Pre-SIHH 2016: IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage 48 & 55 Limited Edtion Watches

By Harlan Chapman-Green

“Oh dear lord it’s another limited edition, goodness me why do we need yet another one from IWC” is something you might say if you haven’t done your homework on these, their latest models which promise to be very exciting indeed.

So just what is it with the International Watch Company and pilot watches?  Well, IWC (along with other luxury watch companies such as Breguet, A. Lange & Söhne and even Patek Philippe) has produced wristwatches for military pilots in the past, these new limited edition models are here to remind us of this illustrious past where IWC watches would be soaring through the skies flying loop-the-loops and barrel rolls while strapped to the wrist of a proper gentleman.

IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48 a Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 48

What’s the actual difference between the 48 and the 55 models? Well, apart from production numbers (the 48 will have slightly more watches made for it compared to the almost goofy 55) is the size, the 48 is literally 48mm in diameter and the 55 is, you guessed it, 55mm in diameter, the original size of the watch. You see, in those days a pilot watch had to be enormous and clearly visible to the pilot who would need to focus on flying, therefore, a quick glance was all that was possible. IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 a

Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55

You’ll definitely get some glances from watch enthusiasts when out and about with either of these bruisers on (the 55 for obvious reasons).  It’s rare we see watches that are simply this big and almost pancake like, being large in diameter and pretty thin too at 13.5mm for the 55 and 14.5 for the 48.  Both Panerai and Zenith are the other watchmakers that spring to mind who have also made enormous watches of such proportion. Usually large watches such as the Ploprof or the Deepsea are both quite large in diameter but also extremely thick for various reasons. Unlike diving watches, pilot watches don’t need to survive at enormous depths for extended periods of time so they can be pretty thin and easy to live with even when worn daily.


A feature that I love about a lot of pilot watches is an onion crown, an onion crown is a particular shape of a crown which starts out thin near the watch then blossoms out, this shape was intended to make it easier to grip the crown for time adjustment. It’s also a classically styled addition to a watch that I love, this one is more modern themed by being angular in its design,

I’m really looking forward to seeing in person the fruits of IWC’s hard work when SIHH 2016 opens for business. For your information if you plan on purchasing one of these watches the 48mm watch will be limited to 1000 pieces and the 55mm will be limited to 100 watches in total, they’ll cost between 13,000 and 17,000 Swiss Francs.

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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 odd 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. You can follow him on Instagram