IWC Schaffhausen reinvigorates their Pilot’s Collection with a new exceptional piece inspired by the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor pieces. The new wristwatch, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI” is manufactured using black ceramic and Ceratanium. The watches are created to withstand the harsh conditions and requirements of the military flights.
The Pilot watches are subject the extremely dynamic and heavy conditions. The first, and not very obvious issues are the shocks received in the cockpit. In a fighter jet, the pilots are in a continuous movement in the cockpit. During “dogfighting” (an aerial battle between fighter aircrafts conducted at close range), the pilots need to constantly look at the sky in all directions. Their last worry is to be careful and protect the watch from the all-metal cockpit. The watch is often hit to the canopy and surrounding metal parts.
Another unforgetful stress is caused by the long exposure to the increased “G”- forces, characteristic to high-speed combat jets. As an example, an F18 fighter jet exercise 7.5G for an extensive time, an F16 could pull 9G. The exposure last normally up to 20 or 30 seconds and extremely up to 45 seconds or one minute. In this time, the components need to withstand up to the ten times the normal stress. It is crucial the watch does not fell apart, moreover it is keeping its precision.
And the stress does not stop here. The watches are under continuous environmental change: the humidity, the temperature and the pressure are fluctuating rapidly and sometimes brutal.
This combination of stress factors is met by each flight. Each of these watches faces in a flight what a normal civilian watch might not see in its entire lifetime. The pilot watches are some of the toughest watches around.
When in-house product testing does not cover everything
IWC Schaffhausen has an entire test facility to make sure the watches fulfil the requirements and can withstand the hard condition that will be met during their service. One of the tests consists in putting the watch in different orientation while a 5000 G hummer hits it. This test not only reveals the movement robustness but also shows if dial elements, like the applied indexes or hands, are not affected by a direct hit.
Other test consists of using climatic chambers with extreme cold and extreme heat to simulate the unfriendly temperatures and temperature changes. The luminous material is also tested using UV light to be sure that the stability of the lume colour and intensity is maintained. Even if it is a pilot’s watch, the Top Gun is testes extensively for water resistance.
On the mechanical side, the pushers are rigorously tested to simulate the entire lifespan. The IWC pilot watches are designed to last several decades, so the testing environment might look extreme but does not cover all the disturbing factors that these watches can meet. IWC tests simulate a 10-20 years hard life of a product. That is why it is very important to receive input and feedback from the pilots. When a new product is created, both parts, IWC and the pilots are working together to bring the experience of the watch manufacturer and the experience of the test pilot.
When nothing else is working…
The mechanical pilot watches are still relevant as the ultimate back plan. The watch does not rely on external or internal power, the winding is done even during the flight exercises. So good legibility in any light conditions, robustness, reliability and precision are making from a pilot’s watch the ultimate back-up tool and help.
Review IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “STFI”
The Top Gun Edition “STFI” is manufactured in black zirconium oxide ceramic. It is one hardest substance on earth, extremely scratch-resistant and its stealthy black colour is totally anti-reflective
The 44mm watch presents a “tactical” matte black design. This finish is met also at the crown, pushers and even the screwed in case back that are manufactured in Ceratanium®. This material is an IWC proprietary material manufactured in a two-step process. The Ceratanium it is forged in the USA and then the Schaffhausen facilities machines and fire the material. In this way, the brand is in complete control. The choice of materials avoids all the issues caused by using materials with, obvious different properties (dilatation coefficient, chemical factors, physical properties).
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI” features a black and white sober dial. The layout put the chronograph minutes counter on top of the dial with the 12 hours counter on the left. The lower side of the dial presents one of the two coloured elements, the red hand running seconds. The right side of the dial balances with the printed name of the brand and two apertures revelling the day and the date.
The central chronograph hand is ended with a red counterbalance representing a fighter jet. These two red details sweeten the sobriety and seriousness of the tool watch.
Calibre IWC 69380
The manufacture calibre is part of the 96000 family, introduced in 2016. The movement is used in other IWC Pilot’s watches, like the Spitfire but also in the IWC Ingenieur and the IWC Portugieser. The movement was designed and produced in-house with the help of Richemont’s Group sister company ValFleurier.
The calibre IWC 69380 is an automatic wound movement with a power reserve of 46 hours. The balance wheel operates at the modern standard of 4Hz. An interesting feature is the soft-iron inner case, that protects the movement against the magnetic fields – an important features for the modern pilot’s watches.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI” is a beautiful pilot’s watch. A classic layout with a lovely red touch, the SFTI is a serious tool for those who need it and a nice watch for enthusiasts. A complex team of developers and pilots have worked together to deliver the ultimate watch.
I did enjoy it in my hands and on my wrist. It wears quite good, being quite satisfied with its look and feel on my 18.5cm 7.2-inch wrist. The movement behaves well by winding and setting. The pushers have a robust and precise feel. The 20mm lugs width green textile strap goes gently around the wrist, being solid but not very stiff.
At almost 10k, the watch is not quite a cheap watch, but the look and its set of features make it attractive for fans and enthusiasts.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “STFI” Technical Specifications
- Mechanical chronograph movement
- Date and day display
- Chronograph function for hours, minutes and seconds
- Small hacking seconds
- Soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields
- Screw-in crown
- Glass secured against displacement by drop in air pressure
- IWC-manufactured calibre 69380
- Frequency: 28,800 vph / 4 Hz
- Jewels: 33
- Power reserve: 46 h
- Winding Automatic
- Ceramic case,
- Ceratanium® case back, crown and pushers,
- Black dial, black hands,
- Green textile strap
- Antireflective coating on both sides
- Water-resistant: 6 bar
- Diameter: 44 mm
- Height: 15.7 mm
- CHF 9’900 / 9.550 € (Germany) / £8,550 / US$9,150 / S$14,100 / ￥1,188,000 (Japan) / CN￥75,200 (China)