IWC’s Pilot’s Watch ‘Black Aces’ shines like never before

It is the first watch in the collection to have a fully luminous dial

On the hunt for a no-nonsense watch that does the basics with rigorous perfection? A pilot’s watch might just be up your alley.

Originally created for aviators, pilot’s watches feature large dials with distinctive hands and markers to ensure utmost legibility. They are also often accompanied by plus-sized winding crowns for pilots to set the watches. And these qualities have anchored IWC Schaffhausen’s pilot’s watches since the brand debuted its first such timepiece, the Mark IX, in 1936.

The watch features a fully luminous white dial consisting of a solid disc of Super-LumiNova. Photo by IWC

Now synonymous with pilot’s watches, IWC has expanded and evolved the blueprint. Its Pilot’s Watch collection now run the gamut, embracing both old-school styles and complications, as well as contemporary iterations boasting coloured ceramic cases and bold aesthetics.

Taking the watches’ military lineage seriously, IWC also partners US Navy squadrons—it is the only Swiss watchmaker with the license to do so—to develop pilot’s watches for these elite units. The popular Top Gun editions, bearing the insignia of the legendary Fighter Weapons School, is a famous example. Previously, IWC also designed watches for the US Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 102 ‘Diamondbacks’ and the US Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 211 ‘Fighting Checkmates’.

This year’s Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 ‘Black Aces’ joins the above cast of fighter squadron-inspired editions. The watch pays homage to the US Strike Fighter Squadron 41 that was established in 1950, and had served in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

IWC develops watches for elite jet pilots through its Professional Pilot’s Watches Programme, which emerged from its partnership with the US Navy. Photo by IWC

The squadron’s ‘ace of spades’ logo is proudly imprinted at six o’clock, paired with an engraving of a twin-engine jet against a backdrop of spades on the titanium case back.

The real reason why you ought to check out this watch, however, is its stark white dial. Coated entirely in high-grade Super-LumiNova, it is IWC’s first watch to feature a fully luminous dial, emanating a full-on glow like no other. Putting the dial through a dark chamber test, it stayed luminous for more than 23 hours. One’d probably not stay in the dark for that long, but it is reassuring nonetheless that, if called upon, the watch is more than up to the task.

The watch pays homage to the Strike Fighter Squadron 41, known as the ‘Black Aces’, which is based at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California. Photo by IWC

And it isn’t simply about carpeting the dial with Super-LumiNova, either. IWC says that the process of constructing such a dial is arduous, requiring them to mix, cast and harden the luminescent pigments in a mould, before fixing the discs on a soft-iron dial blank.

Befitting the watch’s military ties, the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 ‘Black Aces’ is as hardy as they come. The watch is clad in a tough and scratch-resistant 41mm ceramic case with a soft iron inner cage for magnetic resistance, and driven by IWC’s automatic movement with three days of power reserve—ensuring that the watch is just as fly on the inside as it is on the outside.

IWC Schaffhausen