Flieger watches are a mainstay in the collections of most fans of aviator watches. The style of watch – characterised by a large typeface and uncomplicated dial – first rose to prominence in Germany in the 1940s and eventually became a cult classic due to its historical significance. While Flieger timepieces are not exclusive to any specific manufacturer in particular, IWC stands as one of the few watch houses credited for producing the original examples. In recognition of its heritage, the manufacture has announced the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition "Tribute to 3705", an exceptional timepiece limited to just 1,000 examples.
The Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition "Tribute to 3705" traces its lineage back to IWC's Fliegerchronograph Keramik (ref. 3705), which first debuted in 1994. This timepiece was presented in a 39-millimetre black zirconium oxide ceramic case – a first for IWC's traditionally steel-case-centric pilot watch collection. Despite its innovative profile, production for the "Black Flieger" failed to captivate the market and production was discontinued after only a thousand pieces.
Since then, the ref. 3705 has garnered an underground following of watch enthusiasts. The Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition "Tribute to 3705" pays homage to the 1990s timepiece, while simultaneously updating certain features to bring it more in line with modern sensibilities.
The most significant change pertains to the watch's case. IWC has produced the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition "Tribute to 3705" in black Ceratanium – a proprietary material that combines the robustness of titanium with the damage resistance of ceramic. It's not just the now-larger 41-millimetre case that features Ceratanium; the chronograph pushers, winding crown and pin buckle utilise it as well. A tactical consideration for sure; these components are just as exposed as the case and are crucial to the watch's utility.
IWC has also given the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition "Tribute to 3705" a movement overhaul. While the original ref. 3705 drew power from the Valjoux 7750, this newer iteration features the in-house Calibre 69380. Compared to the workhorse Valjoux 7750, the Calibre 69380 uses a column wheel architecture for smoother actuation and time-accurate performance of the chronograph pushers. The Calibre 69380 also utilises a bi-directional pawl winding system, improving upon the Valjoux 7750's uni-directional winding ability.
The Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition "Tribute to 3705" offers up an impressive amount of legibility, function and innovation, all of which come together to produce an aviator's watch well-suited to IWC's pedigree. At the same time, this new iteration of the ref. 3705 retains the same rugged spirit as its predecessor. It's a full-fledged tool watch, but it wouldn't look the least bit out of place outside the cockpit either. Most importantly, the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Edition "Tribute to 3705" stands as an enduring testimony to both IWC's heritage as a manufacturer of professional instruments and its expertise in exploring avant-garde materials in watchmaking.
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