Hands-On With The New IWC Classic Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41

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IWC continues to refine their Pilot’s Watch family with a new entry to their Classic collection in the Chronograph 41. Not only does the watch get a tidier 41mm case, it also receives the IWC manufactured 69385 caliber within. The move continues with the downsizing trend we’ve seen from IWC in recent years, making their substantial collection of historic Pilot’s watches a bit more wrist friendly. While still on the large side, the 41mm case and 69000 series movement are a welcome addition to the Classic collection. This watch has a few surprises hidden as well, and we got our hands on a sample to see just how viable the new case size is in everyday wear. 

If you’re thinking this watch looks a little familiar, well, that’s because a blue dial Pilot’s watch chronograph already exists in both the Classic and “Le Petit Prince” collections. What’s new here is the case size, the movement, and the quick change strap system (more on that later). Before we go any further, it’s worth taking a moment to unpack the current landscape of IWC Pilot’s watches.

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There are, as far as I can tell, five sub-collections within the Pilot’s watch family, each serving a slightly different purpose. We asked IWC CEO Christopher Grainger Herr in our podcast ep. 180 about the sheer breadth of their Pilot watch offerings, and how the average enthusiast can about making heads or tails of the collections, and he explains that “if (a customer) want to dive deep, the depths of storytelling and explanation should be there” meaning each sub-collection offers a unique expression of their Pilot’s watches with ample heritage to explore, should you so chose. 

He continues, there’s a “Spectrum of backward looking, poetic romantic luxurious, to modern tech hard and fast forward looking” but  “at the end of the day it’s about the client having an emotional reaction to a piece”. In short, there’s something for everyone here and IWC has ample room to push the boundaries of their watches in both design and construction. From the romantic nature of the “Antoine de Saint Exupéry” models, the heritage focused Spitfire collection, and the tech-forward Top-Gun collection, there are lots of stories to tell here, even if you suffer from a bit of choice paralysis when viewing the family as a whole.

That brings us to the Classic collection, which represents what is perhaps the most straightforward of IWC Pilot’s watches, serving as the family’s modern tentpole. This is the collection in which the new Chronograph 41 finds itself, with a sunburst blue, or green dial paired with either a calfskin strap, or steel bracelet. There is no pretension of homage going on here, just pure white and vibrant dial colors. This is a modern IWC Pilot’s watch without the tactical bells & whistles, nor the throwback spirit, but it does have all that same heritage from 85 years of making these things built right in. 

The Chrono 41 is a sport watch by nature, but it’s got a lot of the trappings of something far more formal. That formality is anchored in the blue dial, which is deep in color, and vibrant in the right light thanks to the sunburst texture applied to it. It feels luxe, and the polished bezel ring frames it as such even more. The rest of the steel case gets an even radial brushing save for a slim polished chamfer along the edge of the lug. The 41mm case diameter is a welcome change, and while far less intimidating than the 43mm of models prior, it’s still no lightweight. The lug to lug is a hair north of 50mm, while the case thickness is 14.5mm. The measurements are what they are, but this still case is hefty, and it’s something you’ll feel on the wrist. The ‘Tribute to 3705’ watch uses a similar 41mm case, but the Ceratanium material makes it feather light on the wrist, making for easy all day wear (more on that watch coming soon). The steel case, on the other hand, is one you might find yourself taking off from time to time to ‘let your wrist breathe’.

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What does help considerably is the choice of straps, and how easy they are to change. These new IWC models feature a quick-change strap system that’s among the best I’ve experienced. The spring bar stays in place, and the strap end simply clips on. Removing the strap is handled by the press of a button, which depresses a safety latch, allowing the strap to be rotated free. Moving from the steel bracelet to the rubber strap can be done in a matter of seconds on the fly, it’s that easy. Since the spring bar remains in place, you’ll get a lot of mileage from your NATO collection here as well. The case itself, along with the lug profile, is unchanged, meaning the quick-change system is more of a quick-change strap, which should theoretically In the case of the rubber strap, at least) work even on older references. 

The dial of the Chrono 41 is very familiar, and keeps with the well established design language we’ve seen throughout the Pilot’s watch range of chronographs. The notable change here, which signifies the use of the new movement, is the bright red running seconds hand, which is now placed at 6 o’clock. The timing hands are all bright white for max contrast, as are the day and date discs with black printing. The Arabic numerals and traditional triangle at 12 o’clock make for strong legibility and a great lume appearance at night. 

Overall this is a familiar watch with a slew of very welcome changes. The smaller case size, new movement, and quick-change straps all represent considerable improvements that bring IWC another step in the right direction. I’ll admit, I’d have loved to have seen a new 40mm Aquatimer or integrated Ingenieur this year, but seeing the changes they are making makes me all the more confident that when those changes do come, they’ll be built on a proper foundation. 

The new IWC Classic Pilot Chronograph 41 is priced from $6,500 on a leather strap, and $7,200 on a steel bracelet. Considering where we’ve seen similar in-house chronograph watches land in recent weeks, this feels right on par with the market. IWC.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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