The IWC Pilot’s Chronograph line is probably both the quintessential chronograph design for the brand and maybe the current leader in the watch industry when it comes to that specific style of watch. If I close my eyes and picture a “pilot’s chronograph,” my mind immediately goes to IWC, with an overwhelming number of options of size, case material, and color in the brand’s lineup. Now IWC has one more option, and while it’s a Pilot’s Chronograph in name, I’ll let you be the judge. Introducing the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 AMG, and the IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team. These watches should look and feel familiar to you in an “uncanny valley” sort of way. That’s because IWC has taken the 41mm platform of chronograph (with vertical subdial layout, day, and date and IWC-manufactured 69385 calibre movement) and packaged it with an external black ceramic bezel. These new “Performance Chronograph” models are technically still slotted in the pilot lineup, which is an odd choice considering they’re distinctly racing-inspired and co-branded (to varying degrees) with the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team that IWC has worked with so closely in the past. So is it even really a pilot’s watch anymore? The basic model Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 AMG comes in titanium on a rubber strap (for $9,800) or titanium bracelet with not a huge upcharge ($11,700). The mouthful that is the IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team takes it to another level with brand’s proprietary Ceratanium alloy on a rubber strap for $13,700 or, with a big jump in price, on Ceratanium bracelet for $19,900. The bracelet options instantly makes these watches sportier than most pilot chronographs from IWC, and a Ceratanium bracelet is a premium feature reserved for only a few releases in the past. But that’s not the design feature that stands out most to me. There are a number of other minute features that make a big impact on why these watches feel familiar and yet somehowvery different. The dials are glossy instead of the matte finish you otherwise get from IWC pilot chronographs. They also feature more dramatically sunken subdials with a sloped rim around each, making them stand out more and adding dimensionality you didn’t get before in the lineup. The Ceratanium model also features the touches of Petronas Blue we’ve seen on other limited releases with the team in the past. All of this comes just in time for the Las Vegas Grand Prix next weekend.
You might know where I come down on these watches – or at least part of my thoughts. You’d have a hard time convincing me these are pilot’s chronographs. However, I think this could be the start of something spectacular for IWC because this new design is pretty freaking awesome. My undying love for a blacked-out watch is well-documented at Hodinkee, and this new IWC Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team watch with the pops of teal – I mean Petronas Blue – is the standout for me. The contrast of the white indices and white markers on the tachymeter is pretty fantastic, and the bracelet in Ceratanium looks tough and bold. The rest of the specs are the same as the other 41mm pilot chronographs (14.8mm thick, IWC caliber 69385 with 46 hours of power reserve, 100 meters of water resistance, etc.), which have my favorite form factor from IWC.
But all that is sort of beside the point. The reconfiguration of the design language from the dial to the bezel feels like a new start to me. While a tachymeter bezel might just be superfluous to 99% of users, it’s a requirement if you’re making a real racing watch. Now, looking back on IWC’s release of their old AMG Petronas F1 watch, it looks silly that they even did a watch without a tachymeter in the first place. But that’s a pilot’s watch. This, well… this is something different, something cool, and in my mind, it’s a brave new world for IWC.