IWC’s Timezoner Spitfire “The Longest Flight” Takes Flight

Putting A Pilot’s Watch To Good Use, IWC’s Timezoner Spitfire “The Longest Flight” Takes Flight

It’s chocks away as IWC backs a Spitfire’s round-the-world record attempt. The mirror-polished fighter plane will visit 30-plus countries and cover 27,000 miles in its bid to become the first Spitfire to circumnavigate the globe.

By Simon de Burton

To an Englishman, there are few words more evocative than 'Spitfire.' The name of the celebrated fighter plane that played a key role in winning the Battle of Britain and World War II. Since its first flight in 1936, the Spitfire has become synonymous with bravery, determination, decency, and freedom. But you don't need to be English to be moved by the sight of a Spitfire's distinctive and beautiful silhouette passing across an open sky to the soundtrack of its mighty 12-cylinder, 27-litre Merlin engine. You can bet that emotions will run high on August 18 when a gleaming, mirror-polished Spitfire that completed a remarkable 51 combat missions during WWII takes to the skies on the first leg of a round-the-world flight sponsored by 'Spitfire' watchmaker IWC.

The Silver Spitfire will be flown in rotation by pilots Steve Boultbee Brooks and Matt Jones between more than 30 countries and across some of the world's most significant landmarks, from the Grand Canyon in the west to Mount Fuji in the east. If successful, the 27,000 mile, four-month trip will enter the record books as the first global circumnavigation by a Spitfire, a plane originally designed to undertake short-haul combat missions.


The Silver Spitfire is an MKIX model that was delivered from the Castle Bromwich factory in 1943 before serving with UK-based RAF squadrons. The plane was originally based in locations including Detling in Kent and Ford in Sussex where, in May 1944, she suffered damage from a 'wheels-up' landing. Once repaired, MJ271 ended-up in the Netherlands with the Canadian pilots of the 401 squadron with whom she carried-out no fewer than ten dive-bombing raids before being declared 'over-stressed' in December 1944 and removed from active service.

For more than 70 years, the aircraft was kept mothballed by the Royal Netherlands Air Force before being taken over by Brooks, a property developer, explorer and record-breaking pilot who co-founded the Goodwood-based Boultbee Flight Academy. He joined with Jones almost a decade ago to buy a two-seat Spitfire at auction. A plane in which more than 2,000 people have since flown.


The Silver Spitfire is currently at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire where it is in the final stages of being fully restored and modified with the addition of extra fuel tanks before making its first shake-down flights in April, after which it will be used to promote the round-the-world attempt. The expedition will largely be financed by sponsorship, with IWC being the main backer.

"We came into contact with Steve and Matt through our association with Goodwood as a partner of the annual Member's Meeting," IWC CEO Christophe Grainger-Herr told Watchonista.

"Someone mentioned the fact that the Boultbee Flight Academy was based at Goodwood aerodrome, so we went along to take a look - and when we saw what they were doing and heard about the proposed record attempt, it immediately became obvious that this was something we had to become part of. It perfectly represents IWC's spirit of adventure and our aviation roots and, of course, is a natural fit with our pilot watches and our Spitfire line in particular."


To mark the record attempt, IWC has produced a special 'Longest Flight' edition of its Timezoner model, examples of which will be worn by Brooks and Jones during the adventure.

The stainless-steel case, black dial, and green textile strap echo the finishes of a Spitfire cockpit - but the movement powering the watch is interesting in its own right, since it features IWC's ingenious 'Timezoner' mechanism.

Developed from the 2003 invention of entrepreneur Mike Vogt and originally launched under the 'Vogard' dial name. The system makes it possible to instantly adjust the watch to display the time in any one of 24 different zones around the world simply by twisting the engraved bezel until the chosen destination is displayed at the 12 o'clock position - and there's no loss of accuracy.

The case back, meanwhile, is decorated with an outline of a Spitfire above a stylised globe, the words 'Silver Spitfire - The Longest Flight' and the relevant edition number.

Just 250 examples of the $12,400 USD watch will be available - so even those that haven't circumnavigated the world in a Spitfire cockpit are likely to become collector's pieces. 

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