The following article was produced in partnership with IWC Schaffhausen.
To the uninitiated, you’d think that all the science was settled when it comes to mechanical watches. We’ve had watches for hundreds of years, what more is there that you can do? Au contraire. The watch industry is one of the most innovative and future-forward industries on the planet, constantly pushing boundaries when it comes to art, engineering and materials.
Right at the forefront of innovation in the watch industry sits IWC Schaffhausen. The 154-year-old firm has been behind a number of watchmaking firsts but is a particular pioneer when it comes to material technology – specifically ceramics.
Now, in 2022, IWC is combining their expertise with ceramics in watchmaking with a rather unique approach to watch design that shows that they’ve not just got substance, but a whole lot of style, too.
“As a designer, the advantage of working with a brand like IWC which is so established in the watch industry is that you have, by definition, a certain recognizability… At the same time, we’ve got this design code that leaves a lot of room for interpretation… The watch works as a canvas for creativity.”Christian Knoop, IWC Schaffhausen Creative Director
Ceramic is an ideal material for watch cases as it’s scratch-resistant, light and highly biocompatible. It can also be produced in a wide variety of different colours. The downside of ceramic is that it’s exceptionally hard to work with – especially when you introduce different colours into the mix. Coloured ceramics are some of the most fiddly and hard-to-produce materials in watchmaking, which is why IWC is one of only a few watchmakers who can do so.
IWC’s latest watch collection, titled the ‘Colours of TOP GUN’, are perhaps their most striking ceramic watches yet. Bold, stark and rich in colour, they’re the perfect mix of art, science and engineering.
Why ‘TOP GUN’? Well, these watches are named in honour of the United States Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN – makes sense that a watchmaker so intimately connected with the world of aviation would be inspired by such a high-flying outfit.
Similarly, the two Colours of TOP GUN watches are inspired by the extreme colours encountered by jet pilots during their missions, as well as the surroundings in which these high flyers hone their skills.
The first of the two Colours of TOP GUN watches is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe” (ref. IW389105), which was inspired by white US Navy uniforms and the fascinating winter landscape around Lake Tahoe, which straddles California and Nevada and remains a popular training area for naval aviators.
High-contrast and extremely eye-catching, the Lake Tahoe combines a white ceramic case with a black dial and black hands. The case back is made of titanium, while the pushers and crown are made of stainless steel, lending the timepiece a design that is as pure as it is contrasting. It comes on a white rubber strap with a deployant clasp for ease of use.
The Lake Tahoe is at once both a proper statement piece as well as a surprisingly versatile daily wearer. Many other luxury watchmakers make white ceramic watches, but IWC’s Lake Tahoe is a cut above the rest.
Also in the collection is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Woodland” (ref. IW389106), which was inspired by the flight suits and uniforms worn by the elite pilots in the TOPGUN flight school and the vast forest landscapes these pilots fly over.
The Woodland combines a dark green ceramic case with a dark green dial, plus numerals and hour markers printed in a lighter hue of green. It also has a matching green textile/rubber strap, whilst other hardware elements such as the chrono pushers, crown and back case are made out of matte black Ceratanium, IWC’s signature scratch-resistant, ultra-tough titanium/ceramic composite.
It’s hard to overstate just how hard it is to make a green ceramic watch case, as well as how well executed this watch is. Green watches are having a real moment in 2022, but IWC’s Woodland is easily the best green watch on the market.
“We are very much linked to an engineering approach; to purity and timeless design. That’s part of our DNA. But on the other hand, we are still a luxury brand that is about craftsmanship and detail… It’s also really about the passion for detail, the extra mile, the extra functionality and the extra touch in the material that really makes our product.”Christian Knoop
Both the Woodland and the Lake Tahoe aren’t just pretty pieces, either: they’re high-performance pilot’s chronographs designed for maximum legibility and toughness. Boasting an atypical tri-compax layout with a day-date window at 3 o’clock, they’re the perfect precision timekeepers as well as wearable pieces of art.
What’s really cool about these two watches is that IWC partnered with PANTONE, the world-famous colour institute, to codify the unique hues of these watches’ cases as official PANTONE colours: IWC Lake Tahoe and IWC Woodland respectively.
This was a masterstroke on IWC’s part. IWC have always had the technical aspects of watchmaking down pat, but by partnering with PANTONE, IWC demonstrates how they also understand the design; the artistic aspect of watchmaking, too. It’s about conquering war zones and cocktail parties with a similar aplomb.
“For me, the ultimate test is always when we come up with a new release for people to not only say okay, it’s a nice watch, but that it’s a true IWC.”Christian Knoop
In this sense, the two IWC Colours of TOP GUN watches are both true IWCs. They’re different, innovative, stylish, fun… They’ve got everything you need in a high-end timepiece, and more. That’s why they’re so exciting.
Discover more about IWC’s colourful new TOP GUN timepieces here.