There has been a trend towards smaller watches in recent years. This makes me happy as a watch editor with a very svelte 5.4 inch (13.8cm) wrist, and I know I’m not alone: Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of male watch enthusiasts I’ve met who have mentioned their supposedly small wrists while telling me about their favourite timepieces.
However, even with the trend towards less gargantuan timepieces, there are limits to just how much some watches can be shrunk. Some models, such as tool watches, simply look better at a certain size. Making a watch smaller and more wearable for more people isn’t just a matter of shaving off millimetres evenly everywhere.
This year, IWC effectively demonstrates how to do so with two key models from their pilot’s watch collection. The manufacture has brought down their Pilot’s Watch Chronograph and Big Pilot’s Watches from 43mm to 41mm, and 46mm to 43mm, respectively, while retaining their tough, tool-watch appeal. Recently, I had the chance to wear the new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 in steel for a few days. First introduced in 1994, the pilot’s chronograph is a long-time IWC fan favourite. Its new smaller dimension follows that of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire released in 2019.
From the get-go, I was pleasantly surprised that the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 fit me pretty comfortably once the bracelet was sized properly. It does look and feel substantial with a thickness of 14.5mm (1mm less than its predecessor, but still not slender by any means), but will fit well on most men, as well as the many female watch enthusiasts who like wearing larger timepieces.
The bracelet features IWC’s EasX-Change system, which allows it to be easily swapped for a leather or rubber strap. Aside from that, the bracelet, which features alternating brushed and polished links, is also equipped with a fine-adjustment system that lets you loosen or tighten the bracelet slightly — handy for those changes in ambient temperatures.
I wore the blue variant, but there is also a variant with an on-trend green dial (IWC’s racing green is one of the more attractive shades out there right now). Both feature a sunburst finish that makes for a handsome yet unfussy background for the crisp time and 12-hour chronograph displays. Coupled with the bracelet, the timepiece is definitely dressier than your typical tool watch, but it is still very much an everyday timepiece; this is not a watch that will allow itself to be tucked beneath a dress shirt cuff.
One of the most important updates to the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph is that it is now powered by the in-house calibre 69385 with a column-wheel chronograph, instead of a Valjoux 7750-based movement. The new self-winding movement is revealed through a display caseback, which is a feature that often makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. In order to do so, however, the brand did away with the chronograph’s previous soft-iron inner case, which means that the new model has a lower resistance to magnetic fields.
That said, the reworked case construction now has a water resistance of 100m, an improvement from the previous 60m. All in all, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 features meaningful improvements while retaining that robust, sporty look and feel that IWC fans expect, and its new versatile case size means that many more people can get to enjoy it.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph retails for S$10,800 (bracelet) or S$9,750 (calf leather strap).