Introducing: The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces
It is no secret that I am a big fan of IWC, both vintage and modern. The IWC “Mark” series of pilot’s watches are some of the best in the business, and I am the lucky owner of an IWC Mark XV, which was my contender for my “go anywhere, do anything” watch. Today, I am excited to be writing about IWC’s latest introduction in the pilot’s series, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces (ref. IW326905). This model has a fully luminous dial, IWC’s first pilot’s watch with this feature. Let’s take a look.
IWC says it has taken inspiration from its collaborations with the U.S. Navy squadrons in making this watch. First off, I have to say that I find the design language pretty enchanting. The dial is where the magic happens, with black hands over a white fully luminous backdrop crafted from a solid disc of Super-LumiNova that glows bright green in low-light conditions. The watch comes standard on a black textile strap with a sandblasted stainless steel pin buckle.
This Black Aces model features the IWC caliber 32100, a 28,800vph (4Hz) automatic movement with a 72-hour power reserve, 21 jewels, and a silicon hairspring for antimagnetism. Additionally, it has a soft-iron inner case for the same reason, a longstanding feature of IWC’s Mark line. The 41mm black zirconium oxide ceramic case has a screw-down crown, providing a 6-bar water resistance rating. Though you may guess otherwise, IWC says this is suitable for swimming. The case also has a nice sub-12mm profile, coming in at 11.4mm thick. This means that while the watch is slightly larger than the Mark XX, it retains the design aesthetic and easy wearability for all sorts of wrist sizes.
Speaking of the case, IWC decided to use ceramic (a material it has been using since the 1980s in the brand’s watches) because its “lightness, hardness, and scratch resistance make it the perfect case material for everyday use in the restricted space of a jet cockpit.” The matte black color was also a purposeful design decision to help pilots not get distracted by sunlight reflected from their watch. The case back is titanium and features an engraving of the Black Aces’ twin-engine jet against a backdrop of spades. The sapphire glass is secured against displacement by sudden drops in air pressure, should you ever need it.
The Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces and its military connections
Like the Tudor FXD with its military connections, the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces takes inspiration from a pilot’s watch that IWC made specifically for U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 41 members, aka the Black Aces. Initially formed in 1950, the Black Aces are based at the Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.
Circling back to the dial, IWC says it was a design choice developed in collaboration with pilots from the Black Aces. To create it, IWC takes high-grade Super-LumiNova mixed with a binder, casts it into a circular mold, and then hardens it to give the material superior durability. The solid disc is then fixed onto the soft-iron dial before it’s imprinted with the indices, numerals, and the remaining dial details, including the Black Aces patch at 6 o’clock. IWC says that the dial glowed for more than 23 hours in tests, which is an impressive result.
This is not only a technically impressive watch but also one with a very cool backstory. Bravo, IWC, on a solid release. Admittedly, I would have liked to have seen the Black Aces patch on the case back rather than occupying the 6 o’clock position. I feel that it takes away from the ultimate legibility of this watch, which, in the end, is sort of its purpose as a timepiece here. Beyond that, I have few niggles, except to say that I wish it came in a 38mm size. Price-wise, we’re talking €7,700. For more information on availability, check out the IWC website.
But what about you, dear Fratelli? What are your thoughts on this release? Let us know in the comments.