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A Tale of Two IWC Tourbillons with Markus Bühler and Lewis Hamilton

The IWC Big Pilot's Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler.

IWC Schaffhausen demonstrates its virtuosity in functional, high-complication watches with new models in its Big Pilot’s and Portugieser families.

Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler (Ref. IW329901) 

One of IWC’s most distinctive Big Pilot’s models – and one of its rarest – dates back to 2008. Named after its designer, an apprentice watchmaker, the Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Markus Bühler sported an arresting aviation-related detail. This hand-wound watch was powered by a movement that incorporated a turbine-shaped wheel replacing the seconds hand on the front of the dial and the barrel ratchet wheel on the back. Only 12 were ever made, and they became a collectors’ favourite.

IWC's Big Pilot's Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler.
IWC's Big Pilot's Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler.

Fifteen years after that initial release, a new and upgraded version of the watch that made Bühler famous is now available, with a fancier engine and a precious metal case: the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler. Produced in a limited-edition run of 51 pieces, there are also more watches to go around this time. Incidentally, Bühler, one of the most successful candidates in IWC’s apprentice programme, rose through the ranks and is today the company’s Associate Director of Watch and Movement Assembly.

The Big Pilot's Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler features several upgrades, including a lacquered dial and platinum case.
The Big Pilot's Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler features several upgrades, including a lacquered dial and platinum case.

The new watch’s appeal remains much the same as its predecessor – it captures the spirit of a pilot’s watch in a novel yet functional way. Naturally, it comes with some posh upgrades. Within a 43mm polished platinum case, paired with a black Cordovan leather strap bearing Bühler’s signature on the inner side, a glossy black lacquered dial is imprinted with white numerals and applied indexes filled with Super-LumiNova. The pièce de resistance of this watch is located at 6 o’clock – the turbine that sits atop a tourbillon.

The titanium turbine actually functions as a part of the tourbillon design, not just an aesthetic addition.
The titanium turbine actually functions as a part of the tourbillon's design, not just an aesthetic addition.

This is where this already cool watch gets some additional cred. The turbine’s titanium blades are machine-milled and hand-finished, and serve more than an aesthetic purpose. Examine the turbine further, and you’ll soon see that it also works as the upper part of the tourbillon cage – a move that reduces the total weight of the mechanism. The hairspring is attached to the underside of one of the turbine’s blades, which allows the watchmaker to adjust the zero crossing of the balance by turning the turbine.

The hand-wound IWC Calibre 82905 can be viewed from the caseback of the Big Pilot's Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler.
The hand-wound IWC Calibre 82905 can be viewed from the caseback of the Big Pilot's Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler.

Powering the Ref. IW329901 is the IWC-manufactured Calibre 82905. Its Pellaton winding system has been reinforced with ceramic components and builds up a power reserve of 80 hours in the mainspring. The plates, bridges, and the rotor, visible through the sapphire caseback, are blackened with a PVD coating, then laser-engraved and rhodium-plated. It offers an impressive water resistance of 100m, making it an ideal candidate for a daily-wear watch with a difference.

Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Lewis Hamilton (Ref. IW394008) 

Friend of IWC and champion racer Lewis Hamilton, seen here with the Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Lewis Hamilton.
Friend of IWC and champion racer Lewis Hamilton, seen here with the Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Lewis Hamilton.

An accomplished racing driver with a distinctive personality on and off the track, Sir Lewis Hamilton’s third collaborative timepiece with IWC is this decade-long partnership’s most complicated yet. Powered by the in-house automatic Calibre 89900, the watch features several complications: a flying hacking minute tourbillon at 6 o’clock, retrograde date display, and chronograph.

In terms of aesthetics, this limited-edition Portugieser upholds all the signature details of the family, from its imposing size to its Arabic numerals, slim feuille hands, and railway track-style chapter ring. The IWC brand ambassador worked with IWC’s Chief Design Officer Christian Knoop and his team over the course of two years to develop this watch, and it houses some of the finest watchmaking technology to come out of Schaffhausen.

A closer look at the IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Lewis Hamilton on the racer's wrist.
A closer look at the IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Lewis Hamilton on the racer's wrist.

The most critical input from Hamilton, a seven-time Formula One Grand Prix Champion and IWC ambassador, is in terms of aesthetics. Within a 43.5mm platinum case is a rich, teal-coloured dial that sparkles with 12 diamonds. Could this be a mischievous nod to the gem-set earrings that are the subject of FIA’s jewellery ban that Hamilton often breaks? We’d like to think so. With slightly recessed displays for the chronograph and the retrograde date, the elaborately finished face of the watch also features Hamilton’s winged logo, resembling a panther’s face. The watch is completed with a matching textile strap with a folding clasp.

The eye-catcher on the dial is obviously the flying hacking minute tourbillon. While the stopped hours and minutes are displayed on one counter at 12 o’clock, making the elapsed time easy and intuitive to read, the retrograde date display extends itself elegantly on the left side of the dial. Thanks to an integrated tourbillon stop, the mechanism can be completely halted, allowing the wearer to set the time with down-to-the-second accuracy. The delicate mechanism is an incredibly challenging assemblage consisting of 56 parts weighing only 0.675 grams.

The movement and dial of the IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Lewis Hamilton features details specific to the racer.
The movement and dial of the IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph Lewis Hamilton features details specific to the racer.

Limited to 44 pieces – Hamilton’s chosen racing number since the start of his career – the Ref. IW394008 achieves its impressive 68 hours of power reserve partly due to the Diamond Shell technology (a diamond coating) used on the silicon pallet lever and escape wheel, which improves the flow of energy within the movement. Components like the gold-plated bridges – the first time IWC has done this since 1993 – are visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. These limited edition watches are available through IWC's boutiques in Southeast Asia.

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