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Hands-On: IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun “SFTI”

iwc New Watches 2020 News Reviews SJX

Hands-On: IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun “SFTI”

Iwc Pilots Chronograph Top Gun Sfti Review 1.jpg

Source Credit:  Content and images from SJX Watches by Sheng Lee.  Read the original article - https://watchesbysjx.com/2020/10/iwc-pilots-chronograph-top-gun-sfti.html

The IWC pilot’s watch collection is one of the most complete on the market, spanning basic three hands to chronograph to perpetual calendar. It is also among the best received, as the design is straightforward and handsome, not to mention the many collaborative editions such as Top Gun and the Le Petit Prince.

Naturally, the pilot’s collection is revamped two times in the last five years – in 2016 with streamlined facelifts, and in 2019 with a more major update to movements and designs. While the highlight in the most recent revamp is the Spitfire collection, one of the Top Gun models received a small but visually important update – the double chronograph was constructed fully in Ceratanium for a coherent look, instead of a mismatch between greyish titanium parts and the black ceramic case found in other Top Gun watches.

And this year, the basic chronograph also gets a similar update in material with the Top Gun Edition “SFTI”. The case is still ceramic, but the pushers, crown, and case back are now made of black Ceratanium rather than titanium. Limited to 1500 pieces, it is essentially based on a namesake watch IWC created for the graduates of US Navy Fighter Weapons School in 2018.

Initial thoughts

IWC is not short of pilot’s watches, and probably not even of special or limited edition pilot’s watches. But the collection is one of the bestsellers and classics of the brand, so more iterations can cater to different needs and tastes.

For instance, even in the base metal like steel, the pilot’s chronograph is an intrinsically appealing watch. Unlike many tool watches, the IWC chonograph has the rare quality of implementing a no-nonsense tool watch design that does not appear bland. It’s the combination of case finishing, dial proportion, printing font that creates a business and sport look.

And in black ceramic case, it looks even better. But the crown and pushers (and to a less extent the caseback) in greyish titanium always stand out from the much darker case, until now. The SFTI edition fixed that with a ceramic coating on the titanium, making it appear at home with the case and also more scratch resistant.

While the update isn’t major compared to the existing Top Gun chronograph, it is a nice touch nevertheless. But the premium is high – it is now priced at US$10,000, which is about 30% more expensive than the regular production variant. And so arguably, even though it is a limited edition, the appeal of the updated design is diminished by the also updated price.

Top Gun

Launched in 2007, the Top Gun collection takes its name from a US Navy pilot training program – the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI), or better known as Topgun.

The main characteristic of the collection is the ceramic case. In fact, IWC is one of the pioneer in this field. In 1986, the brand debuted its first ceramic case watch in the form of a classic complication – the perpetual calendar chronograph – with the Da Vinci ref. 3755. And later in 1994, the exotic material founds its way into a sportier collection, as the brand introduced the ceramic pilot’s chronograph ref. 3705.

The first Top Gun that debuted was the double chronograph (or split-second chronograph) ref. 3799, taking a form similar to the first ceramic case pilots watch that was launched seven years earlier. And over the years, the collection has expanded to include the brand’s iconic perpetual calendar, as well as several collaboration edition and limited edition watches.

SFTI vs predecessors

The SFTI edition remains largely similar to the regular production variant, save for a few minor changes in colour. In fact, it appears nearly identical to the other two regular production watches in the Top Gun line-up, the chronograph and the double chronograph.

While all three have similar case construction and are largish at 44 mm, the materials are different. For the double chronograph, the case is made of Ceratanium, which is titanium coated with ceramic. And the other two have ceramic cases.

A more noticeable difference is the colours of the pushers and crown. On the new SFTI and the double chronograph, these parts are also made of Ceratanium, while it is titanium for the regular production chronograph. A red ring is added around the split-second pusher in the double chronograph, and on the SFTI it is used on all pushers.

Now a Ceratanium case back.

And the red ring on pushers are complemented with a red running seconds at six o’clock, as well as a red, jet-shape counterweight on the chronograph seconds hand.

Other than colours, the case architecture and dial layout are the same. That means a simple, no frills fusion of the lugs into the case, just like most other IWC watches. And it is finished with sand-blasted technique, which is fitting for the sporty look of dark cases, but unfortunately a good quality found on the brand’s steel case is missed – the neat brushing separated by a few polished bevels. That said, the ceramic case has strong and defined lines, showing precise engineering.

And the complementary, Ceratanium buckle

Like many watches from the brand, the SFTI has a dial that is decorated in a simple, crisp manner. And like its counterparts, telling time on the SFTI is easy at a glance, thanks to the large Arabic numerals and chapter ring.

Note the azurage pattern on the sub dials

And the recessed day and date window

SFTI mechanics

Inside the watch is a cal. 69380, which is a relatively new movement from the brand, setting out to replace the best known entry-level chronograph movement, ETA Valjoux 7750. While both movements have a running seconds at six o’clock, the mechanics are different. In the ETA movement, the running seconds is originally at nine o’clock, but it was transposed to six by IWC. However, in the cal. 69380, the running seconds sits naturally at six o’clock, as it is coupled directly to the fourth wheel.

Being part of the 69000 calibre family, the movement is similar to the cal. 69355 found in the new Portugieser Chronograph. Some upgrades to the ETA Valjoux 7750 include a column wheel, as well as a bidirectional pawl-winding system that is similar to the more complicated, proprietary Pellaton winding mechanism.

The differences between the cal. 69380 and cal. 69355 is the additional sub-dial at nine o’clock, which is a 12-hour counter that is coupled to the mainspring barrel (which makes a rotation once every 12 hour). Additionally, there is a day and date display at three o’clock.

Concluding thoughts

It’s heartening to see a step-up in the chronograph movement. While it is not seen on the SFTI for the first time, it is still relatively new, and some other watches from the brand still uses modified ETA Valjoux 7750. A proprietary movement definitely fits the price tag better, given the steep increase in price over the last decade.

And the design update is a nice touch – the black Ceratanium pushers, crown, and case back make the watch appear more uniform. Overall, it is a handsome watch with many IWC characteristic good qualities, which is solid engineering and appealing design.

However, the changes are incremental, and I somehow wish it replaces the regular production chronograph instead of being a limited run of 1500 pieces. Nevertheless, it is understandable that the proprietary Ceratanium is used sparingly on the standard version to further differentiate from the higher end, double chronograph.

Key Facts and Price

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI”
Ref. IW389104

Diameter: 44 mm
Height: 15.7 mm
Material: Ceramic case, with pushers, crown, and case back in Ceratanium
Water resistance: 60 m

Movement: Cal. 69380
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, day, date, and chronograph
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 46 hours

Strap: Textile with pin buckle

Limited edition: 1,500 pieces
 Only at IWC boutiques and retailers
Price: US$10,000; or 15,500 Singapore dollars

For more, visit IWC.com.

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Source Credit:  Content and images from SJX Watches by Sheng Lee.  Read the original article - https://watchesbysjx.com/2020/10/iwc-pilots-chronograph-top-gun-sfti.html


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