Never outgunned

IWC's Pilot's Watch Top Gun gets two new editions

A major challenge was to adapt the ceramic shades to other watch components.

In 2019, IWC Schaffhausen introduced the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition Mojave Desert in an alluring sand-coloured ceramic case, thanks to a groundbreaking engineering process.

The alchemy has further provided white and green ceramic cases for the new Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition Lake Tahoe and Woodland recently launched at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2022.

Ceramic is lighter and harder than steel plus scratch-resistant with a smooth mirror-like surface. Developing the new colours makes the durable material even more appealing.

"Coloured ceramics allow us to create unusual designs with a pared-down -- almost subdued -- look. Besides, along with performance and technology, colour plays an important role in the Top Gun universe," said Christian Knoop, chief design officer at IWC Schaffhausen.

The three watches pay tribute to the US Navy Fighter Weapons School and Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor programme -- better known as TOPGUN. Colour insignia are traditionally often designed by the pilots themselves to underscore the unit's history and solidarity.

The sand colour named IWC Mojave Desert references the uniform's earthy tone and reflects the barren landscape of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake located in the western Mojave Desert region of California.

Chief design officer Christian Knoop.

Located between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a mountainous area frequently flown over by naval aviators. The winter landscape around this freshwater lake as well as white uniforms have inspired a muted white colour with a mysterious shimmer, named IWC Lake Tahoe, created by Pantone.

Likewise, IWC Woodland is a dark green hue recalling the flight suits and uniforms worn by elite TOPGUN pilots and the vast forest landscapes that they fly over.

These two new colours have been added to IWC's ceramic portfolio in dressing the new Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Editions.

"With the Top Gun chronographs, we have proved our innovative strength and explored new ground. We are adding an exciting new chapter to the tradition-rich history of our Pilot's Watches and, at the same time, expanding our expertise as a ceramics expert," said Knoop.

In the 1980s, the Swiss watchmaker carried out pioneering work in the field of ceramics, experimented with different colours and produced small series or prototypes in white, blue, green and even pink ceramic.

Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition Woodland with a ceramic case and Ceratanium caseback.

Zirconium oxide is combined with other metallic oxides to give ceramic its colour. The raw materials and mixing ratio are different for each shade. One of many challenges is creating the final shade, which is determined in close co-operation with engineers during countless tests to find optimal pigment mixtures for the colour batches.

Moreover, finding the right mixture also considers how the colour changes during the firing process. The manufacturing process and its specific conditions, for instance the temperature and duration of the sintering process, have to be adapted to the coloured ceramic and its components.

Coloured ceramics also place significantly higher demands on the purity of the raw materials.

"It was an incredibly elaborate process. First, we had to create new ceramic colours and then carefully match them with all the other components in the watches. Colour engineering with this level of consistency and attention to detail had never been seen at IWC before," Knoop said.

Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition Lake Tahoe.

The use of coloured ceramics added an extra layer of complexity to the design and manufacturing process of the new chronographs, such as adapting the white and green shades to numerous other components made of different materials -- each with unique properties and a specific manufacturing process -- such as the dial, hands, rubber straps and textile inlays, and even luminescent paint.

The IWC Woodland charms on the 44.5mm ceramic case and dial of the green chronograph, worn with a matching rubber strap.

The numerals and hour markers are printed in a lighter hue while the pushers and case back are made of matte black Ceratanium, an IWC-developed material that combines the lightness and structural integrity of titanium with a hardness and scratch-resistance similar to ceramic.

Matched with a white rubber strap, the Lake Tahoe version is designed with a pitch-black dial and black hands that contrast with the white ceramic case.

Both timepieces are powered by the IWC-manufactured 69380 calibre, providing a power reserve of 46 hours. The soft-iron inner cases protect the movements from the effects of magnetic fields.

The front glass is specially secured to withstand sudden drops in air pressure while the caseback boasts an engraving of the Top Gun logo.

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