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Feature: Think You Know The Big Pilot’s Watch? Think Again

One of IWC’s biggest successes, the Big Pilot’s Watch has some rather noteworthy attributes and an intriguing backstory. We thought it was about time we revealed all about the brand’s flagship model. So, without further ado, here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Big Pilot’s Watch.

Want to delve even deeper into the history behind the Big Pilot’s Watch? Find out more here.

It’s An Unexpected Success

As a collector favourite, it’s surprising that IWC thought one of their most recognisable pieces might fail. The original, bulky 55mm piece was highly unconventional back in the 1940s when the Big Pilot’s Watch was released. Even the 1990s reissue at the reduced 46mm was considered beastly—a time when Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore was deemed a monster at a mere 42mm—generating concern that it’d be a sizeable flop.

Made For Its Movements

Featuring an impressive seven-day power reserve and the reintroduction of IWC’s patented Pellaton winding system, the calibre 5000—and the Portugese it was fitted in—marked a milestone for the brand. So, designer Gunter Blümlein decided he wanted the 5000 for the Big Pilot’s—it just needed some adjustments. Enter the 5011, a calibre big enough and strong enough to power the Big Pilot’s heavy hands.

The Power Reserve Is A Lie

The Big Pilot’s Watch lives up to its name once again by having a rather big power reserve. Although claiming to have an impressive seven days’ worth of power, it essentially carries a whopping eight-and-a-half days. However, that extra day-and-a-half is blocked off to prevent the watch’s accuracy from nose diving in the last day or so—so when the movement eventually does breathe its last, getting it going again doesn’t require a tiresome amount of winding effort.

The Big Pilot’s Watch Wasn’t Always Called The Big Pilot’s Watch

It is widely reported that IWC supplied several watches for military purposes, which eventually became available for public consumption, and the Big Pilot’s is one of them. However, it was originally given numerical code names such as Mark 11 or 1994’s Mark XII—the first publicly available Big Pilot’s model with a code name. IWC eventually decided to revert to its nickname, Grosse Fliegerhur—a.k.a. Big Pilot’s Watch—and they haven’t looked back since.

Its Creator Didn’t Get To See It

The Big Pilot’s didn’t reach its maximum popularity until 2002, when the IW5002 was released. It’s a shame then that its creator, Blümlein, didn’t live to see the Big Pilot’s Watch at its peak and fully enjoy the fruits of his labour. Still, he certainly left a legacy within IWC as the Big Pilot’s consistently sold out and went on to become one of the brand’s most successful watches ever.

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