The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe

Large, white and rather complicated.

What’s in a name?

In reality, the naming of watches matters very little, but the nomenclature at play in the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe is fast becoming a source of light-hearted amusement.

It’s a mouthful but perhaps that’s the goal of a watch that is, in itself, an eyeful. It’s a Mach 10 kind of name that somehow suits this 46.5mm by 15.6mm wrist-mounted iceberg, capable of tracking the time, day, date, month, and leap year from now until 2100 without adjustment.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe in White Ceramic
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe in White Ceramic

A perpetual presence

The famous IWC Perpetual Calendar movement was developed in the mid-1980s by the equally iconic Kurt Klaus, a popular figure in the industry, frequently spotted at events (despite being 86 years old) with a wry smile of satisfaction on his face, and a glass of single malt in hand. It is no wonder he looks back on arguably his finest contribution with contentment. His work became legend and has persisted now for almost forty years, transcending trends and generations with apparent ease.

Case in point: the new IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Lake Tahoe has already been snapped on the wrist of seven-time Formula 1 world champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton (an ambassador of the brand, but, to his credit, a knowledgeable and genuinely passionate one). Hamilton is a well-known collector and a fine role model for the next generation of watch hoarders, so his personal appreciation of IWC is something with which I am sure the brand is thrilled.

Formula 1 world champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton
Formula 1 world champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton

Sizing up

This model is exactly the same dimensions as the Top Gun “Mojave Desert” edition, also in ceramic. Interestingly, both models are a shade bigger than the Ceratanium Top Gun edition, which comes in at 46.2mm wide and 15.4mm thick, sharing its dimensions with the stainless steel model. The other major difference between the two Top Gun editions and the Ceratanium model is the very obvious stainless steel crown they share, while the Ceratanium model uses the same material for the winder as it does for the case. Presumably, the reason for this comes down to securing a consistent water resistance, which stands at an unusual 6 bar for all models (stainless steel Perpetual Calendar included).

The resulting aesthetic will no doubt divide opinion, but I find myself surprisingly charmed by it. Normally, such a stark and isolated contrast would annoy me, but here, perhaps because of the “non-standard” case coloration, I feel it deserves a pass. Something about seeing just a little bit of steel reassures me that this is not just a whimsical toy, but actually a very serious machine indeed.

Refined and ready for action

And what a machine it is. From the back, viewed through a sapphire display window set into the case back (the only other stainless steel component visible on the exterior of the watch), the IWC-manufactured caliber 52615 is a sight to behold. Rhodium-plated bridges with a subtle Geneva wave pattern, polished red rubies, heat-blued screws, golden-colored elements including the balance wheel and a medallion set into the oscillating mass, and even a black ceramic automatic winding wheel make for an unusually vibrant movement.

IWC-manufactured caliber 52615
IWC-manufactured caliber 52615

Its specifications are also impressive. An extremely precise “reductionist gear train” means the watch’s moon phase calendar will only deviate by one day after 577.5 years (assuming the watch runs continuously throughout that period, which, I guess, would set a pretty healthy world record for servicing intervals if it did).

That would take us all the way to Christmas 2600. And while the moon phase would remain accurate without human intervention between now and then, the date would have needed adjusting four times: once each in 2200, 2300, 2500, and 2600. But why?

And so, when we next run into a “common” century year in 2100, the watch will need tweaking so it doesn’t add that extra day in February as its horological brain will instruct it to.

One slightly odd quirk of the Gregorian calendar is that in order to compensate for accumulated discrepancies, century years, despite themselves being divisible by four (the normal rule for deciding a leap year) are not (normally) leap years. This only happens when the century year is exactly divisible by 400. That means all of us that lived through the year 2000 witnessed the rare occurrence of a “century leap year”, which our ancestors won’t see again until 2400.

Listening to the people

One customer-friendly aspect of this watch should not be ignored: while it comes with a standard two-year international warranty, that warranty can be extended a further six years for free when registered with the IWC care program. That’s the kind of savvy customer service uptick of which more brands should be aware.

In very recent times, we’ve seen more and more brands massively increasing the guarantee period offered with their watches. This is what it looks like when a competitive market actually benefits the end consumer. Longer guarantee periods don’t just provide peace of mind for the customer, they actively push brands to improve their products, so they are less likely to receive them back in the mail for service. As all brands know, there are few ways to lose money faster than unnecessary after sales care, and so IWC’s announcement should be seen as a double bonus to buyers.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe in White Ceramic
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe in White Ceramic

Why I’d wear it

Practically speaking, the IWC 52615 has a very robust seven-day power reserve, which, for all the bells and whistles of the perpetual calendar complication is something I would probably find myself appreciating more regularly, given my preference for rotating watches throughout the week. And to be frank, the Lake Tahoe edition with its bright white exterior is certainly a very special watch and one I’d probably like to keep fresh for similarly special occasions.

And it is a watch I would enjoy wearing. Although my 16.5cm wrist might groan at the size, the white case and white rubber strap are about as visually lightweight as a 46.5mm by 15.6mm watch can be. The ceramic, of course, aids the wearability of this piece, which is, like previous Top Gun models made from the same material, a surprisingly comfortable watch on the wrist. Best of all, I’m not sure I’d ever get tired of the information-laden but aesthetically serene dial layout, topped at the 12 o’clock position by the brand’s patented double-moon indication that identifies the IWC Perpetual Calendar series and is a lot to do with it having become the classic it is today.

Tech Specs

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe

Movement: IWC Manufacture caliber 52615
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, day, month, leap year indication, and moon phase
Case: 46.5mm x 15.6mm white ceramic
Dial: Matte Black
Strap: White textured rubber
Price: USD 40,900


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1 comment

  1. Warky says:

    This is nice.

    Would never buy one .

    But it’s still nice.

    As is Robb’s write up. As usual.

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