Have you ever thought that tool watches can’t be fashion watches and vice versa? Well, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert is here to tear down that wall. Yes, the brand from Schaffhausen has released watches in sand-colored ceramic before, and in quite a few other colors as well, but there was always something “wrong”, so to speak. The balance between size, design, functionality, and complication was never perfect. The watch we received at Fratello HQ, however, strikes a perfect balance. And by doing so, it opens a world of watch possibilities and erases boundaries.

Look, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Oceana (IW389404) is too blue. The Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Ceratanium (IW503604) is too complicated. And although the Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Mojave Desert (IW506003) gets the color right, the 46mm case is too big for the majority of wrists. So what makes the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert (IW389402) a breakthrough watch?

IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Mojave Desert

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert: redefining a tool watch

The reason why the new Top Gun chronograph in sand-colored ceramic is the perfect symbiosis of a functional instrument and a decorative object is that this watch ticks all the boxes in these two categories. This chronograph is as much a tool watch as it is a “fashion” watch. And by that, I mean that this is a watch that you are going to match your outfit with (or vice versa). Yet, at the same time, IWC managed to preserve the original tool-watch features. Which ones, you ask? A water-resistant case that withstands pressure to 10 ATM, for instance, and a screw-in crown in lightweight titanium. The pushers are in titanium too. And there is more, of course. The sapphire crystal over the dial is protected against sudden drops in air pressure, and a soft-iron inner case protects the movement against possibly disturbing magnetic interference — so very IWC.

Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Mojave Desert

The dial might not be black with white numerals and indexes like a classic pilot’s watch. This matte brown dial shows beige indexes and Arabic numerals instead. Okay, the result is not as sharp as it is in black and white, but the readability is still faultless. That’s also because the brown and beige hands that indicate the time and the timed segments provide enough contrast. And in the dark, the watch retains and maybe even uplifts its readability game because there’s Super-LumiNova on crucial time-keeping elements.

IWC Pilot's Watch

The refinement of a tool

A tool watch is not the watch equivalent of a sledgehammer. No, it’s a precision tool that can be just as detailed as the jobs for which it is used. That’s why this beige tool watch has refined elements like sub-dials with a fine circular-grained finish for the running seconds, elapsed minutes, and elapsed hours. It also features a stepped day-date window showing two discs in the same color as the dial and the day and date in beige.

Mojave Desert

Furthermore, the material that IWC used to create this tool is not your ordinary alloy. In fact, it’s not an alloy at all. The sandy beige Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert, together with watches in Lake Tahoe White, Woodland Green, and Jet Black, is a watch that belongs in a sub-category called “Colors of Top Gun,” and that in itself is in another sub-category of Pilot’s watches named “Performance Materials.” Ceramic is not a novel material for IWC. In 1986, the brand presented the world’s first ceramic watch, the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar ref. 3755. IWC puts the “Performance Materials” sticker on ceramic because a case in this material outperforms the hardest steel by 10–20 times. Ceramics are also non-corrosive and offer greater strength and superior abrasion resistance compared to steel, which are all very functional characteristics for a tool (watch).

Confusion in numbers

Before sharing my personal experience with the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert, let’s address the “41” in the name. It refers to the diameter of the watch, but it also doesn’t. The diameter isn’t 41mm; instead, it’s 41.9mm. So the watch is more “42” than “41” in my book. In a casual conversation with Christian Knoop during the opening of IWC’s latest and largest flagship boutique in the world in Amsterdam, very recently, he explained it with a car analogy, something I’m not the biggest fan of, to put it mildly. However, it did shed some light on the matter.

“The ’63’ on the boot of the current Mercedes AMG C 63 S E Performance is no longer directly linked to the size of the engine under the bonnet,” Knoop said. “There’s no 6.3-liter V8 that you would probably expect based on AMG models from the past.” He’s very right. There’s no V8 indeed. Instead, the AMG C 63 S E Performance is a hybrid with a 1,991cc four-cylinder engine. The power is impressive, though. The combustion and the electric motor together produce 680 BHP. Maybe Mercedes should have named the car “C 68” so the number would make a bit more sense, but that’s a completely different topic. Let’s focus on this pilot’s watch again.


More numbers to digest

So, the 41 is actually more of a 42, but the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 actually has a 43mm case diameter. The bigger brother of the 41 is the white ceramic Lake Tahoe (IW389105). There’s no number in the name, but for logical and functional purposes, there should be one. Based on IWC’s logic, that number should be “45” since that case diameter is 44.5mm. Anyway, what you should remember is that the 41 is the most moderate and average one in the IWC catalog and that it wears like a 42.

The 15.5mm case thickness certainly doesn’t make it slim. But the proportions are good, and since this is a watch that originates from a classic tool watch, it never needed to slide under the cuff of a dress shirt. Additionally, with fashion now being more casual than ever, a 15.5mm thickness works just fine with, well, nearly every cuff out there.

IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Mojave Desert

Famous architecture

Inside the 41.9 × 15.5mm case beats the automatic caliber 69380 with IWC’s Pellaton Winding System. It’s a 30 × 7.9mm, 242-component, 4Hz in-house movement with a 46-hour power reserve. You can’t see that the movement is decorated with Côtes de Genève and perlage, nor will you spot the column wheel of the chronograph mechanism because the case back is 100% titanium. You will have to make do with a Top Gun engraving instead.


IWC’s caliber 69380 uses the same layout as the Valjoux 7750 that powered IWC chronographs for ages. In fact, the 69000 caliber range is based on the Valjoux 7750 architecture, but it does away with the cam-based system in favor of a more precise column wheel. The result is an upgrade that feels and works great and retains the confidence-inspiring looks on the dial side.

Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Mojave Desert

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert on the wrist

Thanks to the proportions of the case and its 51.5mm lug-to-lug, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert wears as you’d expect from the numbers. Don’t expect a featherweight piece even if titanium and ceramics are the main building blocks of the watch. But that won’t be a problem for fans who base their watch choice on either functional or aesthetic characteristics. The way the watch wears and how it looks in real life are fairly straightforward. White makes things look bigger, while black does the opposite. Beige is sort of in between, meaning this watch wears “true to color,” I guess.

By the way, while the color might look fashionable to you and me, it comes from the flight suits of naval aviators and the desert landscape around China Lake, home to the United States Navy’s famous Top Gun flight school. This is another facet that underlines the blending of fashion and function — Prada meets Patagonia? — that results in a tool watch 2.0.

At first, I struggled a bit with putting the pin of the titanium buckle in the right hole of the sand-colored rubber strap with a textile inlay. But once I managed to find the sweet spot on my wrist and the right hole, the watch settled in and felt very comfortable. But when I looked through IWC’s strap options, my eyes fell on a strap that could not only be easier to wear but could also enhance the looks of the beige pilot’s watch — the brown MiraTex strap made with Mirum. That plastic-free, bio-based, low-carbon, 100% recyclable material looks like slightly aged leather. Future buyers of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert should, in my opinion, definitely consider getting that strap.

IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Mojave Desert

Final thoughts

Allow me to contrast a few watches. The 42 × 42mm Hublot Square Bang Unico White Ceramic with its “disruptive and unconventional shape” first and foremost wants to be seen. Functionality isn’t a factor with that watch; it is a decorative, portable object that accidentally tells time despite the presence of an in-house, automatic chronograph movement. The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 (IW388111) in steel is on the opposite end of the spectrum. When form follows function, that’s what you get. And when the form gets uplifted by an evolutionary material and a thought-through colorway, you get the beige Mojave Desert, a tool watch that blurs the lines between form and function.

The final point of discussion is the price of €12,900 / US$11,700. For reference, the steel version (IW388111) has a price of €8,450 / US$7,600. The 4K+ price difference between the two versions of the chronograph is, well, quite substantial. Is the use of beige ceramic that costly? That explanation is very hard (pun intended) to swallow. Also, the titanium (instead of steel) parts don’t logically justify the large price difference. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s hard to put a price on a watch that is the materialization of a near-perfect symbiosis of function, size, looks, and innovation. But now I’m just making excuses for IWC, and I shouldn’t be doing that.

Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41

What’s your take on the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert? Let me know in the comments, please. And if you want to take a look a more pilot’s watches in ceramic, please visit the official IWC website.

Watch specifications

Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Mojave Desert
Matte brown with beige indexes and hands coated with Super-LumiNova
Case Material
Matte beige ceramic with screw-down crown, pushers, and case back in titanium
Case Dimensions
41.9mm (diameter) × 51.5mm (lug-to-lug) × 15.5mm (thickness)
Convex sapphire with antireflective coating
Case Back
Titanium, screw-in
IWC 69380 — automatic and hand-winding chronograph with column wheel, 28,800vph frequency, 46-hour power reserve, 33 jewels
Water Resistance
10 ATM
Beige rubber with beige textile inlay and titanium pin buckle
Time (hours, minutes, small seconds), chronograph (12-hour and 30-minute counters, central seconds), day, and date
€12,900 / US$11,700
Up to 8 years