Watches & Wonders 2021 : IWC 43mm Big Pilot

THM Desk
7 Apr 2021 |
clock icon4 min read
like image
comment icon image
like image
SUMMARIZEarrow down

Quintessential modern utility sports watch, ready for adventures in the air, on land and by water. 1mm matters, especially in watchmaking. The balance between the ingenious micro-mechanics and the aesthetic. Between the form and the function. A reduction of a couple of millimeters, which to some might be totally unassuming, can send the maker back to the drawing board. One needs to tread carefully, because when you have done it successfully, the first-time round; achieving international success, which incidentally has also become your identity, boy! That is a weight on one’s shoulders.The Big Pilot’s Watch 43 (Ref. IW3293). An authentic interpretation of the iconic design, without either a date window or a power reserve display, it features a 43-millimetre stainless steel case for enhanced ergonomics and wearability.

IWC 43mm Big Pilot 2

“With the Big Pilot’s Watch 43, we have returned to the extreme purity of the original observation watch designed more than 80 years ago and created a simple three- hand watch with no other elements on the dial. Despite its reduced size, the 43-millimetre case combines a bold look with great wearing comfort,” says Christian Knoop, IWC’s Creative Director.

IWC 43mm Big Pilot 3

With its striking conical crown, strap with four rivets, and open and legible dial, no other model expresses the essence of IWC’s aviator watches like the Big Pilot’s Watch. Its uncompromising functional design, in the style of an easy-to-read cockpit instrument, was inspired by a 1940s military observation watch. The oversized crown is another detail the modern Big Pilot’s Watch shares with its historical ancestor; it originally allowed pilots to operate their watch even when wearing their padded flight gloves. Initially reintroduced in 2002 under the designation ‘Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. 5002’, the design has stayed true to its utilitarian DNA ever since, undergoing only marginal changes. A modest declaration, as marginal as it may seem to bring down a 46mm case to a 43mm, it remains a surmounting task. 

“The Big Pilot’s Watch perfectly embodies IWC’s extensive heritage and expertise in engineering rugged and reliable instruments tailored to meet the needs of elite aviators. It exemplifies how a purely functional design can transform into a cultural icon. Today, the Big Pilot’s Watch is not only one of the most recognised watch designs in the world but also an expression of a certain character and mindset,” explains Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen.

IWC 43mm Big Pilot 4

Powering the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 is the IWC- manufactured 82100 calibre. The automatic movement has been engineered with a focus on maximum precision and reliability. It features the highly efficient automatic winding system developed by Albert Pellaton, which uses the rotor’s smallest movements in either direction to wind the mainspring. Components like the automatic wheel or the pawls that mesh with it are made of virtually wear-free zirconium oxide ceramic. The manufacturing of such small ceramic parts presents a huge engineering challenge. When fully wound, the mainspring stores 60 hours of power. The movement has been elaborately decorated with circular graining and can be observed through a sapphire glass back.

IWC 43mm Big Pilot 5

The new EasX-CHANGE system has been developed with a focus on user-friendliness. It enables the wearer to quickly and easily change the strap and adapt the watch swiftly to different surroundings or activities. You can find a wide range of accessories, such as calfskin and rubber straps in attractive colours, as well as a new stainless-steel bracelet with a fine adjustment clasp system for improved comfort and ergonomics at IWC boutiques or online at A reworked case construction also ensures the watch is now water-resistant to 10 bar. With this level of versatility, the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 is the perfect companion for just about any activity or setting.

IWC 43mm Big Pilot 6

Asking Knoop, as to what was his motivation for developing the Big Pilot’s Watch 43? “After releasing so many different versions of the Big Pilot’s Watch, we were aware of this model’s iconic status. But we also realised that it has its limits when it comes to ergonomics. Many people love the design, but they cannot strap a 46-millimetre timepiece on their wrist. For this reason, we decided to complement our portfolio with a new version with a more ergonomic case size. Another aspect that intrigued us was the opportunity to return to the extreme purity of the original 1940s design and create a simple three-hand watch with no other elements on the dial. The idea of an ultra- pure Big Pilot’s Watch, without a power reserve display and a date window, had been the topic of conversations within the IWC community for many years. Personally, I always wanted to design a three-hand Big Pilot’s Watch”.