HANDS-ON: The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces is the brand’s first full lume dialZach Blass
When asked about pilot’s watches, the first brand I think of is IWC. The brand largely deals in sensible, legible designs, especially when it comes to their pilot’s watches, where such a quality is paramount. Now, we have seen IWC, well-versed in ceramics, create stealthy, black ceramic pilot’s pieces. The dark cases certainly camouflage themselves in darkness, but with the new Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces, its luminous dial will always be clear as day.
IWC has long collaborated with aviation organisations, their watches a go-to for aviators looking for a robust and trusted pilot’s watch. Within its Professional Pilot’s Watches Program which emerged from its partnership with the U.S. Navy, IWC develops highly specialised watches, and this new release is the latest product of this project. As its name suggests, this watch takes inspiration from a piece created for members of Strike Fighter Squadron 41 – also known as the Black Aces.
Let’s start with the more familiar elements first. The 41mm case, 11.4mm thick, and 60-metres water-resistant with a screw-down crown, has been executed in black ceramic. This is something IWC has long mastered, considering they produced black ceramic watches as early as the 1980s. Robust and lightweight, the material is not only optimal for its scratch-resistance and feel on the wrist, but also because its matte black surface absorbs light – a pilot cannot be distracted by the glistening reflections from mixed-finish metal cases.
With the case so discreet in hue, the white dial becomes that much easier to read. During the day, it will appear a sort of glossy-creamy hue with a subtle green tint. That subtle green stems from the fact that the white disc is fully luminous – absorbing the light and charging itself during the day. Developed in collaboration with pilots from the Black Aces, this IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 features the brand’s first-ever luminous dial – crafted in a complex multi-step process. IWC explained to us that, for the first step, high-grade Super-LumiNova® pigments are mixed with a binder, cast into a circular mould, and hardened in a specially developed curing process to give the material a ceramic-like durability. The solid disc is then fixed onto the soft iron dial blank, before being imprinted with black indices, numerals, and the “Black Aces” patch seen at the 6 o’clock position. While we did not get to test this ourselves during our shoot, IWC explained that in dark chamber tests, the dial emitted a bright greenish light for more than 23 hours – indicative of their well-known meticulousness when it comes to legibility.
Affixed to the watch is a comfortable black fabric strap with a black leather lining that is secured to the wrist with IWC’s signature large pin buckle closure. While this is likely the most appropriate strap pairing for this watch, there will surely be room to explore other factory or aftermarket options, even without an EasX-CHANGE system. It would be interesting to see if a luminous white rubber strap is out there for this watch – could be very cool, or a bit over the top.
Sat beneath the commemoratively etched caseback and soft-iron inner case which resists against magnetism is the IWC calibre 32100 – an automatic 4Hz movement with a weekend-proof 72 hours of power reserve. Having three days of power reserve certainly meets the higher expectations of the modern watch consumer base, but with the Mark XX and Ingenieur having five days of power reserve I cannot help but wonder if it would have possible to bring an extra two days of power reserve to the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Black Aces.
Look, we have seen this exact case before in the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 TOP GUN. The excitement with this release stems from its first-ever fully luminous dial, something I am surprised IWC has taken until 2023 to do. I don’t know about you, but I am very glad they have done it now. As I typically note due to my small wrist bias, I would have loved if they had used the ever so slightly smaller Mark XX case. If this had been a launchpad for the Mark XX in ceramic, along with its 100-metre depth rating and five-day calibre, that would have been an A++ in my book.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces pricing and availability:
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Black Aces is available now for purchase exclusively on iwc.com. Price: A$10,600
|Model||Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 Black Aces|
|Case Dimensions||41mm (D) x 11.4mm (T)|
|Case Material||Black ceramic|
|Water Resistance||60m (screw-down crown)|
|Dial||White fully luminous dial|
|Crystal||Double AR-coated sapphire crystal|
|Strap||Black textile strap|
|Movement||IWC 32100, automatic, 4Hz, pawl winding system|
|Power Reserve||72 hours|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, seconds|