IWC Big Pilot 5009
IWC created a “Spezialuhr für Flieger” (“Special Watch for Pilots”) in 1936 with clean black dial, large hands, and luminous numerals. Although the 36 mm case was fairly large for the time, pilots preferred an even larger dial and crown for extra visibility in the cockpit. In 1940, IWC responded with an official product, the prototypical “Big Pilot's watch”. Created for the German Air Force, it had a massive 55 mm diameter case. The dial featured a luminous triangle at 12 flanked by two dots, plain numerals, and large luminous sword hands. Another essential element was a massive cone-shaped crown, allowing the watch to be operated while wearing gloves.
By the end of the 1990s, the Mark XV and Pilot's Watch Chronograph had become signature models for IWC. Watch case sizes were growing rapidly, and consumers were responding to “heritage” models that recalled the past. In 2002 IWC resurrected the oversized “Grosse Fliegeruhr” as the Big Pilot, Ref. 5002. It used the new in-house automatic Cal. 5011, which used the company's trademark Pellaton winding system and boasted a seven-day power reserve. This was refreshed in 2006 with the updated Cal. 51110 as Ref. 5004.
In 2012, IWC refreshed the Big Pilot once again, switching from applied markers on the hours to luminous painting for a more traditional look. A new crown improved water resistance as well, though the Cal. 51111 movement remained largely unchanged. The 2012 models lost the numeral “9” on the dial in the quest for balance since the “3” was already taken up by the power reserve indicator.
Another big introduction was the “Top Gun and Miramar” editions of the Big Pilot, with a 48 mm ceramic case in black or grey and modern military-inspired dial in black or green. The Big Pilot Top Gun and Miramar lasted as regular-production pieces through 2015, with a special limited-edition Boutique version in 2013. The non-Miramar Top Gun watches had an airplane design on the base of the seconds hand.
A vast number of limited editions were created for the Ref. 5004 and this was repeated for the Ref. 5009 over its short life. In addition to Father & Son and “Le Petit Prince” versions, a “Patrouille Suisse” edition in 2015 had Cal. 51011 with small seconds at 9 00.
In 2016, the line was refreshed. The most notable difference is the return of the numeral “9” on the dial, with smaller and bolder numerals. The Top Gun was also refreshed at this time, downsized to 46 mm like the standard Big Pilot, gaining a more traditional dial with the “9” and triangle below the chapter ring, and losing the airplane on the seconds hand. This design had been previewed a year before in a special “Rodeo Drive Boutique” edition of the Top Gun.
The successor, Big Pilot's Watch, Ref. 5009 was quietly introduced in 2017. Changes include a new crown and updated double barrel movement. Most Ref. 5009 models were phased out in 2018, with only Ref. IW5009-17 “Spitfire” remaining in production as of 2019.
- IW5009-01 (2012-2016) Stainless steel case, black dial, riveted black leather strap
- IW5009-08 “Le Petit Prince” (2014) Stainless steel case, blue dial, riveted brown leather strap, limited to 1,000 pieces
- IW5009-09 “Le Petit Prince Ref Gold” (2014) Rose gold case, blue dial, brown leather strap, limited to 250 pieces
- IW5009-12 (2016-2018) Stainless steel case, black dial with “9”, riveted black leather strap
- IW5009-16 “Le Petit Prince” (2016-2018) Stainless steel case, blue dial with “9”, riveted brown leather strap
- IW5009-17 “Spitfire” (2016-present) Rose gold case, grey dial with “9”, brown leather strap
- IW5009-23 “Le Petit Prince Bradley Cooper” (2019) Rose gold case, blue dial with “9”, black leather strap, unique piece
- Ø 46.2 mm or 48 mm
- Screw-down caseback in stainless steel
- Luminous painted indexes (triangle at 12 o'clock)
- Arabic numerals
- Steel hours and minutes hand, coated with luminous color
- Painted seconds hand
- Hours, minutes
- Power reserve indicator at 3 00
- Date window at 6 00
- Leather strap