Blending In With The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”
China Lake is a dry lake in the scorching hot Mojave Desert in California. It’s also the place where Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake is situated. This immense 51,000 km2 base 240 kilometers north of Los Angeles is home to many pilots. Pilots that don’t wear green flight suits, but beige ones. This color better blends in with the desert sand of the Mojave Desert. As does the sand-colored ceramic case of IWC’s camouflaged “BP”. I tried my best blending in with the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”. Not in the desert but in my natural habitat, the city.
You might be thinking “China Lake in California?” Yep, California in the US of A. The dry lake gets its name from 19th-century Chinese prospectors harvesting the mineral borax from the lake bed. The site was known back in the day as “The Little Chinese Borax Works.” Nowadays, the place is home to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and its workforce that consists of 620 active duty military men and women, 4,166 civilian employees, and 1,734 contractors. Not all of them wear beige flight suits, but the pilots operating from NAWS China Lake do. And it’s these (Mojave) desert camo flight suits that were a source of inspiration for the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert” (Ref. IW506003). As there’s no desert nearby, I wore the watch to work, the forest, and even a supermarket; it didn’t seem to mind the more mundane surroundings.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”
I could tell you about the pilots of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9), nicknamed “The Vampires”, that operate in the restricted airspace high above the Mojave Desert. And how these daredevils benefit from a scratch-resistant ceramic case when they climb in and out of their cramped cockpits. But I won’t.
And that’s because although it’s true that the Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert” with its 46 × 14.6mm scratch-resistant case could certainly perform on the wrists of the US Navy’s most skilled pilots, the vast majority of the wearers of this tool watch won’t actually be fighter pilots.
A tool watch at heart
It’s the first Big Pilot in this color, but not the first IWC, as the brand already presented a chronograph in Mojave Desert beige during the 2019 edition of the SIHH. This first BP in a sand-colored ceramic case will be on the wrist of people who dig the sand-colored case and strap. This is a tool watch at heart and a style statement by appearance. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. This watch looks hot. Hotter than a scorching summer day up in China Lake.
Some would call it fashionable, others contemporary, but technical also applies.
The Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert” still packs the same functionality the steel BP IW501001 does but presents itself in a very different way. Some would call it fashionable, others contemporary, but technical also applies. I think it’s all three.
The colored ceramic case and matching rubber strap with textile inlay, combined with a dark brown dial, will appeal to those with a feel for fashion. This BP’s attire perfectly captures the “Zeitgeist”. On top of that, the ceramics IWC use are created in a sophisticated manufacturing process.
Metallic oxides at work
I still find the idea of a powder that turns into something so hard only a diamond can do serious damage to it, quite fascinating. The zirconium oxide IWC sinters at high temperatures, and contains a carefully measured amount of metallic oxides to create a matte, sandy beige color. The case protects the proven IWC-manufactured caliber 52110 with an automatic Pellaton winding system that has been reinforced with ceramic components. Two barrels give the watch a very practical long power reserve of seven days.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”: who is it for?
First, it’s a matter of budget, of course. The Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert” costs €15,200 and that’s €1,900 more than you pay for a steel BP. The upcharge gets you a unique-looking ceramic case and the knowledge that the annual production of your beige BP is limited to just 250 pieces. It’s also less hefty than a steel BP and therefore easier to carry around all day — I mean, wear around all day, of course. But no matter what material, 46mm will always be prominent on the wrist and captivating to the eye.
… it could also lure away people who are looking at brightly colored ceramic Hublots.
Is all that enough for the ceramic Big Pilot to beat its steel brother? Well, it’s very unlikely that this sandy BP would be someone’s first watch. But it would sit well in a collection that already includes a steel BP, a Portugieser Perpetual Calendar, and a bronze Spitfire chronograph.
But this beige BP could also tempt people who are in the market for a brightly colored ceramic Hublot. Where Hublot uses versatile and appealing ceramics to create a shiny rainbow of watches, IWC deploys the material in a more understated, serious, and functional way. Functional as in strong and sturdy enough to be used by fighter pilots. But also stylish enough for the fashion-conscious watch enthusiast. You can now pair your khaki’s and desert boots with a matching BP made by a well-respected Swiss watch brand.
The Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert” walks a thin line between functionality and fashion, and absolutely pulls it off if you ask me.
Have a closer look at IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert” on the brand’s official website.
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