Officially revealed last January at SIHH 2016 show, the IWC Top Gun Miramar Chronograph (ref. IW389002) brings everything you loved about the Miramar collection, albeit in a smaller package. With a touch oversized case crafted from dark grey scratch-resistant ceramic and a high-contrast, yet discreet dial layout, this new model looks like a very interesting choice for a person who always wanted a dressy pilot, but wasn’t quite satisfied with earlier models and their Gargantuan proportions.
The Swiss watchmaker IWC keeps fine-tuning its top of the line Top Gun Miramar line of aviator watches. Leaving intact all the signature elements of general design (those including the traditional diamond-shaped hands and the signature bright red secondary chapter ring on its anthracite dial,) the team behind this new model carefully adjusted the timepiece in all the right places to make it a tad more compact, while maintaining well-chosen proportions of all elements of the dial and the mirror-polished ceramic case.
Still looking extremely sober and, well, manly, the watch is also quite elegant to a degree that it may actually look appropriate when worn with a business suit (wearing it for a black-tie party may still not be a good idea, though,) but it would probably look best with something like a pilot’s jumpsuit, a good pair of Raybans, and an F-16C Eagle to finish the picture. After all, IWC is still one of just two licensees (the other one is Breitling that uses the logo on their Chronomat 44 TOPGUN chronograph) of the legendary Top Gun logo owned by US Navy education facility where best of the best of US fighter pilots hone their skills.
Case & Strap
I am not really sure whether the current trend for downsizing luxury timekeepers has something to do with free-falling oil prices, but if yes, I hope it won’t stop anytime soon. The previous iteration of the watch was 46 millimeters in diameter (and their earlier Big Pilot Top Gun Miramar chronograph that was presented around four years ago was even larger measuring almost jaw-dropping 46 millimeters. This new model is smaller. It measures just 44 mm without crown thus becoming a lot more versatile. While I saw dozens of people extremely (happy with their oversized Top Guns, most of them actually didn’t look that great with their relatively long lugs being actually wider than their owners’ wrists.
This one, on the other hand, is not only smaller in diameter but is also shorter in the lug-to-lug department looking a lot better on a normal wrist.
Now, I’d dare say, you can wear it with a business suit and not look too ahem eccentric.
Measuring only 15.50 mm from top to bottom, it also feels a lot more comfortable on the wrist when worn with formal attire.
The polished grey ceramic case is a lot more practical, albeit expensive alternative to titanium: it is a lot less prone to scratches, while still being relatively light. I don’t know whether IWC has finally managed to overcome the main problem of ceramic bodies: their tendency to shutter or crack after falling on a hard surface from even desk-top height. There were reports of such regrettable incidents in the past, but I really wouldn’t want to test its endurance, so to speak, in the field. Well, just try not to drop it, I think.
As for the ergonomics, it looks superb: IWC’s engineers really know their stuff. The body profile is nicely curved, while the crown with its fluted sides provides good grip. Well, maybe the chronograph push-pieces are a bit too long for my taste and the official water resistance rating of just 60 meters makes the piece less versatile than I would care to, but otherwise, it’s perfect.
By the way, the khaki-colored ‘textile’ strap that you can see on the photos is actually made from calfskin leather. While not as practical and durable as a real textile strap made in accordance to NATO standards, it is a lot more comfortable and, well, more suitable for a watch designed for pilots who only fly their bespoke hand-crafted desks.
Compared to the 2012 Big Pilot Top Gun Miramar, the watch still keeps the same dial layout with vertically placed sub-dials and a simple calendar at 3 hours, but can now register a lot longer intervals of time thanks to the new mechanism that animates it replacing the original Caliber 89365. The date aperture, by the way, is now (thank God for that!) the usual small rectangle, not an arc-shaped cutout that showed not one, but three dates at once (I still don’t know what’s the point of this sort of design, to be frank).
The combination of anthracite background and vintage-beige-colored Superluminova on all hands and hour markers still seems to be producing really good results: the mix is contrast enough to be read even in twilight when it is still too much light for lume to kick in. The red-colored secondary chapter ring with standard Arabic numerals doesn’t look that contrast, but there isn’t much need in the element anyway: it is here more as an element of decor, so legibility doesn’t suffer a lot even if you don’t see it in the dark.
The combined chronograph sub-dial not only looks really cool (I may be a bit biased here since I always liked this sort of indication regardless of the brand that uses the design,) but also makes reading the totalizer a lot easier in those rare occasions when you really decide to use the function.
As usual for a brand of such pedigree as IWC, all elements are fit each other tight: it takes just a single glance to understand that the Swiss watchmaker didn’t just grab a handful of diamond-shaped hour and minute hands from the closest bucket without thinking too hard about how good they will look on an actual watch: the hands, the numerals, the fonts used for standard inscriptions make an impression that the team responsible for this new Top Gun Miramar Chronograph really did take its time to make things work as smoothly as possible.
Even if there was some cost-cutting before putting the model on the assembly line, it doesn’t show. That’s what you get when you buy yourself a top-dollar product from a brand that cares about its reputation: top-rated quality in even the simplest elements.
The mechanism that powers this model is certainly not new: it is the same in-house Caliber 89361 automatic movement that also happens to animate the 2012 Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition, Ingenieur Racer from the same year and a number of other mildly oversized chronographs issued by IWC during last five years or so.
The movement’s layout is the same as that used on the Portugueser: there is a combined a 12-hours and a 60-minute totalizer at 12 o’clock, a hacking small seconds indicator at 6 o’clock, a central chronograph seconds hand, and a simple date calendar at 3 hours.
Besides the chronograph design that still may seem a bit unusual to those swearing by the classic ETA 7750 caliber, the mechanism features an advanced system of automatic winding that, too, was developed by IWC own team of researchers, is based on the well-known Pellaton system, and offers significantly improved winding time: something that is really welcome when you are dealing with a massive spring barrel capable of powering the timekeeper for at least 68 hours without interruption. That’s more than enough if you plan to use it as a daily driver that would only rest on weekends.
Another thing that differs this manufacture-made job from traditional Valjoux design is the use of so-called “vertical clutch” that acts about the same way as a car’s gearbox making the chronograph mechanism engage faster when the “Start” button is pressed, and also reducing mechanical wear of the unit. As far as I know, the mechanism itself is quite reliable, but is also extremely difficult to repair and is usually replaced for a new one, so, if it breaks down when your warranty is expired and you find yourself in a third world country, you are in a world of pain.
As usual, the mechanism is nicely decorated sporting polished screws, gold inscriptions all over the place, and, of course, the signature circular Geneva stripes on its bridges and open-worked oscillating weight. Basically, the whole nine yards as far as it goes with mass-produced mechanisms of this kind. The only problem with this tiny engine is that you will not able to admire it since it is protected from the environment with a solid case back cover. And, let me tell you, the TOP GUN logo on the back does little to compensate for the lack of a display window. I would totally want to see the mechanism if I ever decided to go for such a serious investment.
Pricing & Availability
There is still no official information regarding the timekeeper’s international availability, but at least we can tell you about the price. In the United States, the ref. IW389002 will retail for $10,900, which is actually not terribly expensive for a watch in a quality ceramic case that is powered by a very good in-house mechanism.
See also: IWC Pilot Double Chronograph TOP GUN
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
IWC Top Gun Miramar Chronograph (ref. IW389002) specification
Price: $10,900 (MSRP)
Winding: Automatic (winding in both direction)
Movement: Caliber 89361, in-house, soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 38
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 68 hours
Movement decoration: Geneva Stripes, open-worked oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, hacking small seconds, date, chronograph
Case and Bezel: Ceramic
Size: 44.00 mm
Case height: 15.50 mm
Hour markers: Luminous
Hands: Diamond-shaped, luminous
Water resistance: 60 meters
Strap: Green textured calfskin strap
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective coating on both sides, convex
Back: Solid, engraved