IWC Top Gun Pilot’s watches go bold with colorful ceramic

IWC Top Gun Pilot’s watches go bold with colorful ceramic

The TOP GUN line of Pilot’s Watches is a perennial favorite for the IWC brand. Their mastery of innovative application of new materials has developed an impressive collection of watches designed to suit any taste in durable, lightweight, and precise sport watches. We’ll take a closer look at a selection of models that include the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe,” the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Woodland,” the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium and the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN. Each of the models showcases IWC’s mastery of materials and their attention to detail when it comes to color and collaboration with their partners.

Masters of Color

Coloring ceramic is no simple feat, and IWC has been a pioneer in the field as early as the 1980s starting with their iconic Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar (ref. 3755) in 1986. The era of Günter Blümlein at the helm of IWC, and with the help of two brilliant minds, Kurt Klaus and Richard Habring, gave us ceramic watches in both white and black colors with ref. 3755 and ref. 3705 (Ceramic Pilot’s Chronograph) respectively.

Their use of color and their expertise in materials engineering that allows a consistent color across mediums with different properties and manufacturing processes has earned IWC their place at the top of the class. The TOP GUN collection showcases the innovations in ceramics and colors over the years, each one adding its unique take on color and creating a wide range of timepieces for every taste.

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “Lake Tahoe” (Ref. IW389105)

Lake Tahoe is located between California and Nevada in a mountainous area that is famous for its picturesque winter landscapes. The TOPGUN school is situated near the lake and the men and women stationed there wear the famously crisp, white uniforms. Inspired by the location, IWC chose to make a chronograph that features a white ceramic case with a pitch-black dial and black luminous hands. IWC partnered with the color experts at Pantone to develop the color, and it was named IWC Lake Tahoe in the massive color index.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition in “IWC Lake Tahoe” white takes inspiration from the lake's picturesque winter landscape
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition in “IWC Lake Tahoe” white takes inspiration from the lake's picturesque winter landscape

Imagine Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice riding in their Testarossa with the Lake Tahoe Chronograph on their wrist. It possesses that rakish charm especially when paired with a white linen suit at a warm-weather destination.

The 44.5mm case houses the IWC manufactured 69380 mechanical movement with a day and date display, chronograph function for hours, minutes and seconds, and small hacking seconds. A soft-iron inner case protects the mechanicals from magnetic fields and the screw-in crown design gives 60 meters of water resistance.

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 69380; 46-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours and minutes, small hacking seconds, chronograph, day and date
Case: 44.5mm; ceramic with titanium caseback; water resistant to 60m
Dial: Black; luminescent Arabic numerals and hour markers
Strap: White rubber; stainless steel folding clasp
Price: USD 10,700
Availability: Limited annual production of 1,000 pieces


Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “Woodland” (Ref. IW389106)

Similar to the TOP GUN “Lake Tahoe,” the TOP GUN “Woodland” features the caliber 69380 movement. With the “Woodland,” IWC shifted focus to the distinctive green shade of naval aviator flight suits. Working with Pantone again, the designers at IWC developed the shade “IWC Woodland” and it was used to color the case and dial. The numerals and hour markers also use green in a lighter shade for a clean, monochromatic colorway.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition in “IWC Woodland” green takes inspiration from flight suits of naval aviators for a clean utilitarian appearance
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition in “IWC Woodland” green takes inspiration from flight suits of naval aviators for a clean utilitarian appearance

Even though Maverick wore the Porsche Design Orfina Chronograph in the 1986 Top Gun movie, I can picture both Maverick and Iceman rocking the Woodland Chronograph while giving the thumbs-up signal before taking to the skies. It has the clean utilitarian appearance to put a smile on any vintage Defender owner going off-road.

The pushers and caseback are made with the IWC developed material called Ceratanium that combines the lightweight strength of titanium with the durability and scratch resistance of ceramic. A matching green rubber strap with textile inlay completes the overall finish of the green-on-green timepiece.

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 69380; 46-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours and minutes, small hacking seconds, chronograph, day and date
Case: 44.5mm; ceramic with Ceratanium caseback; water resistant to 60m
Dial: Green; luminescent Arabic numerals and hour markers
Strap: Green rubber with textile inlay; Ceratanium pin buckle
Price: USD 10,700
Availability: Limited annual production of 1,000 pieces


Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium (Ref. IW388106)

For the first time, a 41mm watch has made its way into the TOP GUN collection with the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium. IWC worked with Pantone to create a new color called “IWC Ceratanium” that captures the unique matte black color of their proprietary titanium- ceramic alloy. The shade is dark with a subtle metallic quality due to the high temperatures of the kiln firing. The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium embraces the natural interest of the color and completes the look with a black dial and black hands. The dark colorway is broken only by a subdued white print and the luminescence on the dial and hands. The matte black case and dial make this chronograph a stealth Pilot’s Watch.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium in a unique matte-black color
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium in a unique matte-black color

The in-house 69385 caliber chronograph mechanical movement features the chronograph function for hours, minutes and seconds as well as a date and day display. The piece is paired with a black rubber strap with textile inlay to complete the solid black colorway.

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 69385; 46-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours and minutes, small hacking seconds, chronograph, day and date
Case: 41mm; Ceratanium; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Black; luminescent Arabic numerals and hour markers
Strap: Black rubber with textile inlay; Ceratanium pin buckle
Price: USD 12,600


Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Top Gun (Ref. IW329801)

Famous for its oversized watches, the Big Pilot’s line has been a favorite with collectors for decades. The Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN introduces a 43mm case made of black zirconium oxide ceramic — another engineering feat of IWC. The black dial and lume coated hands with the highly legible white numerals and indexes make a dynamic colorway for another stunner.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN Edition in "IWC Jet Black" color with EasX-CHANGE strap system
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN Edition in "IWC Jet Black" color with EasX-CHANGE strap system

Working with Pantone, the “IWC Jet Black” color was designed for this colored ceramic. A green textile strap adds a bit of texture and subdued color to the overall look and is easily changed with the integrated EasX-CHANGE system.

The IWC 82100 caliber features the Pellaton automatic winding system and central hacking seconds. With the screw-in crown, the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN attains a 100-meter water resistance. The movement is shielded by a soft-iron inner case for magnetic field protection.

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 82100; 60-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and central hacking seconds
Case: 43.8mm; ceramic with titanium crown and caseback; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Black; luminescent Arabic numerals and hour markers
Strap: Green textile; titanium folding clasp
Price: USD 10,300


The US Military Connection

IWC is currently the only watch brand officially licensed to work on watches for the entire US Navy and Marine Corps’ aviation units. Each member of the 247 active and 100 inactive squadrons have exclusive access to the line of squadron watches and receives an engraving of their name and call sign.

IWC has collaborated with various squadrons from the TOPGUN tactical school to the Blue Angels demonstration squad, and including the VFA-102 Diamondbacks, VFA-27 Royal Maces, VFA-211 Fighting Checkmates, VFA-115 Eagles, VFA-22 Fighting Redcocks and the US Marine Corps VMFA-242 Bats and VMFA-323 Death Rattlers.

Top Gun

TOPGUN is the common name for the legendary Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program in which elite military pilots are trained in advanced flying and tactical skills in order to return to their units as teachers. In 2007, IWC was invited to collaborate with the program to develop a timepiece capable of withstanding the extreme conditions of supersonic jets, such as the F/A-18E Super Hornet, for extended mission times. The watches are engineered with the most advanced technical materials, including titanium, ceramics and the ceramic- titanium composition material developed by IWC called Ceratanium.

The black-on-black style and classic double chronograph design created a sleek, technical looking timepiece with just a touch of red. The complications featured a small hacking seconds and split seconds hand for intermediate timing with the chronograph. A day and date display balanced the double chronograph and small seconds subdials.

In 2012, the TOP GUN collection was elevated to a line of its own with five new models. Today, the TOP GUN collection includes several models featuring complications from chronographs to perpetual calendars in a wide variety of colors and finishes.

Blue Angels

In 2019, IWC announced that they had become an official licensee of the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron. The Blue Angels got their start in 1946 when Admiral Chester W. Nimitz envisioned a group of pilots trained to exhibit the incredible prowess of naval pilots. The squadron is comprised of 141 members of the naval forces including the US Marines. They perform aerobatic maneuvers, both solo and in formation, with six F/A-18 Super Hornet jets. Every year, about 11 million people are treated to a demonstration from the team.

The Blue Angels collaborated with IWC to create a sporty flyback chronograph with a case of matte black zirconium oxide ceramic and a dial featuring the squadron’s livery of blue and yellow. Inspired by military observation watches, the special edition has a display of minutes on the outer ring in white and the hours on the inner ring in yellow. The back of the case features the engraved crest of the Blue Angels.

The caliber 89361 still features that unique soft-iron inner cage to protect the mechanicals from magnetic fields and the pressurization resistant glass to ensure that even the extreme conditions in the supersonic jets will not affect the precision and accuracy of the timepiece.

2007 Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph TOP GUN ref. IW379901 (image: IWC)
2019 Pilot's Watch Chronograph "Blue Angels" ref. IW389008 (image: IWC)

The Next Generation

In 2021, IWC released an exciting lineup of new models inspired by their collaborations with the pilots in the TOPGUN tactical school.

The TOP GUN models grew to include two additional TOP GUN models in Ceratanium cases and a black-on-black aesthetic. The Blue Angels also saw a new chronograph in navy ceramic with highlights of yellow.

There were also two new fighter attack squadron chronographs in 44.5mm ceramic cases with Ceratanium pushers and crown. The first is with the VFA-27 “Royal Maces” based in Iwakuni, Japan. The Royal Maces were commissioned Attack Squadron 27 (VFA-27) in September of 1967 and they originally flew the A-7 Corsair II. They transitioned to their F/A-18A Hornet in 1991, earning the VFA-27 designation.

The VFA-14 Tophatters of the California-based Naval Air Station Lemoore are the US Navy’s oldest active squadron. Formed in 1919, they have flown 23 different types of aircraft and operated from 20 different aircraft carriers.

IWC has worked with various squadrons from the TOPGUN tactical school to create unique collaboration pieces such as the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tophatters” ref. IW389108 (left) and the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces” ref. IW389107
IWC has worked with various squadrons from the TOPGUN tactical school to create unique collaboration pieces such as the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tophatters” ref. IW389108 (left) and the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces” ref. IW389107

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces”

Limited to 500 pieces per year, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces” has a black ceramic 44.5mm case with Ceratanium pushers and crown. The dial is black with a chronograph complication, a day and date window at three o’clock, and small hacking seconds driven by the caliber 69380 movement. The black-on-black colorway is broken only by the crisp white numerals and indexes and pops of yellow. It is paired with a black calfskin strap with yellow stitching and a yellow lining. The Royal Maces logo of a gauntleted fist holding a mace is proudly displayed in the small seconds subdial. The caseback is engraved with an image of the F/A 18E and lists the VFA-27 designation and the Royal Maces squadron call sign.

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces”
Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Royal Maces”

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 69380; 46-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small hacking seconds, chronograph and day/date indicator
Case: 44.5mm; ceramic with Ceratanium pushers and crown; water resistant to 60m
Dial: Black; luminescent white Arabic numerals
Strap: Black calfskin; stainless steel sandblasted folding clasp
Price: USD 11,200
Availability: Limited annual production of 500 pieces


Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tophatters”

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tophatters” is based on the same architecture and styling as the “Royal Maces” but with red coloring rather than yellow and features the black top hat logo of the “Tophatters” in the small seconds subdial. The caseback engraving is of the “Tophatters” top hat logo with the words “Oldest and Boldest” as well as the words “100 years” to mark their anniversary as a squadron. It is limited to 500 pieces per year.

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tophatters”
Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tophatters”

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 69380; 46-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small hacking seconds, chronograph and day/date indicator
Case: 44.5mm; ceramic with Ceratanium pushers and crown; water resistant to 60m
Dial: Black; luminescent white Arabic numerals
Strap: Black calfskin; stainless steel folding clasp
Price: USD 11,200
Availabiliy: Limited annual production of 500 pieces


Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Blue Angels”

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Blue Angels” shakes up the previous colorway a bit by introducing a striking blue ceramic in place of the black from the previous models. The dial is a matching blue with white numerals and indexes. Pops of yellow appear on the chronograph hand and in the Blue Angels shield logo. The caseback features an engraving of four F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets flying in formation over the Blue Angels logo. The watch is paired with a matching blue rubber strap with textile inlay for a harmonious colorway and limited to 500 pieces per year.

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Blue Angels”
Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Blue Angels”

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 69380; 46-hour power reserve
Funcions: Hours, minutes, small hacking seconds, chronograph and day/date indicator
Case: 44.5mm; ceramic with Ceratanium pushers and crown; water resistant to 60m
Dial: Blue; luminescent white Arabic numerals
Strap: Blue rubber with textile inlay; stainless steel folding clasp
Price: USD 11,200
Availability: Limited annual production of 500 pieces


Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Top Gun Ceratanium

Limited to 500 pieces per year, the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium adds a new look for the IWC-patented timezoner function line with a quiet black-on-black colorway and a bezel in the patented Ceratanium material with the names of major world cities circling the dial. The soft gray numerals and minutes track add to the somber, understated sense of sporty style. Featuring the IWC caliber 82760, the watch’s bezel is coupled to the mechanicals so it can adjust the world-time with a simple “press, turn to the desired city and release” maneuver. Changing time zones, even across the date line, doesn’t stop the movement so it never loses a second of time during the adjustment. There is a date display as well as the 24-hour display for the world-time function.

Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium
Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 82760; 60-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, world-time and date
Case: 46mm; Ceratanium; water resistant to 60m
Dial: Black; luminescent black Arabic numerals
Strap: Black rubber with textile inlay; Ceratanium pin buckle
Price: USD 17,400
Availability: Limited annual production of 500 pieces


Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Ceratanium

The Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Ceratanium is a substantial 46.2mm in the patented Ceratanium material and has a stealthy black-on-black aesthetic with strategic spots of red, like blips on a radar screen. Even the numerals and indexes are carefully subdued to a soft gray to continue the low profile colorway. There is a nice balance to the complex set of four subdials, including a perpetual calendar with day, date, month and year display, the moonphase display (the mechanicals engineered to within one day every 577.5 years), small seconds and the power reserve. The matching black bracelet is the first ever to be made with links of Ceratanium. This watch is limited to 150 pieces per annum.

The Pilot's Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium marks a stealthy, stylish new black-on-black look for IWC’s patented timezoner function line
The Pilot's Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium marks a stealthy, stylish new black-on-black look for IWC’s patented timezoner function line
Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Ceratanium
Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Ceratanium

Tech Specs

Movement: Self-winding caliber 52615; 168-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and perpetual calendar with moonphase
Case: 46.2mm; Ceratanium; water resistant to 60m
Dial: Black; luminescent black Arabic numerals
Strap: Ceratanium bracelet
Price: USD 56,700
Availability: Limited annual production of 150 pieces

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