Ever wanted to join the US Navy? IWC Schaffhausen now lets you fulfill at least a part of your dream. With its IWC Pilot Double Chronograph Edition TOP GUN (Ref. IW379901) just about anyone (with a wallet heavy enough to afford to buy this kind of watch) can come closer to the exciting world of air to air dogfight missions.
A fancy chronograph with its case fashioned from some high-tech material is probably not the only thing you need to become a (better) pilot, but it is certainly a nice thing to have since it often increases person’s self-respect constantly reminding him (or her) that he (or she) is good at something being able to afford such a beautiful and expensive device. However, don’t me on this since I am not sure whether a visit to your therapist would produce better results at lower costs, since, as they used to say, there are lots of Porsches near a therapist’s office, but not a single Harley-Davidson.
With this special edition IWC experiments with a material that is still relatively new to the industry. Although Rado makes ceramic cases for ages, there are not so many major watchmakers that were brave enough to make versions of their milk-and-butter models from what is essentially a cup of powder that was given its shape with lots of pressure and immense heat. Of course, since the material is now widely used in aerospace and defense industries, it has gained a cool factor that rivals that of carbon fiber. The little evil dwarves of Switzerland just couldn’t resist the temptation.
While ceramic watches are most usually associated with glossy, plastic-looking from Rado and Dior, this one features an attractive stealthy look that, thanks to its bright color accents on the dial, brings associations with the legendary Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.
Significantly larger than your normal sporty chronograph, this watch -somewhat surprisingly- looks good on a bigger wrist thanks to the shape of its relatively short lugs. However, if you are of a smaller breed, this one maybe not the best choice.
Its styling is reserved and even a bit stern: the gadget is heavily inspired by instrument gauges on real planes of the previous generation.
Just like most military-style chronographs, the IWC TOP GUN also comes with a black case, although this time it’s not a PVD (or a lot more scratch-resistant DLC variety that, too, starts to get traction when it comes to luxury timekeepers,) but rather scratch-resistant ceramic combined with the push-pieces and the crown made in lightweight titanium.
Although the choice of metal is cool and even reduces the timekeeper’s weight by a whole gram (just me being sarcastic, don’t quote me on that), it detracts a little from that stealthy image set by the case and strap. Perhaps, covering the pieces in DLC would be a better idea, but that, of course, is a matter of personal preferences. Some people may call them ‘accents’ that are nicely matched by a standard tongue buckle crafted from the same lightweight metal.
Frankly, I can’t comment on the longevity of that United States Navy Fighter Weapons School TOP GUN logo that we see on the screw-down titanium back of the gadget. I understand that, given IWC quality standards, it will possibly last the whole lifespan of the watch, but, again from a personal standpoint, I would prefer the image to be reproduced with something of a higher grade of artisanship. Something like engraving combined with enameling would be nice (and would better justify the heavy price tag.)
The wrist strap is also made of some kind of black canvas, probably nylon. Thanks to the brand’s using standard lugs, the strap can be easily exchanged for something more inspiring: like a custom NATO or, perhaps, a worn leather strap.
Its matte-black face is virtually overloaded with information, which is still easy enough to read if you are used to chronographs in general and the “rattrapante” chronographs in particular.
As usual for IWC, there are two recessed chronograph sub-dials aligned along the vertical axis. The totalizer at 12 o’clock counts minutes and the one at 6 o’clock is here to count hours.
The third sub-dial, at 9 o’clock, is for the sub-subsidiary seconds and the pair of centrally located seconds hands perform the split-seconds function.
Since the usual “logo spot” at 3 o’clock is occupied with cockpit-style “day of the week” and date apertures, the logo has been transferred to 9 o’clock.
Together with white-colored Arabic numerals and luminous diamond-shaped hands, the trim provides a higher degree of legibility.
The Top Gun Edition is animated by the self-winding Caliber 79230 that, being nothing more (but also, nothing less) than a modified version of the ETA Valjoux 7750 “workhorse”, not only offers a high degree of reliability but is also easy to service.
As to the accuracy, the normal working movement is known to lose or gain some 30 seconds per week, so using this watch in day-to-day life may also be quite comfortable.
Be warned, though! Measuring impressive 46 millimeters in diameters and almost 18 millimeters in height, the case will look huge on a smaller hand, especially, if your name is Tom Cruise.
UPDATE: If you are serious about getting this item, keep in mind that there are numerous reports from actual owners (even on IWC’s own site) about the extreme fragility of the case. In some, err, cases, the case may crack if the watch slips from your hands and hits a ceramic tile or some other hard surface. Be warned!
Review Score: 4.5/5
Build quality: 4.5/5
Overall Legibility: 5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
IWC Pilot Double Chronograph Edition TOP GUN (Ref. IW379901) specification:
Price range: $5,000 (online) $10,000 (official shops)
Movement: Self-winding, Caliber 79230 (base ETA Valjoux 7750), Swiss Made
Complications: Chronograph, Date, Day, Sub Seconds
Strap: Steel Bracelet
Water resistance: 60 meters
Back: Solid, US NFWS logo in color
Size: 46.00 mm
Case height: 17.80 mm