A Very Special IWC Watch For MR PORTER’s 10th Birthday

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A Very Special IWC Watch For MR PORTER’s 10th Birthday

Words by Mr Chris Hall

3 May 2021

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been into watches or how many you’ve owned, taking delivery of a new one is a special moment. Maybe you’ve tried it on before. Perhaps you’ve been flirting with it for years before taking the plunge. Or there’s a chance you’ve only seen it in videos and pictures. In any case, as you open the packaging for the first time and see it there, perched on its little cushion, that’s the moment you should find a wide grin cracking across your face.

Imagine, then, the feeling when you unbox a watch that literally has your name on it – something you’ve had a say in designing, and that you’ve been eagerly anticipating for more than a year. That’s how we feel at MR PORTER every time we collaborate on a limited-edition partnership watch, and the buzz never gets old. In fact, this year – starting with the IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Chronograph you see here – our horological collaborations take on special significance as we celebrate our 10th anniversary. You’ll have to wait until a little later in 2021 to find out what else we have up our sleeve, but we’re incredibly proud to kick things off with this: a 110-piece run of individually numbered Pilot’s Chronographs like no other in IWC’s range.

For our first collaboration together, it immediately made sense to create a Pilot’s watch. IWC, which has been making watches in Schaffhausen on the banks of the Rhine since 1868, is overly blessed with iconic designs – the Portugieser, the Ingenieur, the Da Vinci. But when all’s said and done, 80 years of aviation wristwatch history, dating back to its “Special Watch For Pilots” in 1936, can’t be ignored. As the brand’s creative director Mr Christian Knoop says, “We offer everything from 36mm to 46mm, from a £3,500 automatic up to a £200,000 constant force tourbillon, and aesthetically, everything from a razor-sharp Top Gun ceramic watch to the poetic Petit Prince editions.”

That sense of versatility was fundamental to the partnership: just as IWC’s family of Pilot’s watches has evolved from a basic tool-watch template to span the entire watchmaking spectrum, so our collaboration represents something that’s clearly descended from a functional, practical, hard-wearing staple but comes dressed for a sophisticated, urbane world. In short, it’s the most personal, tactile and, dare we say it, sartorial take on the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph so far.

A huge part of that stems from the decision to work with a bronze-cased chronograph. “I was personally very much pushing for bronze,” says Knoop. “It’s something we launched in 2014 for the first time on an Aquatimer, but I find that bronze watch fits the Pilot’s much better, with this very pure and clean case shape. What people like with bronze is that it’s a material that develops a very individual patina, that ages with you and really changes over time.”

IWC’s bronze alloy, which contains aluminium and zinc as well as the necessary copper and tin, boasts better-than-average surface hardness and scratch-resistance, as well as a high grade of bio-compatibility (meaning it cannot form harmful oxides like some raw bronze alloys). The solid case back is titanium, chosen for its hypoallergenic properties, and this is where you’ll find the numbered limited-edition engraving.

Not that this is the only sign you’re wearing a rare watch – naturally, you’ll have noticed the subtle bronze-toned printing for the dial, as well as the day and date indicators, and the standout white luminous hands. It’s a combination that, up close, really pops. This provides an emphatic contrast between the tactile, subdued case and the stark clarity of the hands, something that will further develop over time as the bronze takes on its own hue. And on the subject of SuperLumiNova, the dial holds a little “secret” touch: a luminous number “10” to mark this special anniversary.

There is another reason we’ve talked so much about texture and a certain sartorial sensibility, of course: the strap. This is the first IWC watch ever to be offered on an Alcantara suede strap, and in our opinion it transforms the character of the entire watch. On the wrist, it’s a brilliant pairing with the bronze case – both have a softness to them and a matte finish that contribute to an overall sense of warmth without ever being flashy. It’s fastened with a simple pin buckle, also in bronze.

In line with IWC’s Pilot’s Spitfire Chronograph – and the newly announced Pilot’s Chronograph – the case measures 41mm across and 15.3mm thick. It’s enough wrist presence for a watch whose roots are firmly anchored in practicality, but not so large that it can’t be worn with a wide range of outfits. Inside is IWC’s Calibre 69380 column-wheel chronograph movement, a 46-hour automatic beating at 28,800 vph, and the watch is rated water-resistant to 60m.

Since MR PORTER began in 2011, the world of watches has undergone extensive change. Watch designs today are more likely than ever to cross the divide between formal and casual; more concerned with the overall “package”, from pin-buckle to pinion, spring bar to hairspring, and perhaps most importantly of all, aware of the personal, individual appeal that a watch can have.

When we look at this Pilot’s Chronograph, at its use of materials (bronze in particular, but also the attention paid to wearability and strap choice), the focus on creative uses of LumiNova, and the readiness to branch out in terms of dial colours – not to mention the importance of in-house watchmaking and a mid-sized case – IWC has created a watch that completely represents the past decade in watchmaking.

No time like the present