Lovers of ceramic watches – and all things military – will appreciate the four new Top Gun Pilot’s Watch models introduced by IWC at Watches and Wonders earlier this month. They represent two of the brand’s specialties: military pilot’s watches and ceramic case technology. Two of the debuts are Top Gun Chronographs in new colors – Woodlands (green) and Lake Tahoe (white) – both with 44.5mm ceramic cases. The other two are black models: the Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Ceratanium chronograph with a 41mm case made of black Ceratanium (which combines ceramic with titanium); and the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Top Gun, made of black zirconium oxide ceramic.
The Woodlands and Lake Tahoe Top Guns were inspired by military colors. Lake Tahoe is a training area near Lake Tahoe where the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (known as Top Gun) conducts winter training in the snowy mountains around the lake. The Woodlands green color was inspired by the pilots’ green flight suits.
“Top Gun, when we launched it in 2007, was meant to be the more contemporary, performance-oriented model in the Pilot’s Watches collection,” says IWC chief design officer Christian Knoop. This year we wanted to do two things with the line: emphasize the fact that we have a strong legacy in manufacturing professional watches; and demonstrate our know-how in the area of ceramic technology. We introduced our first black and white zirconium oxide ceramic watches back in 1986, so this has a strong history in the brand.” Making ceramic cases is not an easy process. Each color is the result of a unique formula and manufacturing process. Zirconium oxide is combined with other metallic oxides to give the ceramic its color. Each shade requires different raw materials and a distinct mixing ratio. The manufacturing process also dictates specific conditions, including temperature and duration of the sintering process, which also must be adapted according to each color. “We do watches for the most elite fast jet pilots in the world, which includes the U.S. Navy Top Gun pilots. But the colors are not only speaking to pilots, but also to a larger lifestyle-inspired clientele who just appreciate the watch for the luxury aspect and the quality and the stunning color effects we are capable of doing.” Although the IWC Top Gun is a pilot’s watch collection, it is a Navy-focused watch, designed for carrier-based aircraft, the kind of planes that take off and land on ships. “Taking off and landing on a carrier is one of the most dramatic and most challenging situations,” says Knoop. “So therefore, the Navy training is much more elaborate.”
The new Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium is the first 41mm Chronograph in the collection with case, pushers and a crown made of Ceratanium. The proprietary alloy, combining ceramic with titanium, makes for a case that is lightweight, highly scratch-resistant and has an interesting dark and slightly metallic shade of black. The IWC- manufactured chronograph caliber 69385 movement is visible through the tinted sapphire glass caseback.
The new all-ceramic version of the Top Gun Big Pilot’s Watch, has a 43mm titanium case, and is powered by a movement, the caliber 82100, that also has ceramic components. These include components that are subject to particularly high stress, such as the automatic wheel and the clicks.
“When it comes to professional watches, we have been doing those since 1915, when we did the first observation watches for the Royal Navy,” says Knoop. “We also did the famous Mark 11 watches for the Royal Air Force, and the Ocean 2000 Bund for the German mine sweeper divers in the 1980s. For Top Gun, we have established a strong cooperation with the U.S. Navy, working with the Top Gun flight program and all the students graduating from that program in various squadrons from the U.S. Navy all around the world.” IWC has a dedicated military program, offering exclusive pieces and additions to professional pilots. The introductions featured here, however, are commercially available. The Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Lake Tahoe and Woodlands are $10,700 – each is limited to 1,000 pieces. The Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Ceratanium is $12,600, and the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Top Gun in black ceramic is $10,300.