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IWC Recreate the Big Pilot’s Watch Markus Bühler

IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler

When we covered IWC’s latest white ceramic, Lake Tahoe pilots watch, we slightly bemoaned the fact that a perpetual calendar was antithetical to the utilitarian nature of a pilots’ watch. And yet IWC themselves definitely haven’t got the memo as they’ve gone one step further with the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler.

There is some background to make sense of this new edition. Back in the mid-2000s, the watch world was creating some weird and wonderful creations in the higher echelons of horology. One watchmaker that longed to try his hand was Markus Bühler who, in 2003, built a prototype watch for IWC with a turbine small seconds on the front, a nod to its pilot sensibilities.

IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler
IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler

It was a cool piece and, when it was built into a tiny 12-piece limited edition in 2008, became a grail level pilots piece. Incredibly rare, equally cool and built around a workhorse Unitas movement, that it never went into full production seems like a long-missed opportunity – one that now IWC is retreading, this time with extra watchmaking.

Looks-wise, the new watch is very similar to the original, which makes sense. The Big Pilot itself has remained pretty much unchanged since its inception, so the last decade-and-a-half haven’t done much to alter that oversized, utilitarian aesthetic. Really what has changed here is the mechanics.

IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler

Previously, due to the necessity for a Unitas movement (that was a stipulation Markus Bühler was given when designing it), there wasn’t much chance for experimentation outside that workhorse framework. Now though, IWC are using their in-house 82905 calibre, still using the turbine small seconds but this time built on top of a flying 60-second tourbillon.

Because of that, the turbine itself is made from titanium to limit the weight of the tourbillon cage its built into. Fun fact: the whole tourbillon assembly weighs just 0.663 grams. On top of that the movement has an 80-hour power reserve and thanks to the Pellaton winding system, incredibly efficient automatic capabilities. It’s a big step up from an old Unitas.

IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler

Otherwise, it’s the Big Pilot we all know and love. 43mm of stainless steel case, wearing larger with that oversized crown, and a typical, militaristic pilots watch display, it’s aesthetically a tried and tested aviation formula. Though let’s be honest, a flying tourbillon isn’t exactly something you expect to see in a watch built for minimalism and crash landings. Though I guess you’d have bigger issues than timekeeping if the latter happens.

IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler
IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler

The Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler isn’t cool simply because of the turbine, or the fact that it has a flying tourbillon. It’s a nod to a 2008 limited edition very few collectors will have ever come across and even fewer would have ever seen in the metal. I haven’t, it was far before my time. And because of that I love that IWC have dusted it off and given it a revamp.

Would I have preferred a basic small seconds? Probably, yes, but it’s still painfully cool. And hey, with 51 pieces available, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get hold of than the original. But then, most things are.

Price & Specs:

  • Model: IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler
  • Ref: IW329901
  • Case/dial: 43mm diameter x 14.6mm thickness, polished platinum case, glossy black dial with rhodium-plated, see-through sapphire glass back
  • Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
  • Movement: IWC calibre 82905, automatic, in-house, 25 jewels
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
  • Power reserve: 80h
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, flying minute tourbillon at 6 o’clock with integrated aircraft turbine
  • Strap: Black Cordovan leather with special print on the inner side
  • Price/availability: CHF 125,000, limited to 51 pieces

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.