Introducing The IWC Big Pilot “Patrouille Suisse” Limited Edition Watch

By Harlan Chapman-Green

The watch industry is an enormously crowded place with many different types of watch style such as diver, dress or casual sports. Today though, we’re looking at a new addition to the market that is pilot’s watches, the watches designed for and used by our aviation forefathers whose descendants carry on the flying spirit and tradition by sporting a proper pilot’s watch. Even this market is flooded with both excellent pieces with well-proven track records such as the Omega Speedmaster, Breitling Navitimer and the Breguet Type XX, then there’s also newcomers to the party like Patek Philippe with its new pilot style watch introduced at Baselworld this year. IWC is well versed in the aviation watch industry and has made many special editions of the Big Pilot, such as the “Le Petit Prince” piece which you can read about by clicking here. International Watch Co. now presents us with another limited edition watch, the Patrouille Suisse Limited Edition watch.

IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Edition “Patrouille Suisse” (Ref.IW500910) 1

The whole design of the Big Pilot line takes its inspiration from WWII German Beobachtungs-uhren pilots watches which had extremely large cases and crowns with huge legible hands and hour markers. This has clearly copied over to the Big Pilot watch which is 46mm in diameter, it’s clearly inspired by the German pieces yet it still keeps its own style and sense of timelessness.

IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Edition “Patrouille Suisse” (Ref.IW500910) 2 (1)

So, what’s different about this particular limited edition? It’s not like we haven’t seen many limited and boutique editions of the Big Pilot before, right? Well, the main differences in the IWC Big Pilot Patrouille Suisse include things such as the dial, which has been coloured slate grey and has been given a sunburst finish to make sure it gleams under light. Dial side, there’s not much difference, the hands are still huge and along with the hour markers are still covered in as much lume as possible. The case is still given a matte finish and the crown is still the diamond shape that was inspired by vintage pilot’s watches. In fact, the strap colour is the only other indicator what this is a limited edition watch, it’s now a similar shade of grey to the dial. On the inside of the watch the movement is different to the normal one used in the Big Pilot, the 51011 watch simply switches the normal centre seconds hand to a sub seconds hand located at 9 O’clock and the 7 day power reserve indicator is located at 3 O’clock. The movement has a soft iron shell to protect it from magnetism.


The caseback is engraved with a picture of three Northrop F-5E Tiger II planes which the Patrouille Suisse use as display jets, there’s also the watch number on the back as well, this limited edition run goes to 250 watches in total. See it in Swiss IWC boutiques and retailers in September, then later in the year for international IWC boutiques. These cost $15,600 a piece, my only concern is that there seem to be a lot of limited edition runs of IWC watches, let’s hope they don’t affect desirability on the second hand market because of this.

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A keen bass guitar player, Harlan enjoys all the perks modern watchmaking technologies the industry has to offer. Although you might catch him sampling Omegas or the Rolex, Harlan loves all things Haute Horology, with his three favourite brands being Breguet, A.Lange & Söhne and Vacheron Constantin. He hopes to study timekeeping more in depth someday and will never be able to thank his father enough for introducing him to the industry. Read his articles here.