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The color stories behind IWC’s new Pilot’s Watches

Developing a new color for a watch is one thing, but working that color in ceramic and all the other components of the timepiece are completely different stories.

It was a double chronograph with a black zirconium oxide ceramic case and a titanium case back—durable materials in their own right—that marked the birth of IWC Schaffhausen’s TOP GUN line in 2007. As part of their Pilot’s Watches collection, these timepieces have since been characterized by their use of advanced materials that give the watches a sleek, technical look. 

2019 saw the debut of a TOP GUN model in sand-colored ceramic: the TOP GUN Edition “Mojave Desert.” This year, keeping in theme with understated yet charismatic aesthetics, IWC adds two new chronographs, decked in white and green ceramic. 

“The color of uniforms, the fascinating landscapes, and views admired by pilots have inspired our new chronographs. In an unprecedented engineering process, we have developed two completely new ceramic colors– ‘IWC Lake Tahoe’ white and ‘IWC Woodland’ green –and matched meticulously all other components of the watches to these new shades,” says Christian Knoop, Chief Design Officer of IWC Schaffhausen, in an official statement. 

Meticulous Engineering

The development of these new ceramic colors is a particularly demanding exercise. At its most basic, zirconium oxide is combined with other metallic oxides to give the ceramic its color. Each shade requires different raw materials and a distinct mixing ratio. 

Other factors come into play, especially for colored ceramics: temperature, processing time, and the purity of the raw materials. When administered properly, the results are striking—distinct colors that add a sense of flair to an otherwise highly technical material. 

However, and especially with watchmaking, this is just half the battle. The next challenge involves retrofitting all the other components of the timepiece—the dial, hands, rubber straps, among others—and adapting the ceramic colors to these parts, which are made of other materials. This lends the two new TOP GUN Chronographs their added complexity in terms of design and manufacturing process. 

Color Story

Located between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a mountainous area frequently flown over by the pilots of the U.S Navy TOPGUN School. The winter landscape around this freshwater lake, as well as white uniforms, have influenced the design of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition in “Lake Tahoe.”

The chronograph features a 44.5-millimetre white ceramic case, a pitch-black dial, and black hands coated with luminescent material. IWC and Pantone have specified the ceramic color as “IWC Lake Tahoe”. The pushers and crown are made of stainless steel, the case back of titanium. The matching white rubber strap with distinctive embossing accentuates the design.

Meanwhile, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition in “Woodland” draws inspiration from the flight suits of naval aviators. “IWC Woodland” green is used for the ceramic case and the dial, while the numerals and hour markers are printed in a lighter hue. 

The pushers and the case back are made of matte black Ceratanium®. Developed by IWC, this material combines the lightness and structural integrity of titanium with a hardness and scratch-resistance similar to ceramic. A matching green rubber strap with textile inlay completes the design.

Finishing Details

The chronograph movement in classic column-wheel design features a day and date display at 3 o’clock. 

Both timepieces are powered by the IWC-manufactured 69380 calibre. In addition, they feature soft iron inner cases to protect their movements from the effects of magnetic fields. 

The front glasses are specially secured to withstand sudden drops in air pressure. With a diameter of 44.5mm and a height of 15.7mm, both watches are water-resistant to 6 bar and feature the iconic TOP GUN logo as an engraving on the case back.