The new steel IWC Big Pilot’s Watch replica watch comes with either a traditional black dial or a more fashionable and contemporary blue variant. The big box we received at Fratello HQ contained the blue-dialed version and came with a brown and a very, very dark blue leather strap — it needs close inspection and a lot of light to discover it’s blue and not black — plus a five-link, brushed steel bracelet.
Both the blue leather strap and the bracelet were outfitted with a quick-change system so I used them both. The brown strap goes really well with the blue dial, but because the strap lacked IWC’s new EasX-CHANGE system, I stuck to the blue strap and the steel bracelet. For your information, a rubber strap with a quick release system is also available, but it wasn’t in the big box IWC sent us.
183 grams of B-Uhr
Before I tell you about my real-life experiences with the 43 mm copy IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, let’s start with a little background and historical information. All modern Big Pilot’s Watches are descendants of the Beobachtungsuhr from the 1940s. That watch was built for bomber navigators to the precise specifications of the German Aviation Ministry. The 55×16.5 mm “B-Uhr” weighed a hefty 183 grams and was made by brands such as Wempe, Stowa, A. Lange & Söhne, and IWC. The B-uhr production spanned from 1941 onwards and the watch had an onion crown for ease of use while wearing gloves, and a specially designed leather strap. With the launch of the 46.2×15.8mm Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. 5002 in 2002 high quality replica IWC re-interpreted the utilitarian B-Uhr and created a modern icon. The modern “Big Pilot” is bold, big, and can’t be overlooked — there are simply not too many sleeves under which it can hide.
The only “problem” with the modern Big Pilot is its 46.2mm case. Many love it, want it, try it and then reach the conclusion that 46mm+ is simply too big. IWC reaches out by shaving off 3.2mm. The Big Pilot’s Watch 43 still stays true to the primal B-Uhr and also looks like a close relative of the 46.2mm modern version. “With the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 we have returned to the extreme purity of the original B-Uhr designed over 80 years ago and created a simple three-hand watch with no other elements on the dial. Despite its small size, the 43-millimeter case combines a bold look with great wearing comfort,” says Christian Knoop, Creative Director of IWC, during an interactive session preceding Watches and Wonders.
Not a simple reduction
Knoop was really eager to design a new “Big Pilot” with just three hands and nothing else on the dial he explained: “The idea of a pure Swiss movement copy IWC Big Pilot’s Watch with no power reserve and a date window has been a topic of discussion in the IWC community for years. I’ve always wanted to design a new Big Pilot’s Watch with three hands. Incidentally, the watch is not a simple reduction of the large model. We have carefully reworked and improved every detail, such as the size and proportions of the case and crown, the graphic elements on the dial, and the shape of the hands.”
Magnetism is no longer a big threat
Interestingly, the soft-iron inner case to fend off disturbing magnetic fields is absent. The automatic in-house 4Hz caliber 82100 with Pellaton winding mechanism has been fortified with ceramic and silicon components making it naturally more resistant to magnetic influence.
It has a power reserve of sixty hours and comprises 192 components of which some are decorated with Côtes de Genève and perlage. How do I know? Because the movement is visible through a sapphire case back. So unlike its big brother and the original watch from eighty years ago, there’s no obstructing inner case.
I wanted to know whether this movement was entirely anti-magnetic, so I asked IWC CEO Chris Grainger-Herr. “No, the movement is not made entirely from anti-magnetic materials,” he responded. “We didn’t want to create a completely new anti-magnetic caliber, but the use of modern materials has contained the threat of magnetic disturbances sufficiently. And therefore we opted for an open case back.”
The price for black dialed Ref. IW329301 and cheap fake IWC Ref. IW329303 with the blue dial on the leather strap is €8,950. The Ref. IW329304 with blue dial and steel bracelet costs €9,950. To put that into perspective, the 46.2mm BP has a starting price of €13,300. With the BP you don’t get the date and the power reserve indicator, but I can’t say that’s insuperable. And the wearability of the BP 43 exceeds its big brother with ease. Find more information about the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 on IWC’s website.