of days, and between the two, my aesthetic preference is for the Woodland version. Its olive green was inspired by the flight suits of naval aviators, and the case colour is so deep that under certain light, it can look almost like a dark grey.
The colour extends to the rest of the watch — the dial, hands, rubber strap and its textile inlay, and lume. IWC apparently worked with colour experts Pantone to ensure that Woodland Green translated accurately across other components made from other materials. The numerals and hour markers are printed in a lighter colour, while the pushers and caseback are made of matte black Ceratanium (IWC’s ceramic-infused titanium alloy). It comes with a rubber strap with a textile inlay and a pin buckle.
While I have never quite been a fan of white watches — they’re just sooo summer vacation — the Lake Tahoe White piece has a pleasing crispness. This snowy palette is inspired by the winter landscape around Lake Tahoe, which is located near Naval Air Station Fallon, home to the US Navy’s Top Gun school. It comes with a white rubber strap with a folding clasp.
The pitch-black dial — including its black chronograph and seconds counters — helps to tone down the brightness of the case a tad, even while it provides a strong contrast to the white elements. This might just be the one to win over those who have been intrigued by white watches but found many of the other options too country club-bish. And of course, who doesn’t like it when the background of the date displays matches the colour of the dial, as it does here, in both editions?
Both models are powered by the Calibre 69380, a robust in-house movement with a column-wheel chronograph. A soft-iron inner case protects the movement from being magnetised, and the watch has a solid caseback that bears a Top Gun logo. A fighter pilot-specific detail is that the glass is secured to withstand sudden drops in air pressure.
What I like best about the ceramic Top Gun chronographs is that the lightweight case material makes them a lot easier to wear than a similarly sized chronograph in steel. Even though these are relatively large watches — 44.5mm in diameter and 15.7mm in thickness — the ceramic case helps to keep them comfortable for long wearing periods, if your wrist is large enough to wear it, that is.
For someone with small wrists like myself, the 41mm Pilot’s Watch Chronograph launched last year is definitely a better fit. However, for those who like and can wear their watches large and sporty, but don’t necessarily want to feel that weight throughout the day, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun models in ceramic are definitely options they should consider.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “Woodland” and IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “Lake Tahoe” retail for S$15,900 each.