IWC Spitfire Chronograph


IWC Spitfire Chronograph

Spitfire Chronograph

Down-to-earth high-flyer
La Cote des Montres - March 1st, 2012

Back in the 1930s, when the Spitfire was first designed, the Royal Air Force was something of a social institution: a club for young bloods from good families who dressed with style and elegance and cut a dashing figure at the endless rounds of events they attended.

Classical elegance and technological development are also the hallmarks of the new Spitfire Chronograph Pilot’s Watch models. For the first time ever, IWC is releasing a regular Spitfire Chronograph in an 18-carat red gold case. References 387802 and 387804 are available in stainless steel. The surfaces of the case are hand-polished until they gleam with a high-gloss or silky matte sheen, which gives them a particularly valuable-looking finish. Thanks to the sunpattern finish, the way in which light is reflected from the slate-coloured dial is especially vibrant. The intricate engraving on the back depicts a Spitfire and derives some of its appeal from the interplay of the differently machined surfaces. The dark colour of the dial and the date display in the form of an altimeter give the Spitfire an appearance closer to the classical Pilot’s Watch instrument look. The diameter of the chronograph cases (water-resistant to 6 bar) has in-creased by a modest 1 millimetre to 43, which has further improved legibility.


A reference to the pioneering age of aviation


Another first: the Spitfire Chronograph is fitted with the IWC-manufactured 89365 calibre, which boosts its power reserve from 44 to 68 hours when fully wound. At the same time, the new movement has a flyback function, a mechanism that enables an ongoing time measurement to be “deleted” without an intermediate stop whilst a new one is started. It originates from the early days of aviation and a time when it was necessary to fly certain curved radii according to time. The hands are reminiscent of propeller blades in terms of shape and completely coated in luminescent material. The subdial at “12 o’clock” shows the recorded minutes while the seconds can be read off from the central hand. The red permanent seconds hand in the subdial at “6 o’clock” indicates that the watch is running normally. The sapphire glass has antireflective coating on both sides and is secured against drops in pressure.

The red gold version has a brown leather strap with a classical pin buckle. The model in stainless steel comes with the newly developed stainless-steel bracelet, whose fine-adjustment clasp enables the length to be changed as required. The design of the pin buckle and folding clasp has been modified to accommodate the increased diameter.

IWC Spitfire Chronograph

Ref.: IW387802 / IW387803 / IW387804

Features :Mechanical chronograph movement,
self-winding, date display,
stopwatch function with minutes and seconds,
flyback function,
small hacking seconds,
screw-in crown,
glass secured against displacement by drop in air pressure
Movement :alibre 89365
Frequency :28,800 A/ h / 4 Hz
Jewels :35
Power reserve :68 h
Winding :automatic
  • Case in 18-carat red gold, slate-coloured dial, brown alligator leather strap, pin buckle in 18-carat red gold
  • Case in stainless-steel, slate-coloured dial, brown alligator leather strap, folding clasp in stainless steel
  • Case in stainless-steel, slate-coloured dial, stainless-steel bracelet, folding clasp in stainless steel with fine-adjustment clasp
Glass :sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
Water-resistant :6 bar
Diameter :43 mm
Case height :15.5 mm

The new Spitfire collection

IWC powers vertical take-off 

The first Spitfire prototype took off on its maiden flight on 5th March 1936. The Air Ministry was in raptures: the new plane was “a true aeronautical thoroughbred”. At the same time, about 800 kilometres away as the crow flies, in the Swiss town of Schaffhausen, a group of designers and watchmakers were finishing a completely different type of prototype: the IWC Special Pilot’s Watch. That same year, the first IWC Pilot’s Watch was unveiled to the public.

The aircraft and timepiece not only have their years of creation in common but the two original models also brought revolutionary new mechanics and functional design to their respective fields. The Spitfire, a technological and aerodynamic masterpiece, was to become a true legend. Over 20,000 units and 24 different versions of the Spitfire were produced in its illustrious career – a figure that has remained un-equalled in Great Britain to this day. With its first Pilot’s Watch in the mid-1930s, IWC Schaffhausen was reacting to the demands placed on timekeeping in the air. The movement was adjusted for temperature extremes and, in view of the strong magnetic fields in the cockpit, the escapement was nonmagnetic. The black dial, with its high-contrast, luminescent displays, has left a lasting impression on the cockpit-style design, still popular today for classical pilot’s watches.

Outstanding technology and compelling design


In 2003, IWC Schaffhausen launched a Pilot’s Watch line that took not only its name from the Spitfire but also reflected the same elegant lines and outstanding technology of the legendary single-propeller aircraft. Now, the designers and technicians have subjected the Spitfire watches to a thorough overhaul. And the result is impressive: with its modernized design, new features and IWC-manufactured movements, these timepieces are preparing for a vertical take-off.

The Spitfire Pilot’s Watches have always been extremely stylish. The materials chosen for the two new models – stainless steel and 18-carat red gold – lend support to this assertion. The cases are satin-finished, sandblasted and polished by hand. The result is a vibrant interplay of shiny, silky matte and structured surfaces reminiscent of the metallic sheen of the legendary aircraft. The slate-coloured dial with its sun-pattern finish helps to give the watch its dynamic face. If the watch is tilted, changing the angle at which incident light strikes it, the light rays reflected by the polished surface move in a circular direction.

Digital meets analogue


The Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month (Ref. 379103) with its IWC-manufactured 89800-calibre movement is testimony to the on-going creativity of IWC’s designers. The perpetual calendar alone, which is mechanically programmed until 2100, is a watchmaking masterpiece. And the digital date and month display, with its extra-large numerals, is not only wonderful to look at: it is also, in itself, a conclusive demonstration of IWC’s achievements in Haute Horlogerie. The reason for this is simple: it takes a complicated mechanical act of force to advance four display discs at the end of the month and, thanks to the digital leap year display, no fewer than five discs synchronously at the end of the year. Obviously this must have no noticeable effect on the watch’s accuracy, even if the tension in the spring is almost exhausted or if the chronograph is running at the same time.

Four years’ development


It took a team of IWC watchmakers and design engineers no less than 4 years to master this technical challenge. They developed a mechanism known as the quick-action switch, to store the energy separately. Every night, when the date display moves forward, the sophisticated mechanism taps a little of the energy, stores it and then discharges it precisely at the end of the month when the date and month discs advance. The same happens at the end of the year when the leap year disc also needs to be advanced. As a result, the dial of the Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month turns the beginning of every month and every New Year’s Eve into a special event in its own right. Needless to say, the calendar’s sophisticated mechanism, programmed until 1 March 2100, even takes the leap day of the 29th of February in its stride every 4 years.

Digital date display in the pantheon of great IWC watchmaking inventions


The perpetual calendar with its large digital date and month display takes its rightful place among IWC Schaffhausen’s great technological inventions. Among others, these include the Pallweber system, magnetic field protection, Pellaton winding, the 7-day power reserve or the use of titanium and ceramic in watchmaking. Back in 1885, the Schaffhausen-based manufacturer was integrating the Pallweber system into the first watches with digital hour and minute displays. In the aftermath of the quartz age, many people today prefer an analogue time display. But numerals have established themselves as the standard solution for the date. It is neater, easier to read and, in the Spitfire Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month, also has a certain understatement: who would imagine that a mechanical perpetual calendar lies concealed behind the extra-large numerals on the dial?

One of IWC’s most outstanding innovations regarding the timepiece is undoubtedly the analogue display of stopped times between 1 minute and 12 hours: they are shown together on a single subdial, where they can be read off just like the normal time of day. Another first for this watch family is the rotor in the shape of an elegant Spitfire silhouette, which can be observed through the sapphire-glass back.

IWC-manufactured movement for chronographs


The engineers decided to equip the Spitfire Chronograph in red gold (Ref. 387803) and stainless steel (Ref. 387802, 387804) with the 89365-calibre chronograph movement manufactured by IWC. Apart from increasing the watch’s power reserve to 68 hours, it accommodates a stopwatch function with minutes and seconds, in addition to a flyback function. IWC’s designers have modified the date window to make it look more like a cockpit instrument: with its vertically arranged numerals, it is now reminiscent of an altimeter. The current date is indicated by a striking red triangular index, by now a typical design feature of IWC’s Pilot’s Watches and inspired by the signal red elements on an aircraft’s instrument panel.

The metal bracelet for the Reference 387804 is fitted with a newly developed fine-adjustment clasp, which permits fast, easy, and above all, exact fitting to the wearer’s wrist. To lengthen the wristband, the wearer simply pushes the IWC button in the folding clasp. This allows the bracelet to be pulled apart, in six steps, up to 6 millimetres. To shorten it, the bracelet is simply pushed together to the desired length. The design of all the pin buckles and folding clasps is slightly more striking in order to match the larger diameter of the case.