The Pilot Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Edition in “Jet Black” and “Oceana” is IWC’s latest addition to their coloured ceramic watch portfolio. The concept was introduced first in 2019 and develops through 2022 into 2023 with 4 colours in 3 variations, a reflection of the terrain and colours around Nevada, where the Naval Fighter Weapons School conducts its TOPGUN program.
The collection was a hit, especially the white ceramic “Lake Tahoe” and the sand-coloured “Mojave Desert”. Are the Oceana and Jet Black ceramic models something novel? Let’s find out.
Ready For Action
Retaining most of the original Pilot Chronograph 41 introduced in 2021 and the TOP GUN Edition of 2022, the 2023 edition features a 41mm case in classic Flieger style, with a lug-to-lug distance of 51.8mm, ready for any type of strap that shouts ruggedness. Instead of steel, you get a Pilot Chronograph 41 in ceramics, complemented with pushers in brushed titanium, a good contrast that doesn’t sacrifice harmony, largely due to the consistent matte finishing across the watch. The pushers are not screwed down like the crown but still offers a decent 100m water resistance, helpful if ever you have to ditch your jet somewhere out at sea and hang on for the rescue bird.
The dial has a granular texture that offers a subtle contrast from the case. This looks great and totally apt for a military-themed watch as compared to a dressier sun-burst dial found on the 2021 model. Time is marked by generously-lumed and pronounced Arabic numerals, accompanied by the oversized triangular index flanked by two dots at 12 o’clock, honouring hallmarks of a Flieger. I like the attention to details, exhibited through the day and date disc that matches colour with the dial, and on the chronograph second hand where the lume starts only from the pivot onwards, excluding the tail. Clarity of information matters in flight, especially when the pilot vision is affected at times of high-G manoeuvres.
The Pilot Chronograph 41 is powered by an IWC-manufactured calibre 69380 column wheel chronograph (not cam) with 46 hours of power reserve and beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour.
Take My Breath Away
When the “Jet Black” and “Oceana” Pilot Chronograph 41 TOP GUN was introduced, I thought its just another colour & size variation based on a successful formula launched last year. It isn’t wrong to say that it is really about colours and size. But once the blinds were raised and I saw the blue for the blue it is, I was sold. It was a “you had me at hello” moment. (The Jet Black didn’t make me gasp for air but I’m certain it will find its way to collectors who are all about being tactical).
The “Oceana” is inspired by the U.S. Navy’s blue overalls, which is a very unique tone of blue that is distinctively IWC’s. It is contemporary-chic but subdued enough to still be taken seriously. Combined with the inherently smooth and monochromatic look of ceramic, the watch exudes a certain luxury despite being a tool watch at its core. It wears comfortably on the wrist in a fashionable yet grounded style. This is what Mavericks of the real world wear while playing beach volleyball without the need to shout-out “I’m a fast jet pilot”.
The rubber strap in blue is a continuation from the dial with denim textile inlay. I didn’t really enjoy the denim texture on the strap at first but somehow it grew on me. Anyway, what other colour do you surmise will match the blue tone? The Pilot Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Edition has certainly breathed new life into IWC’s stable of pilot watches nonetheless.
Let’s square it out. Technically, the TOP GUN collection is irrefutably based on a steel model launched a few years back and this is not the first time IWC produces a watch in coloured ceramics. Ceramics and IWC goes all the way back to 1986; which makes a worthy article for another time. However, the 2 watches in ceramics featured here “Oceana” and “Jet Black” colours are uniquely a first for IWC or in-fact the world, since it is a colour code specially concocted with Pantone for IWC.
What we should appreciate is the manufacturing process, which involves multiple trials by experienced hands to achieve ceramic in a particular colour. Zirconium oxide is combined with metallic oxides to give the ceramic its color. Achieving each color requires a set parameters of different raw materials, a distinct mixing ratio, temperature and exact duration of sintering.
We just need to like (or dislike) it for what it is, and in this case a colour that is unique to IWC, a proprietary material that is enduring and light, and the TOP GUN branding that appeals to aviation enthusiasts and fans of the movie.
You Can Be My Wingman Anytime
If you are not an aviation enthusiast or a fan of the movie, the colour and material edge that the TOP GUN edition offers is a pretty good proposition given that the watch can be your wingman on a first date to the movies, a night out to the club with your homies or on an adventure trip to experience the Nevada falls.
Tom Cruise might not have worn an IWC in the TOP GUN sequel, but IWC’s partnership with the legendary Navy Fighter Weapon School (TOPGUN) is as real as it gets. IWC is now the official watch brand to create watches for the entire U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, collaborating and producing Squadron watches available only to current and former members of the unit. Each watch is engraved with the pilot’s name and call sign. How cool is that?
The Squadron Watches are not available for sales, but it is this knowledge that certain things exists and yet, only accessible to a qualified handfull, makes an object desirable and collectible. It would be just as cool to get a version without another person’s name and callsign. Just like any collecting hobbies, the impulse and fixation on accumulating objects in a certain order can be very satisfying. So for the aviation enthusiasts, a pilot watch with cognitive and visual association with TOPGUN, Fighter Town, F14s, F18s and A4 Skyhawks is going to be something collectible.
Perhaps, what IWC could have done better, is to expand its narrative on how in-depth the collaboration with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps really is. Finally, if IWC is reading this, it would be really cool to add colours of the “Aggressor Squadron” into the TOP GUN edition and conclude this line with a limited TOP GUN anniversary box comprising all colours of this edition.
IWC Pilot Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Oceana & Jet Black
Collection: Pilot’s Watch
Case Shape: Round
Case length (mm): 41.9
Thickness (mm): 15.5
Case Material: Ceramic
Crystal: Convex Sapphire Glass; Anti-reflective coating on both sides
Caseback: Screwed-down Titanium Caseback
Dial: 3 snailed sub-dials; small hacking seconds at 6 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock, 30-min counter at 12 o’clock. Day, Date display at 3 o’clock;
Hands & Indexes: Dagger hands with Super-LumiNova and Super-LumiNova Arabic numeral hour markers
Functions: Small Hacking Seconds, Day and Date, Chronograph
Movement: Automatic Calibre 69380 46 hours Power Reserve Frequency 28,800 VPH (4 Hz) 33 Jewels
Water Resistance: 10 bar, Screw-down Crown
Strap/Bracelet: Matching blue rubber strap with denim-style textile inlay or black rubber strap with EasX-CHANGE system