The following article was produced in partnership with IWC Schaffhausen.
IWC Schaffhausen has always stood out as one of Switzerland’s most future-forward and technical watchmakers. The 154-year-old firm has had a long history of innovation, especially when it comes to material technology – and in 2022, IWC remains at the forefront of the industry, pushing new boundaries when it comes to watchmaking and engineering.
It’s the TOP GUN collection that’s home to their most impressive and technical creations. Named in honour of the United States Navy’s Fighter Weapons School – better known as TOPGUN – IWC’s newest timepieces are the pinnacle of modern tool watch technology. TOPGUN’s job is all about staying ahead of the competition, and it’s TOPGUN’s relentless drive that’s inspired these technical feats.
This year’s IWC TOP GUN releases feature cases crafted from ceramic, a material that’s come to be a speciality for IWC. Ceramic is an ideal material for watch cases as it’s scratch-resistant, light, highly biocompatible and serves as a medium for interesting case colours and finishes… The downside of ceramic is that it’s exceptionally hard to work with, and only the very best watchmakers are capable of crafting watches from the material.
Since the 80s, IWC has pioneered the use of ceramic in luxury watches, and their latest ceramic compounds are the culmination of decades of research and development… They’re not only one of the few watchmakers who can make watches from ceramic, but they’re one of if not the best at doing so.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN (ref. IW389101), with its ‘Jet Black’ ceramic case and bright white indices, pays homage to the early ceramic chronographs IWC experimented with in the 80s and 90s while bringing a whole suite of new tech to the table.
With titanium hardware, an ultra-legible dial, a soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields and a day-date display, this is one mean operator. Designed for the toughest of conditions, its sapphire crystal is especially secured against displacement by drops in air pressure and features anti-reflective coating on both sides of the crystal – ideal for fighter pilots who’ve got no time to waste adjusting their watch.
“We have this very rich history with titanium and ceramics. That’s always been our two pillars.”Dr Lorenz Brunner
Ceramic’s one thing, but Ceratanium is next-level. This high-tech material, a proprietary invention of IWC, is a game changer for watches. Essentially, it’s a special titanium alloy that when baked, undergoes a diffusion process that transforms the surface of the material into ceramic.
“It isn’t a coating. During the sintering process, a ‘phase transformation’ takes place which changes its structure and makes the ceramic surface layer bond directly with the titanium. It’s a bit like a loaf of bread: you bake it, it forms a crust that is tougher than the inside and almost impossible to remove afterwards… It’s such a nice material,” Dr Lorenz Brunner, IWC’s Head of Research & Innovation and the inventor of Ceratanium explains.
But what does this all mean? It means that Ceratanium is as light and tough as titanium but as hard and scratch-resistant as ceramic. It also has a really unique and cool-looking matte grey-black texture that’s quite unlike anything else. Plus, unlike a PVD or DLC treatment, the finish won’t wear or chip off, as the ceramic surface is both physically and chemically part of the watch’s case.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium (ref. IW388106) is the ultimate Ceratanium watch. Its case, chrono pushers and crown are all made out of the high-tech material, which gives the watch a seriously stealthy appearance – a character that’s additionally emphasised by its greyed-out indices and smoked sapphire exhibition caseback. You can tell just by looking at it that it’s no average watch.
Also crafted from Ceratanium is the IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner TOP GUN Ceratanium (ref. IW395505), which is easily one of the most unique and interesting luxury timepieces on the planet. It’s the first TOP GUN model to feature a Timezoner function to change between different time zones effortlessly and is a world timer non-pareil.
“I think the Timezoner is one of the most interesting complications, and one of the most overlooked. It’s the easiest world timer to use on the market.”Dr Lorenz Brunner
It works like this: first, push down on the bezel, rotate it to your home time zone, and set the time and date using the crown as per normal. Then, when you’re off travelling and you arrive in a new time zone, rotate the bezel to the corresponding city, and the time will adjust accordingly.
It’s a really clever way of telling the time in multiple time zones without having to mess around with the crown and constantly setting the time. It’s perfect for trips with long layovers, supersonic fighter jet missions or international conference calls – or if you’re just curious about what the time is in New York, Tokyo, or Dubai… No other world timer is as easy and intuitive to use.
Then, add in the aesthetic brilliance and durability of Ceratanium, and you’ve got a truly unique timepiece on your hands.
“My department is working on at least 30 projects right now… We have all the freedom to try things out; to take risks. There’s no limit to our innovation.”Dr Lorenz Brunner
You could easily make the case that no other watchmaker is as innovative or avant-garde as IWC. From Ceratanium to ceramics to highly technical movements, IWC stands out as a uniquely dynamic watchmaker; a high flyer. There’s a reason TOP GUN, the world’s most high-performance pilots, work with IWC.
Investing in an IWC is investing in the future of human engineering. The real question is this: how high can you fly?
Discover more about IWC’s new TOP GUN timepieces here.