Hands-On: A Limited Edition IWC Chronograph With No-Nonsense, Tool-Watch Vibes
The Swiss-German watchmaker partners with California-Based Collective Horology
Gabe Reilly and Asher Rapkin are longtime friends with an interest in watches. With Collective, a community for watch enthusiasts they founded in California in 2018, Rapkin and Reilly have partnered with watch brands on limited edition watches available exclusively for their members. A quick scan of the group’s Instagram page shows collaborations with Zenith, J.N. Shapiro, H. Moser, and Urwerk. Though Collective started in California, a new limited edition launching now marks the expansion of the group to the United Kingdom.
Today, we’ve got the latest in the series of collaborations, this time with IWC. The Pilot Chronograph Edition C.03 aims to distill the Collective founders’ favorite watch from their favorite era of IWC watchmaking, the IW3706 from the late 1990s.
The 41mm stainless steel flieger chronograph is a love letter to what many watch enthusiasts regard as a golden age. One of the popular brands at the time was IWC, whose slightly off-beat, value-oriented approach to watchmaking and design had a real charm that set it apart from much of the rest of Swiss watchmaking. Whereas the industry was then, as now, largely based in the French-speaking part of the country, IWC was up north near the border with Germany in a distinctively Swiss-German mileu. On the banks of the Rhine in the canton of Schaffhausen, it became known for no-nonsense watchmaking innovations like Kurt Klaus’s crown-operated perpetual calendar and Richard Habring’s Valjoux 7750-based Doppelchronograph.
The watch uses IWC’s automatic 69385 column-wheel chronograph, which beats at a standard rate of 28,800 vph and offers 46 hours of power reserve. One might hope for a bit more reserve, but assuming the watch is worn regularly, and this really does feel like a nice everyday chronograph contender, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Just note that with the date and the day, resetting would involve more than just setting the hour and minute hands. Flipping the watch over reveals a nicely decorated automatic chronograph with a blackened rotor. Showing the movement makes sense to me; it’s what enthusiasts tend to want nowadays. But back in the ’90s, on a watch like the ref. 3706, IWC would have protected the movement from magnetism with a soft-iron inner case, which would have necessitated closing the back.
About the day display, it’s in German, and it’s the first thing I noticed when this watch arrived at the HODINKEE office. A German day wheel is a nice detail that harkens back to an earlier era of IWC watchmaking, when the company was less an international powerhouse and more a fixture of the small but nimble Swiss-German side of the country’s watchmaking landscape. This is a small detail, of course, and a nice, differentiating one from other IWC Pilot watches one might expect to encounter. And what is a watch without little details such as this? The ref. 3706 was available with day wheels in a range of languages, including German, Italian, English, French, and Spanish.
On the wrist, the C.03 wears a bit larger than the ref. 3706. The original 3706 of the ’90s was 39mm in diameter and used a Valjoux 7750 movement. The C.03 is 41mm in diameter and measures 14.5mm from top to bottom. But the purity of the IWC Pilot watch design feels undeniable here, even if the handset and the numerals on the C.03 are of a different style from the 3706 (though still very much recognizable as being from the established IWC catalog).
The Pilot Chronograph is an already fairly simple design that puts at-a-glance legibility ahead of other considerations. What this watch does is pare it back to what is essential about the IWC Pilot watch: its stark black dial with crisp white information in a format that longtime watch enthusiasts on HODINKEE know well. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but it’s the kind of watch that made IWC popular with many enthusiasts in the first place. I’ll always have wrist time for a watch like this one.
The latest IWC x Collective Horology launch is available only to existing and new Collective members. Head over to collectivehorology.com for more information and a membership application if you’re ready to get your hands on the watch.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “C.03.” Ref. IW388105. 41mm x 14.5mm stainless steel case. Chronograph with functions for the hours, minutes, and seconds, date, and German day display. Hacking seconds. White Super-LumiNova hands and indexes. Cal. 69385 movement running at 28,800 vph in 33 jewels with 46 hours of power reserve. Water resistance to 10 bar. Limited edition of 125 pieces. Price: $7,150.