Hands-on: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Woodland ref. IW503101

Despite looking (and sounding) big and goofy, this watch has all the professional accolades to accompany the hardiest fighter aces.


If you’re following us then you’ll know we’re finishing off our coverage of Watches & Wonders. We’re a small team here at WristReview and I’ve been on holiday recently, so we’re now doing the most we can to catch up on the hullabaloo. Speaking of, while there was lots of fanfare at IWC about their awesome new watches like the Portugieser Eternal Calendar, one piece got no coverage at all, but I saw it.

Unveiling the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Woodland ref. IW503101, IWC has chosen to shun the limelight, releasing this exclusive piece without any press coverage. As reported by Vogue Business, luxury brands are shifting their focus from grand marketing campaigns to more intimate connections with their discerning clientele, often through the establishment of local stores and the hosting of understated events.

With that said, the only thing quiet or subtle about this watch is its launch. As you’ll see from the photos, this piece is a monster. At 46.5mm x 15.7mm, this watch is too big for my wrist, and it’s one of the only pieces at the show which was. You notice this thing all the time, but the ceramic case and ceramic bracelet, which IWC laboured for a long time to create, do help the wearing experience. The big crown is also obvious, but necessary. While it’s easy for me to talk about how big and, quite frankly, cumbersome this watch is, its intended purpose is as a pilot’s tool. Well, in theory, it makes sense, it’s big and legible, which, thanks to luminescent everything, means it’s easily readable during the day and the night. It’s also 100m water resistant.

Inside the case is the in-house-made self-winding calibre 52616 based on the 52010 movement introduced in 2015. In this watch, it has a 7-day (168-hour) power reserve and a 4Hz beat rate. 379 components make up this movement, which, thanks to the perpetual calendar, knows how long each month and year is, including leap years; it will adjust itself accordingly when the month ends up to the year 2100. Oddly, the movement is behind a tinted crystal, which means it’s mostly obscured; I’m not sure why IWC did this except to add to the stealth factor, which seems moot on the back of the watch.

So, who’s likely to buy this? Other than large-wristed people and, undoubtedly, some professional pilots. That said, this is a technical achievement worth talking about. Details such as the ceramic bracelet and the fact that the crystal is reinforced against sudden air pressure changes give this beast proper real-world practical uses. The price of this model is $56,700 before taxes.