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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:08 am 
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OK so it’s not a Breitling, but as it is in fact one of my all time favourite watches, and the fact that I’ve now owned one for a few weeks, I just thought I’d write a little review of the IWC Big Pilot. The pictures I am using here are old ones that I took when I first got it, so I will update them (hopefully) in a few days. Anyway, on with my review.

The first thing you notice when you pick one up is the sheer presence of the thing. And by that I do not mean the size of the case. Sure, it’s a reasonable size at 46.2mm in diameter and 15.8mm thick, but there’s so much more to it than that. The presence comes from the complete sum of the parts – the case, the crown, the hands, the riveted strap…… everything. But its presence is more of understated elegance compared to something more brash.

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Probably the most identifiable part of the Big Pilot is the large “diamond” crown. Firstly it’s a beautiful thing to look at, but secondly it’s an absolute joy to use. The threading is so smooth and precise, and as you unscrew it there’s not a big jump at the end of winding it as it comes off the thread : it just kind of slides off the thread ready for winding/adjusting the time, etc. Difficult to explain but it just feels so well engineered. Another beautiful attention to detail is that whenever you screw the crown back in fully, the IWC “Probus Scafusia” logo is always straight and horizontal – a really nice touch and shows incredible attention to detail.

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Some people have commented on whether the crown digs into the back of your hand. Well, my answer to that is that it entirely depends on how you wear your watches. If you wear your watch low down, over the wrist joint near your hand, then yes there is a possibility that the crown will dig in if you bend your hand back. However, if you wear your watches quite high (i.e. away from the wrist joint) like I do, there is no chance of the crown digging in at all. It's actually incredibly comfortable.

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The dial is probably the most legible dial I have ever come across in any watch, which is exactly as it should be on a pilots watch. It makes a really nice change from my usual busy Breitling dials. Semi-matt white markers on the semi-matt black dial, along with matching pilot style hands and central seconds are instantly readable at a glance. The only thing that surprised me slightly is that not all the markers are Superluminova. Only the quarter hours markers and hands are equipped with Superluminova which is a bit of a shame as it would look nice with all the numbers illuminated as well. However, luminous markers are neither here nor there for me : they are little more that a novelty that I test once, say “Wow!”, or “Oh….” depending on the quality and then never repeat the test again. It’s extremely rare that I find myself somewhere that is completely pitch black, so luminous markers are pretty much an irrelevance to me. That said, the strength of the Superluminova is better than on most Breitlings but no-where near that of Panerai, Omega or Seiko.

Another nice touch is the black date wheel which blends it nicely into the dial. I’ve always found it slightly odd that IWC didn’t follow suit and have a black date wheel on the Big Ingenieur too.

The crystal is double AR coated and works very nicely.

Picking up a Big Pilot, you are very conscious that it’s quite a heavy piece – no doubt due in part to the soft iron “cage” surrounding the movement to provide the anti-magnetic properties this watch possesses. The case itself is incredibly well finished, being predominantly brushed but with a polished upper surface to the bezel and a very subtle polished line along the upper edge of the case down to the lugs. It’s kind of hard to explain what makes this better finished than my other watches, but there is just something that screams quality to me.

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The strap and deployant are both very fine items. The strap, while probably not quite as impressive as a Breitling strap, is still a superb construction. Constructed of alligator (as opposed to the earlier model’s calf leather), it is thick and completely in keeping with the rest of the watch – rugged, but also with an air of elegance. It also tapers in thickness nicely meaning that it is not too thick on the underside of the wrist. One odd thing that might, on the face of it, put off a Breitling or Panerai fan is the width of the strap. It is 22mm at the lugs and tapers as a “step” to being 18mm at the clasp. Some may assume this is too thin, but IMHO the proportions are just right for the style of the watch. Whereas the bracelet on the Rolex Deepsea does seem too thin for a sports watch, the Big Pilot strap suits it just fine IMHO.

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The deployant clasp is exceptionally well finished being machined rather than pressed, and a nice touch is how the side closest to the wrist is bevelled at the edges to ensure a comfortable fit. I know that opinions vary, but the IWC deployant is one of the most comfortable strap clasps I have ever used.

And finally that brings me onto the movement. The IWC calibre 51111 is huge, and while the Big Pilot doesn’t have a display back to allow you to actually see it (due to the antimagnetic protection), rest assured the movement fills the case. No filler rings here! In many ways it reminds me of a V8 engine – big and lazy (the 51111 operates at 21,600), but with bags and bags of power. The 7 day power reserve is actually 8.5 days, but IWC deem that as a movement such as this reaches the end of it’s power reserve, accuracy is compromised, so they therefore came up with an ingenious device in the movement to stop it prematurely at 7 days to preserve accuracy. Another superb part of the movement is the Pellaton winding system which is without a doubt the most efficient automatic winding system that I’ve come across. To give you some idea, I put my Big Pilot on approximately 10 hours ago today and the power reserve was reading 5 days. Now today is a Sunday and I’ve not done an enormous amount – just pottered around the house, watched a movie, made a bit of food, nothing overly strenuous – and the power reserve now reads 6 days. So in 10 hours of not doing very much, the winding mechanism is able to gain enough power to keep the watch running, AND ALSO gain enough to add a whole extra day to the power reserve. I find that pretty amazing.

In terms of accuracy, the movement is a little bit at the mercy of how much power reserve it has. At full wind, it currently gains around 1 to 2 seconds a day : at less than 1 days’ reserve it gains 6 to 7 seconds a day. Either way it’s still within IWC’s self-imposed tolerance of 0/+7 seconds, but there is a definite drop-off in performance as it reaches the end of its power reserve. However the efficiency of the Pellaton winding system means that if you wear it regularly there is no reason for it to be at anything other than full power. I will see how it goes over the next few weeks as it continues to run in, but at the moment I am enormously impressed with its time-keeping.

Price-wise? Well it IS an expensive watch by anyone's standards. You don't get much change from £8000 GBP, but if you love your watches to have a bit of history (the IWC Big Pilot first appeared in the 1940's and looked very similar to todays model), a fantastic and innovative "V8" of a movement, and finish that is right up there with the best of the best, then you really can't go wrong with the awesome Big Pilot.

So all in all, it’s an amazing watch and without doubt my favourite piece by some margin – sorry Breitling fans!

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:47 am 
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Great review of a very nice watch, Driver.
Find it unusual that it gains more when the spring is less tensioned (if I understood that right).


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:11 am 
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Great write up Driver8 - clearly a watch that you are passionate about, and that's all anyone can ask for.

As for gaining more when the mainspring is low, I think I know why that might be, but let me research this movement a bit more first.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:50 am 
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Oh, Driver, Driver,

Just when I thought I could be completely happy with my cute,
"little" Ingenieur, you spring this wonderful review of the BP on us,
and I'm once again lost in that mad world of watch envy, lust and
irrational thought! :( :cry:

Yes, it's magnificent, yes, it's still my ultimate grail watch, and yes, I
know I'll probably never get one. But you know, I think I can live
with that knowledge. I'll have to, won't I?

So wear your beautiful piece with justifiable pride; you've earned it. Old
Steve will continue to muddle along with his modest collection. And, uh...
okay, I said I wouldn't do it but I have to. Here is my tribute to
you :bow: :bow: :bow: :bow:

Steve


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:54 am 
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Nice review Driver8. Thank you!


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 2:31 pm 
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great review!

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:44 pm 
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Great review, Driver, thanks for taking the time to post it. It certainly is a beautiful piece.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 6:03 pm 
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Such a killer watch. :)

I'd buy one but it would mean selling my SA to fund.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 3:45 am 
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Great review of a great watch, makes me want one even more. You highlighted nearely everything about the watch that I love about it, the more I look at it and at my BI I keep thinking they would compliment each other nicely in any collection, and a Portuguese would top that off very nicely.

Sigh, its endless isnt it? :roll:

Anyway, I think the reason they did the date weel in black on the pilot only is the same reason it has the iron cage and the large white numerals: it is meant as an honest homage to a classic military sport watch, very much like Panerai do with their Historic and LE editions, Whearas the BI, whith its shiny silver indices, display back, and case design seems like a consumer watch inspired by the sport Inges. To me the BP is a much more interesting piece, but the BI has more everyday apeal and diversity. They really do offset each other very nicely.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 9:55 am 
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Thank you all for your kind comments guys - most appreciated. :thumbsup:

I feel a bit guilty waxing lyrical about a non-Breitling on here, but it really is one of my all time favourite watches.

@Bnewbie - I think (and I'm sure Roff will correct me here if I'm wrong!) the drop-off in performance is due to the considerable length of the mainspring contained in a single barrel, and when it gets to the "less than 1 days reserve" point, the spring is approaching the non-constant part of the springs' torque curve, and the therefore torque decreases. This issue clearly gets worse after 7 days which is why IWC have created the movement in such a way that it stops before the performance drops outside of their 0/+7 seconds tolerance.

@Altair - Yep it's certainly an endless addiction we have! :lol: I've actually had another look at a picture of the BI and with the silver hour markers, the white date wheel doesn't look out of place at all. In fact I now think I might have to have a BI to go with my BP!!! :shock:

@Steve - Thanks for your kind words, but there's nothing "little" about your Ingenieur. It's a fantastic piece and you should be rightly proud of it. ALL IWC's a little works of art IMHO! :thumbsup:

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:46 am 
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Driver8 wrote:
@Bnewbie - I think (and I'm sure Roff will correct me here if I'm wrong!) the drop-off in performance is due to the considerable length of the mainspring contained in a single barrel, and when it gets to the "less than 1 days reserve" point, the spring is approaching the non-constant part of the springs' torque curve, and the therefore torque decreases. This issue clearly gets worse after 7 days which is why IWC have created the movement in such a way that it stops before the performance drops outside of their 0/+7 seconds tolerance.


That's my theory, don't know enough specifics on the IWC to confirm, but the decrease in absolute torque from the mainspring causes an increase in relative torque in the balance spring and hence reduces the amplitude (greater balance spring resistance) and increases the frequency of the oscillations in the balance wheel. Doesnt need to be much - a difference of 6 seconds a day is just 1 oscillation in 28,800 on a 3Hz movement.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:58 am 
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Thanks Mods! :D


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:00 am 
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:oops: Thanks Admin for pointing out that it's actually a "diamond" crown and not an "onion" crown! :oops:

Edited accordingly with a due sense of embarrassment! :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:02 am 
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Driver8 wrote:
:oops: Thanks Admin for pointing out that it's actually a "diamond" crown and not an "onion" crown! :oops:

Didn't even notice that you wrote "onion". :lol:


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 2:13 am 
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Great review D8. Sounds like an awesome watch, well built and definitely one I want to try for myself soon.

Looks good beside the World. I particularly like the fact that the face is less busy (as you stated and even though I like busy faces).

Again lovely piece and write up :thumbsup:

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