IWC Introduces Three New Ceramic Models Inspired By U.S. Navy Pilot Squadrons

IWC Introduces Three New Ceramic Models Inspired By U.S. Navy Pilot Squadrons

For the first time, civilians can take flight with IWC’s new trio of chronographs in its Pilot’s Watches collection called the “Royal Maces,” “Tophatters,” and “Blue Angels.”

By Rhonda Riche

Hot on the heels of the launch of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition “Laureus Sport for Good,” the Schaffhausen-based manufacture has just announced three new ceramic chronographs inspired by U.S. Navy Pilot squadrons. And like the Laureus, the look of these limited editions is bound to generate a lot of conversation.

The quick take is that IWC embracing the use of ceramic in its Pilot’s watches is a good thing. The brand may not be pioneers of the material, but it has recognized that ceramic’s tough, lightweight properties are perfect for a watch that’s going to get knocked around a bit. Moreover, IWC has also managed to adapt the unique finish of ceramic to its legendary Pilot’s Watch in a way that almost reinvents its signature style.

Add this to a trio of timepieces decorated with the patches of famous U.S. Navy squadrons – the “Royal Maces,” “Tophatters,” and “Blue Angels” – and you’ve got a collection of chronographs that take flight.

Tour of Duty

We may be more than a century into the age of flight, but the ability of humans to soar through the air is still thrilling because flying suggests the possibility of adventure. And IWC has been collaborating with flyboys and girls since engineering its first Pilot’s Watch 85 years ago.

But military pilots are a rare breed. They must balance acts of daring with precision maneuvers. So, over the years, the brand has consulted pilots to assess their specific needs and requirements to develop mil-spec service watches such as the Mark 11 for the British Royal Air Force.

Since 2018, IWC has been licensed to work on watches for the entire U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviation units. That includes 247 active and 100 inactive squadrons. IWC has also teamed up with more than a dozen squadrons to create special editions exclusively available to present and former members.

“The IWC military program is an important platform for our engineers and designers to exchange ideas with elite pilots from the U.S. Navy and other armed forces around the world,” said IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr. “These pilots put our watches to the test every day in the harsh environment of the jet cockpit. Their feedback is invaluable for us not only to improve the quality and durability of our timepieces but also to create unique and appealing designs.

So, unsurprisingly, what’s most compelling about these new watches are the squadrons they represent:

Stationed at Marine Corp Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, the Strike Fighter Squadron 27 (VFA-27), also known as the “Royal Maces,” forms part of Carrier Air Wing 5 airstrike and flies F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft.

Formed in 1919, Strike Fighter Squadron 14 (VFA-14) – aka the “Tophatters” – is the Navy’s oldest active squadron and is stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.

Formed in 1946 and made up of 141 members from the Navy and Marines, the “Blue Angels” U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is the second oldest formal aerobatic team in the world (the Patrouille Acrobatique de France, founded in 1931, being the oldest).

Now, with the launch of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces,” “Tophatters,” and “Blue Angels,” IWC is making these commemorative designs – each limited to 500 pieces per year – available to non-pilots for the first time.

Patched In

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces” (Ref. IW389107) was inspired by a military-exclusive edition that IWC originally developed with and for members of the VFA-27 Squadron. Thus, the dial features the “Maces” patch positioned at 6 o’clock.

To honor the unit’s signature colors, it also has a yellow day-date indication, a yellow-tipped central chronograph seconds hand, and a yellow small seconds hand. Can guess the color of the stitching on the strap?

Of course, these pops of color play off nicely against the black dial and black zirconium oxide ceramic case. With the pushers and the crown are made of Ceratanium, the caseback is made of light as air grade 5 titanium and features an engraving of the squadron’s F/A-18E Super Hornet jet next to the official squadron denomination “VFA-27.”

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tophatters” (Ref. IW389108) also proudly displays the squadron’s signature top hat emblem at 6 o’clock on the black dial and engraved on the titanium caseback. The rest of the watch is cased in black zirconium oxide ceramic.

The chronograph pushers and the crown are also Ceratanium – a material developed by IWC to be as light and durable as titanium while also having ceramic’s hard and scratch-resistant properties. And as a tribute to the team’s colors, the day-date display, tip of the central chronograph seconds hand, the small seconds hand, and the stitching on the black calfskin strap are in the unit’s characteristic red.

And lastly, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Blue Angels” (Ref. IW389109) has a bright blue ceramic case achieved by mixing zirconium oxide with other metallic oxides. This colorway is echoed in the watch’s blue rubber strap with textile inlay.

Like the “Royal Maces” model, the day-date display at 3 o’clock and the small seconds hand are highlighted with yellow details. However, instead of a yellow-tipped central chronograph seconds hand, it is a solid yellow.

Finally, the iconic “Blue Angels” badge is displayed at 6 o’clock, and the squad’s signature lettering is engraved on the titanium caseback.

Squad Goals

The use of these iconic patches is a great way to honor these squadron’s past. Plus, the use of ceramic successfully navigates the present and future. But at the end of the day, what makes these Pilot’s Watches take flight is their precision.

All three of these 44.5mm chronographs use the IWC-manufactured 69380 calibre movement. With 231 individual parts, this mechanical chronograph movement is engineered to focus on robustness and reliability. Moreover, it uses a column wheel to control the stopwatch function while a bi-directional pawl-winding system supplies energy, building up a power reserve of 46 hours.

The trio also employs a soft-iron inner case to protect the movement from the effects of magnetic fields. And the front-facing sapphire crystal is carefully secured to avoid displacement in the case of sudden drops of air pressure.

The timepieces are also eligible for registration under the My IWC care program and thus benefit from a 6-year extension to the standard 2-year International Limited Warranty.

Each priced at $10,900, the new IWC Pilot’s Watches Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces,” “Tophatters,” and “Blue Angels” are now available through IWC boutiques, authorized retail partners, or the brand’s e-commerce site. Pricing TK.

For more information, visit the IWC website.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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