Our Favorite IWC Pilot’s Watches

Our Favorite IWC Pilot’s Watches

| 02.22.24

The International Watch Company, founded in Schaffhausen, Switzerland in 1868, has become synonymous with the pilot’s watch — and with good reason.

In 1936, the maison launched its Spezialuhr für Flieger, or ‘Special Pilot’s Watch,’ establishing an aesthetic and functionality that continues to define its Pilot’s Watch collections today. In 1940, I.W.C. became one of five manufacturers to build B-Ühren timepieces for the German Luftwaffe — oversized, 52mm watches with highly legible dials and central seconds hands. Following the Second World War, the company was contracted, along with Jaeger-LeCoultre, to produce watches for the British military. The resultant Mark XI, with its anti-magnetic inner cage and Calibre 89 hand-wound movement, would go on to form the bases of generations of IWC time-only and time-and-date pilot’s watches.

Having survived the Quartz Crisis and several changes in management and ownership, IWC began producing a ceramic pilot’s chronograph in the 1990s, the Reference 3705. In the 2000s, its Big Pilot became the standard for large tool watches, famously beloved of dedicated collectors around the world. In the 2010s, the brand established a new manufacture in Schaffhausen, where it continues to experiment with new materials such as Ceratanium, building pilot’s watches in compelling colors such as blue and khaki — and even from precious metals.

With true military watch roots and unparalleled savoir-faire, the International Watch Company has mastered the art of the pilot’s watch. At Analog:Shift, we keep a wide array of time-only, time-and-date, and chronograph models available for all wrist sizes and tastes. Check out some of our favorites below, and be sure to reach out to us if you’re searching for a specific model you don’t see here. 

IWC Pilot’s Chronograph ($3,750)

IWC Pilot's Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

Dating to the 2010s, this version of the Pilot’s Chronograph brings tremendous value due to its use of the IWC Calibre 79320, which is based upon the workhorse Valjoux 7750. (Current IWC production uses in-house movements.) Measuring 43mm, it’s a large watch, but its stark dial offers day, date, and triple-register chronograph functionality in addition to the time. Paired to a matching steel bracelet, it’s a modern, easy-wearing pilot’s watch of the highest caliber. 

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII ($3,990)

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII - IN THE SHOP

While most pilot’s watches — nay, most tool watches in general — feature black dials, this playful version of the Mark XVIII is satin white with printed black ‘Arabic’ indices. Well sized at 40mm and powered by IWC's Calibre 30110 (ETA 2824-2) movement, it comes paired to a signed, black leather strap and includes its factory goodies. Wear it in the air, wear it on the town — wherever you wear it, you’ll be flying in style. 

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX ($4,600)

 IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XX - IN THE SHOP

An evolution of the maison’s famed Mark XI pilot’s watch from 1948, the Mark XX adds a date function, upsizes the case to 40mm, and simplifies the aesthetics somewhat, opting for a plainer black and white design. Automatic and featuring a closed caseback, it’s a tool watch through and through, with a brushed, non-reflective case that should help you fly under the radar. (It also includes its factory goodies and IWC-signed, black leather strap.)

IWC Fleigerchronograph ($4,700)

IWC Fleigerchronograph - IN THE SHOP

The 1990s were an awesome time for IWC’s tool watch collections, and this Fliegerchronograph is a case in point: Housed in a 39mm stainless steel case and powered by the legendary Valjoux 7750 movement, it features pump pushers and a handset borrowed from the legendary Mark XI. Wonderfully sized and completely unpretentious, it’s a pilot’s watch for the ages. (Its day-date display happens to be supremely useful during day-to-day wear, too.) 

IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire Bronze ($4,700) 

IWC Pilot's Watch Automatic Spitfire Bronze - IN THE SHOP

The Spitfire collection adds a playful spin on IWC’s classic pilot’s watch models. The Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire Bronze, in particular, takes the brand’s time-and-date pilot’s watch and reframes it within a bronze case, which takes on a wonderful patina over time. Combined with a matte-green dial and the brand’s automatic Calibre 32110 movement, it looks like it could’ve been dug up in some kind of horologically-themed archaeological dig. 

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Spitfire ($7,200)

IWC Big Pilot's Watch 43 Spitfire - IN THE SHOP

This oversized model from the Spitfire collection comes closest to the “flieger” aesthetic of watches made for German forces during the Second World War: The double scale, with five-minute intervals on the periphery and ‘Arabic’ numerals 1-12 on an inner ring, is a calling card of that style. Add in an ‘onion’ crown, ‘sword’ hands and a thick leather strap, and you’ve nailed a classic pilot’s watch look. 

IWC Big Pilot ($9,000)

 IWC Big Pilot - IN THE SHOP

In the 2000s, the Big Pilot took on legendary status. Its huge 46mm case, ‘onion’ crown, and stark dial cut a powerful figure, while a 7-day power reserve indicator and date window at 6 o’clock lend welcome utility. While not everyone can pull off a case this large, those who can will be rewarded with knowing nods from serious collectors and fans of the brand. (Plus, it’s so darn legible you could conceivably see the dial from space!) 

IWC Pilot’s Chronograph Top Gun ‘Oceana’ ($13,000)

IWC Pilot's Chronograph Top Gun 'Oceana' - IN THE SHOP

Ever since its Reference 3705 hit the market in the 1990s, IWC has been a leader in developing tool watches made from ceramics and other advanced materials. This contemporary version of its Pilot’s Chronograph, a Top Gun ‘Oceana’ variant, uses a blue ceramic case, a matching blue dial, and a blue rubber strap for maximum aquatic vibes. The in-house IWC Calibre 69380, meanwhile, powers a triple-register chronograph with day-date display. 

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph ‘Tribute to 3705’ ($13,950)

IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph 'Tribute to 3705' - IN THE SHOP

Speaking of the original 3705, this ‘Tribute to 3705’ takes the ‘90s original and gives it a marked improvement — a housing made out of the brand’s proprietary Ceratanium material, which combines the properties of ceramic and titanium. With its Mark XI-inspired handset, in-house Calibre 69380 movement, and stark black colorway, it’s about as stealthy as a pilot’s watch can get. Furthermore, it’s limited to just 1,000 pieces worldwide — making it extremely rare.

IWC Pilot’s Chronograph 41 ($15,400)

IWC Pilot's Chronograph 41 - IN THE SHOP

Looking for an elevated take on the Pilot’s Chronograph aesthetic? How about this 41mm model in solid rose gold — outfitted with a green dial and a green rubber strap, it’s certainly unusual, but also handsome and compelling. And if you’d like a look at the IWC's Calibre 69385 automatic-winding chronograph movement powering it, just flip it over, where a sapphire caseback reveals the horological party happening within the case.