When IWC Schaffhausen released their Ceramic Fliegerchronograph (ref. 3705) in 1994, it was met with lackluster success. The ceramic model was more expensive than its more fashionable sister version in stainless steel (ref. 3706) and the movement was a modified Valjoux 7750 where collectors wanted in-house mechanicals. Due to the low demand, the ref. 3705 was only produced for a few years. Fewer than 2,000 timepieces were made when the model was relegated to obscurity.
But thanks to the durability of the sturdy ceramic case, the charming quality of the tritium markers as they yellowed, and a resurgence of interest in neo-vintage watches, the ref. 3705 found its audience nearly a quarter of a century later. In fact, Günter Blümlein, a figure that looms large in the world of watchmaking, liked the model so much he purchased a ref. 3705 as a gift for his wife in 2001, and it fetched a staggering USD 53,750 at auction in 2018. IWC took note of the new appetite for their rare and handsome timepiece. This year, they are releasing a homage piece to the original 1994 version, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705” (Ref. 387905).
A New Classic
The “Tribute to 3705” is faithful to the style and detail that drew the collectors’ eyes with a few modern revisions. The case has been updated from the original ceramic to a groundbreaking new material developed by IWC called Ceratanium.
IWC’s Ceratanium is a new alloy where the case components are machined from a titanium alloy, then treated with a furnace firing process that transforms the surface into rich, black material that rivals titanium for durability and ceramic for scratch-resistance. Ceratanium is also highly resistant to corrosion and has a high skin tolerance. Unlike the PVD coating found in most watches, the phase transformation from the sintering process creates an actual bond with the titanium for a surface that won’t chip or flake.
The dial has a clean design, with high legibility. It has a focused colorway of black and white — black dial with white painted Arabic numerals and an outer minute/seconds track that features the triangle and two dots at 12 o’clock — maintaining the aesthetic that earned the original Ceramic Fliegerchronograph the nickname “Black Flieger”. The hands are straight rhodium batons with a luminous coating for low-light or night conditions. The subdials at nine and 12 o’clock are rimmed in white and have stop times of up to 12 hours. IWC reverses the color scheme for the day and date complication at three o’clock with black text on white date wheel, which makes for a nice contrast.
The case diameter has increased from the original 39mm to 41mm, with a height of 15.3mm and is made of Ceratanium. It features a screw-in crown stamped with the IWC logo and is grooved for ease of use while wearing winter gloves. Two Ceratanium chronograph pushers, simple and functional, flank the crown. A soft iron inner cage provides protection from magnetic fields, and the glass is secured against drops in air pressure. The case design achieves a water resistance of 30 meters.
IWC has updated the movement to their in-house 69380 caliber, a classic column wheel design with a bi-directional pawl winding system. The movement features small hacking seconds and has a power reserve of 46 hours. Every element of the watch resonates with the IWC philosophy that “form follows function” over decoration, but it definitely has an aesthetic of dignity and directness that many collectors find appealing.
The IWC “Tribute to 3705” is paired with a black calfskin strap. The watch is a limited edition of 1,000 pieces and will be sold exclusively on IWC’s website.
Movement: IWC caliber 69380 self-winding movement; 46-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours and minutes; small hacking seconds; day and date; chronograph
Case: 41mm; Ceratanium; water resistant to 60m
Strap: Black calfskin
Limited Edition of 1,000 pieces