IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 IW510301

This, the IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 IW510301, is the closest that IWC has come to a re-edition of its classic 1940 pilot’s watch 52-Calibre T.S.C. The Heritage Watch is 48 mm in diameter, compared to the 55 mm of the 1940s 52-Calibre T.S.C. and the new Heritage Watch 55. Its size and appearance makes it one of the most authentic wearable pilot’s watches on the market today (55 mm is only really practical if you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger or if you wear it outside a flying suit, as was the case in the day).

IWC have decided to retain some of the features of the 52-Calibre T.S.C. and change some others (a comparison with the historic watch can be seen at the bottom of this page). The most significant change is the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock which was not part of the 1940 watch, in which T.S.C. was an abbreviation for Tirette Seconde Centrale. IWC Creative Director Christian Knoop says that this was a positive decision on the part of the design team, that there is no point in creating a watch identical to a historical precedent. I would suspect that the decision was based on the movement used in the watch, the in-house hand-wound IWC 59215 (also used in the lovely Portugieser Hand-Wound 75th Anniversary IW510205 and IW510206 watches), which has the seconds in that position. IWC decided to keep the soft-iron inner case that provides a degree of resistance to magnetic fields, but also obscures the view of the movement. So there is a solid caseback, with just a small window for the power reserve indicator. Power reserve is exceptionally good at 8 days, 192 hours, with a system that automatically stops the balance after 192 hours, before the watch’s precision begins to suffer from the reduction in torque.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 IW510301 caseback

IWC don’t state what sort of protection is provided by their soft-iron inner case. I would guess that the watch complies with the DIN 8309 requirements for anti-magnetic watches, namely a change in rate not exceeding +/- 30 seconds per day after exposure to a field of 1,000 gauss. This can be compared to Omega’s anti-magnetic technology based on the use of materials that are not affected by magnetism, in which the watch can withstand fields of 15,000 gauss without suffering any temporary or permanent changes in rate. I personally would have preferred to see the beautiful IWC 59215 movement as in the Portugieser Anniversary piece shown below.

Portugieser Hand-Wound 8 Days Edition 75th Anniversary IW510206

The Portugieser Hand-Wound 8 Days Edition 75th Anniversary IW510206, with the IWC 59215 calibre

The other major difference between the historic IWC pilot’s watch and the Heritage 48 is that the latter has a date window. This is provided by the IWC 59215 movement and so IWC decided to place it on the dial, albeit subtly as part of the small seconds subdial. I think the watch would have been better without it, but that’s just my own personal opinion.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 IW510301

The crown is beautiful, and I’m sure it offers a rewarding tactile experience when winding the watch. It is screw-in, contributing to the 6 bar (60 metres) water resistance, and it has a friction clutch so that even if you continue winding after the mainspring has been fully wound, you can’t damage the movement. It also provides the stop-second function for precision setting. Another characteristic typical of pilot’s watches has been retained: the watchglass is secured against drops in external air pressure.

The dial is pure pilot’s: black, with propeller-shaped hands in blued steel, coated in luminescent beige SuperLuminova also used for the Arabic numerals and the triangle at 12 o’clock.

The case is in titanium, 48 mm in diameter and 14.5 mm thick, with a brown calfskin strap and a titanium pin buckle. The use of this lightweight metal reduces the 183 grams of the 55mm historic model to a more manageable 120 grams. It’s a lovely piece, but if it had had a central seconds hand and a sapphire caseback, it would have been one of my perfect pilot’s watches.

Price and reference

The price of the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48, reference IW510301, a limited edition of 1,000, is €15,200 incl. tax, £10,500 incl. VAT. The watch will be available from October 2016.

Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch, 55, reference IW510401, Big Pilot’s Watch, 52-calibre T.S.C.

Comparison between the Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55, reference IW510401, and the 1940 Big Pilot’s Watch, 52-calibre T.S.C.

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