Materials innovation is looking like quite a thing in 2019 and for you, the watch buyers, that has to be good news: more aesthetic choices and (hopefully) better performance. Which brings us to IWC’s new Top Gun Double Chronograph Ceratanium.
Ceratanium? It’s a naturally matt-black finish, but differs from PVD/DLC in one crucial respect: rather than a coating, it’s integral to the base material (its name being a contraction of ceramised and titanium). It’s the product of five years R&D within IWC, and is made by first milling the parts (case, pushers and crown) from a titanium alloy, then subjecting them to intense heat. The composition of the alloy triggers what IWC calls a “diffusion” process, which transforms the structure of the alloy’s surface into ceramic.
The result is a best-of-both worlds material – as light and unbreakable as titanium, and as hard and scratch-resistant as ceramic. What’s more, being part of the material itself, the finish cannot chip or wear off as a coating might. To the eye it looks deeply black, with neither sheen nor texture, but seeming to absorb every last suggestion of light. In the hand, the watch feels light yet very substantial.
Although Ceratanium isn’t absolutely new – it first appeared last year on a 50th anniversary-edition Aquatimer – this is the first time IWC has used its proprietary material in a Pilot’s Watch. And while black is emblematic for the Top Gun line (now marking its 12th year as part of the IWC collection), this new Ceratanium version is as black as the darkest hour.
Black strap, black case with a solid black back, black crown and pushers, black dial and sub-dials, even black wheels for the day and date windows. The hands, too, are black and filled with a dark grey luminous material – as are the numerals. While not as instantly legible as its high-contrast white-on-black Top Gun siblings, it has a compelling, almost phantom presence.
Its physical presence is pretty commanding too – a chunky 44mm in diameter and 16.8mm thick. That’s due to IWC’s calibre 79230, a highly reliable and robust movement (modified Valjoux base with an in-house chronograph module) that has proved its worth over the course of 25 years. Double Chronograph is IWC-speak for split seconds or rattrapante chronograph (or even, if you prefer, Doppelchronograph), which the company brought into its line-up in the early 1990s. The complication allows the timing of two short events simultaneously by using the two seconds hands – with a maximum duration of 60 seconds.
By combining the best of various existing elements into a single watch – classical Pilot’s watch iconography on the dial, a thoroughly proven split-seconds chronograph movement, chunky tool-watch dimensions and a very high-performance (nearly new) material – we have a watch that is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium (Ref: IW371815) Australian pricing
IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun, cased in Ceratanium, has an indicative price of $19,000