IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Top Gun

2022 is the year of IWC TOP GUN. Performance and style come together as new Pilot’s Watches, in striking colors and innovative materials, take their place in this iconic line. Watch enthusiast Justin Hast talks to IWC Chief Design Officer Christian Knoop about the design codes of the new timepieces, as the pair discuss the heritage of professional Pilot’s watches at IWC.
The introduction in 2019 of a sand-colored case established IWC as a pioneer in the use of ceramics in watchmaking. Now two more statement-making shades – dark green “Woodland” (Ref. IW389106) and winter white “Lake Tahoe” (Ref. IW389105) – join the IWC TOP GUN collection. Christian Knoop shares the inspiration behind these bold new additions to the IWC color palette.
Combining the toughness of titanium with the hardness and scratch-resistance of ceramic, Ceratanium is emblematic of IWC’s engineering expertise. Christian Knoop discusses the properties of this unique and innovative material, and its latest addition; the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium (Ref. IW388106).
With a long heritage in engineering robust tool watches, IWC was the natural choice to partner with TOP GUN flight school. Christian Knoop tells the story of this high-performance collection, and of the brand new Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN (Ref. IW329801).
IWC presented new Top Gun watches during SIHH in 2019, introducing their Ceratanium material for the first time in the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph. Among the new releases was the “Mojave Desert” chronograph featuring a sand-colored ceramic, and the black ceramic Top Gun Automatic, serving as an entry point to the collection. Drawing on IWC’s well established Pilot’s Watch design language, the Automatic offered a familiar face while using the brand’s new(ish) 32110 in-house caliber. A few years later, we’re taking a look back at the Automatic Top Gun to see how it fares today, both as a Top Gun entry point, and as an IWC Pilot’s Watch.
It’s worth exploring the relationship between IWC’s Top Gun collection, and the US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, aka Top Gun, from which the collection takes its name. The US Navy granted IWC exclusive license to manufacture Top Gun labeled timepieces in 2005, with the first watches appearing with the IWC Pilot’s Watch family in 2007 in the form of a Double (rattrapante) Chronograph. The driving force here is to produce watches befitting the elite pilots enduring the rigors of the nine week Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) program (which likely involves less shirtless beach volleyball than you’re imagining).
IWC was granted time on the US Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to get a better sense of the training routine of these pilots, an exercise that laid the groundwork for the unique materials and appearance of  IWC Top Gun watches. The black ceramic cases and matte textures are born from the need to eliminate any potential reflective surface that could interfere with the pilot’s visibility. The material must also be able to withstand the knocks that undoubtedly come with the high G forces experienced inside the cockpit during training.
Unlike the classic IWC Pilot’s Watch formula developed by IWC in 1949 with the iconic Mark 11, Top Gun watches are designed and built around the modern, high tech environments occupied by pilots today. However, the design language employed does indeed lean on the brand’s well established Pilot’s Watch identity, and this is especially evident in the Automatic Top Gun presented here.
For the curious, the license fee paid by IWC to the US Navy goes to a charitable organization supporting retired Top Gun pilots.