Missed Reviews: The 3706 “Fliegerchronograph” is a Reminder of What IWC Used to Be

The IWC Fliegerchronograph Ref. 3706 is not yet a vintage watch by most definitions, but it might as well be. It comes from a time that we’re now long past in the watch community, before the luxification of IWC, the resurgence of interest in midcentury design among watchmakers, and certainly predating the fixation on in-house movements. It’s easy to think of the time between 1994 and 2005, the years during which the 3706 was in production, as a more innocent period. These years largely predate social media, and what many would consider the invention of modern watch enthusiast culture. Of course, there’s a pretty good chance the much smaller number of people who were devoted watch aficionados in the 90s were saying much the same thing about the 80s, and that ten years from now we’ll look back on these years and wonder how we all could have been so naive, crazy, or preoccupied with whatever it is we’re collectively obsessing over at the moment. That’s the nature of the passage of time, right? 

Still, the 3706 stands in fairly stark contrast to the watches that are made by the very same brand in 2021. At the time of this writing, I’m in the fortunate position to have a modern IWC watch in for review, and putting them side by side, and certainly holding each in the hand and strapping them to your wrist, you feel IWC’s evolution in a very real way. IWC, of course, isn’t the only brand to shift from tool watches, to luxury-tool watches, to what some would call full-on luxury watches over the course of a roughly 20 year period, but knowing where IWC sits today helps to underscore the simple charm of a watch like the 3706. 


Missed Reviews: The 3706 “Fliegerchronograph” is a Reminder of What IWC Used to Be

Stainless steel
Valjoux 7750
Yes, hands and hour markers
Bracelet, leather, rubber
Water Resistance
60 meters
39 x 48mm
Lug Width

For Worn & Wound’s tenth anniversary year, we’re looking at a number of watches made during that time period right before the birth of the site – watches that might have fostered our enthusiasm for the hobby, but we missed out on covering for one reason or another. The 3706 had already begun morphing into a more serious luxury product by the time Worn & Wound hit the internet, but even in those early days, IWC wasn’t a brand that really hit the value angle that this website has embraced. As watch culture has changed, and the floor of what constitutes luxury along with it, IWC watches from this time period, at this moment, find themselves right in the Worn & Wound wheelhouse. Searching for a 3706 on the forums and a certain large auction site reveal prices that cover a wide range, from around $2500 up to around $5000, with watches in various states of completeness, condition, and all the rest, as you’d expect. Even the most immaculate and complete examples, though, seem like a bargain given the rising costs of chronographs from premier Swiss brands (go ahead and check Speedmaster prices if you don’t believe me). 

The reason I’ve become quite familiar with the current pricing of the 3706 is because in the weeks since Blake Buettner lent me his own personal 3706 for the purposes of this story, I’ve become so enamored with it that I’m getting all kinds of alerts and notifications from a large swath of apps whenever someone puts one of these on sale publicly. That, I guess, is the shortest possible version of this review: I liked it so much I’ve started looking to buy one of my own. And nothing I can really say in this review will quite capture the wearing experience, tactile as it (always) is. But I can certainly attempt to speak to some of the particular reasons that this watch has wormed its way into my WatchRecon alerts. (A side note here: is it possible that the only thing more revealing about a watch collector than the watches they actually own is the current list of watches they’re being alerted to by WatchRecon? Maybe there should be a hashtag campaign where you screenshot your WatchRecon alerts and post them for all to see – #watchreconwednesday or something of that nature.) 

The appeal of the 3706, for me, is all about the simplicity and wearability of the 39mm case. When the 3706 went out of production, it was replaced with the 3717, which not only involved significant changes to the character of the dial, but upsized the watch to 42mm. The Pilot’s Chronograph would eventually swell to 43mm, and it was just this year that it was brought down to 41mm in its most contemporary incarnation. Still, a 39mm case for a watch like this (and by that I mean what is possibly the premier sports chronograph from a big Swiss brand that is often associated with an inflated machismo) feels like a legitimate relic from another lifetime.

I’ve often expressed a preference for smaller or midsize watches over those bursting well over 42mm, and the way this case wears validates my long held assertion that a size just under 40mm is a Goldilocks diameter, able to be worn comfortably and look proportional on virtually anyone. On my 7.5 inch wrist (maybe a bit larger than that on a sweltering summer day, like many I experienced during my time with Blake’s 3706) the watch feels fantastic, with a lugspan that stops right where it should, well before any overhang is a serious concern (it’s about 48mm according to my calipers). This watch is 14.6mm thick, so not thin by any real standard, but it has a pleasing compactness to it, and illustrates that when you get under 40mm, you have a lot more latitude with case height before you get to uncomfortable slab territory. This still feels discreet to me even with a thickness measurement that rivals (and exceeds) many a dive watch that I’ve deemed a tad too large for my personal taste. 

Finishing, as you’d expect for an IWC, is simple but still best in class for a pilot’s watch. Satin brushing is the name of the game here, with only the thinnest polished bevel snaking its way down the caseband to the termination of each lug. The bezel is angled such that it nearly meets the dome of the crystal, and creates a flow to the top half of the watch that helps it retain some sleekness in spite of its overall thickness. Everything is working in harmony here – there isn’t an element of this watch that feels like it belongs on another watch, and there’s nothing I’d change with respect to case geometry or finishing. This is the work of a brand that has been making this type of watch for decades and understands the essential simplicity of a pilot’s tool. 

That simplicity and harmony is largely extended from the case to the dial, which is a matte black affair with easy to read and intuitive white contrasting elements to easily discern the time, date, and day of the week (but on this particular example, only if you speak Italian). Printed Arabic numerals sit at each hour not intercepted by a chronograph sub-dial. At 3, 6, 9, and 12 we have applied and lume filled hour markers, with 12 being in the shape of a triangle, a traditional feature of pilot’s watches for the easiest possible orientation in a real life flight scenario. The minutes track is a series of hash marks with smaller hashes between them for a precision reading of elapsed time, but my eyesight isn’t nearly strong enough to determine precisely where the chrono seconds hand stops without the aid of some additional magnification, or just holding the watch awkwardly close, then far away, from my too-far-removed from the optometrist eyes. Still, a close examination of the dial under a loupe reveals a surprising precision to the printing on these smaller details, years before watch enthusiasts who cut their teeth on Instagram would become obsessed with this type of thing. 

The real highlight of the dial, however, and one of the things that makes this watch and other IWC pilot’s watches from the era so special, is the handset. Specifically, it’s that squared off hour hand, which IWC abandoned in the very next iteration of the pilot’s chrono for a completely different sword style handset. While these later handsets are certainly in line with many very traditional flieger watches if you go back through the history of these things, the squared off hour hand makes a great impression, is unique to IWC, and with the power and benefit of 20 years of hindsight, has an aesthetic quality to it that is far more interesting. 

I don’t know for sure, but I would bet that many at IWC would agree that the baton hands with a squared hour hand are something special, as they now regularly use this format in their “Tribute” watches, which are limited editions and, well, tributes to watches from the back catalog that have attained a classic status and are no longer made. The 3706 received such a tribute back in 2018, but IWC did that thing that brands often do, and upsized the case and added a bunch of yellow-ish lume to imply the attributes of a vintage watch. This peculiar way of “modernizing” a watch that’s not even that old to begin with by making it look old in some ways, and murdering one of the things that made it so special will surely be one of the stranger legacies from this moment in the watch industry. 

You might be able to tell merely from the layout of the 3706, but it’s powered by one of the key chronograph movements, the nearly ubiquitous Valjoux 7750. This movement, and variations on it, have popped up in watches of all kinds for many years. The caliber dates back to 1973, and has been used by the likes of Sinn, Omega, Longines, and Heuer at various times, and with various adjustments. IWC famously used off-the-shelf calibers like the 7750 for years, replacing certain components with those of their own design, and regulating them in-house. Before the current moment where in-house movements have become a calling card for luxury houses so that they may signify that they’re somehow above the fray, the type of watchmaking that IWC practiced until somewhat recently could be viewed as an art unto itself. Mass producing watches with movements that have been finely tuned to the unique specs of a particular brand isn’t exactly simple, and the fact that so many vintage IWCs survive today and seem to run perfectly with the bare minimum of maintenance is a testament to the good work they did when the watches were born. They still use mass produced Sellita movements in their entry level watches, but IWC has graduated to using their own in-house chronograph movement through most of their line, further relegating the 3706 to something of a completely different era. 


It’s instructive to look at how the 7750’s stock has fallen in recent years among enthusiasts, or at least has seemed to, even if watch buyers don’t come right out and say that it’s the 7750 they have a gripe with. One of the most common complaints with newer chronographs is their thickness, which is largely a result of the 7.9mm height of the 7750 (or, more likely in recent years, its virtual clone, the Sellita SW500). As tastes have changed and watch enthusiasts have placed a greater importance on thinner sports watches in recent years, it’s hard to find an example of a sports chronograph outfitted with one of these movements that someone hasn’t deemed “too thick,” and I’ve certainly been among them at times. That, however, is really just a function of the movement being used in the watch, and the reasons for these movements being primarily what’s available to small independent brands is worth another story of its own. Needless to say, there are limitations with a 7750, and in-house chronograph movements that support the thin watches that are now in vogue are rare (and expensive) indeed. In my mind, it speaks to the expertise of a brand like IWC to design around the movement in such a way that the watch, even at its stated thickness, still wears well. It’s another element that sets them apart from many newer brands that don’t have their legs under them quite yet. 

In my time with the 3706, I’ve worn it mostly on a simple gray nylon strap, and I have zero complaints in terms of its pure wearability in this extremely casual and sporty guise. I’ve also tried it on a number of leather straps, and like my trusty Omega Speedmaster, another black dialed chronograph with 20mm lugs and an altogether classic and simple profile, it looks good on just about everything. A particular favorite combination was the Hoyt strap (available in the WindUp Watch Shop) in green. Mine is quite worn-in from an autumn spent pulling almost daily duty on the aforementioned Speedmaster, and has developed a nice patina that I think matches the pilot’s watch aesthetic of this watch nicely. When these watches were in production and sold at authorized dealers, they’d often be mounted to strangely formal black leather straps, which seems to be a mismatch in my eyes. I also found that thinner straps with a relatively low profile work well on this watch, because in spite of the 3706’s thickness on paper, it sits rather flush to the wrist, and a thin strap helps it disappear even a bit more. But again, it was hard to find a combination that didn’t have some elemental appeal. 

If you completely missed IWC in the 90s and early 2000s, looking back on their watches from that era is a real treat, and makes for an interesting study in how brands change and evolve. While it’s too simple to say that IWC lost touch with their tool watch roots in their Pilot’s line in favor of a more luxury focused product at some point along the way, there’s something unpretentious about the 3706 and other IWC sports watches from this time period that is particularly appealing twenty years later, when brands seem intent on constantly attempting to one-up one another. You could say that contemporary IWC pilot’s watches are in dialogue with similar watches from the past, but the 3706 actually is a watch from that same past – maybe one of the last ones. IWC

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.