IWC’s first Top Gun model launched in 2007. However, its history spans back decades. IWC was one of the first brands to focus on the development of technically advanced watches optimized for aviation nearly a century ago. Today, the brand has become synonymous with pilot’s watches. It started with years of supplying timekeeping instruments to military forces. Later, IWC built upon those models and expanded them into collections for the civilian market. These watches have become favorites among not only pilots but also fans of the brand’s rich military and aviation heritage.
Precursors to the Top Gun
IWC introduced its first Special Pilot’s Watch in 1936. The model showcased several features that were ahead of its time. It came equipped with a shatter-resistant glass crystal and an antimagnetic escapement. In addition, it boasted high-contrast hands and numerals as well as a rotating bezel with an arrowhead index. The result was a watch that was both highly legible and highly resistant to temperature changes.
Shortly after the release of the Special Pilot’s Watch, IWC debuted the first Big Pilot’s Watch in 1940. They designed the model specifically for the German Air Force in a limited production of just 1000 pieces. One of the most notable features of the original model was a central hacking seconds function. This allowed pilots and other flight navigators to sync their watches down to the nearest second. The model also came equipped with an extra-long leather strap designed to slip over a flight suit with ease. To this day, the original Big Pilot’s Watch is the largest wristwatch IWC has ever produced, measuring a whopping 55mm.
Several years later in 1948 came the next pilot’s watch from IWC: the Mark XI. This time, they developed the watch in tandem with the British Royal Air Force. The most important feature was its antimagnetic capabilities. To achieve this, IWC designed a unique inner case for the movement comprised of iron. Ultimately, the Mark 11 set the standard for pilot’s watches of the era.
Evolution of the Top Gun
Today, each of IWC’s modern pilot’s watches has evolved from these models, including the Top Gun. Since the advanced fighter weapons school established in 1969, it had never allowed its prestigious “Top Gun” name to be associated with a watch brand. That was until IWC. In 2007, the watch brand was lucky enough to become the first-ever licensee of the U.S. military. However, it actually wasn’t luck at all. It was IWC’s proven track record working with naval forces for decades.
The initial model in the Top Gun line was the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition Top Gun. As the name suggests, it featured a unique double chronograph function or ratrappante. This allowed the wearer to measure two time intervals at once. It also came equipped with a day/date function, the now-iconic ceramic case, and textile wristband. The result was a watch with a distinct military look and feel.
After the success of the initial Top Gun model, IWC decided to make it an independent line within their Pilot’s Watch family in 2012. Since then, the brand has created a number of variations within the Top Gun collection. Across the board, the cornerstone of the models is IWC’s innovative use of robust materials like ceramic and titanium. More recently, the brand has developed an innovative hybrid material called Ceratanium.