News August 2006

Pilot’s watches are a tradition at IWC Schaffhausen. IWC launched its first pilot’s watch in 1936 with the “special watch for pilots”. The Spitfire, one of the most impressive aircraft in the history of aviation, which stands out for its elegance and its supreme technical competence, also made its maiden flight in the same year, exactly 70 years ago. These two legends meet again at IWC – in the new Spitfire pilot’s watches collection.

Power Flyer Spitfire

The new Spitfire collection

The Watch Quote™ - August 4th, 2006



Technically advanced watches are a strong point of IWC Schaffhausen – in the water with the Aquatimer, on land with the Ingenieur models and in the air with the extensive range of pilot’s watches. The latter comprises the Classic collection, with dials in the traditional instrument look, and a more elegant collection, whose appearance is just as striking as the aircraft from which the watches take their name: the Spitfire.

Tribute to a legend

The collection is a tribute to a British fighter aircraft that makes the hearts of ambitious pilots race. Developed in the mid-1930s, the Spitfire was an aerodynamic masterpiece, a high-tech machine of its age, and to this day is still one of the much-admired stars at air shows throughout the world. The name Spitfire is also a tradition at IWC Schaffhausen; a special edition of watches bearing this name, limited to 1,000 individually numbered pieces, was issued in the year 2000. The basis for this special model was the Mark XV, which might be described as the grandson of the legendary Mark 11 which saw service from 1948 onwards as an official pilot’s watch with the Royal Air Force. This was followed in 2003 by an entire Spitfire range, which has been available ever since in parallel with the Classic range of IWC pilot’s watches.

There are four models – an Chrono-Automatic, the UTC watch with its two time zones, the Mark XVI and the new Midsize – in the new IWC Spitfire range, which owes a great deal to the outstanding technology and restrained elegance of the single-engined aircraft. Just as the panels on aircraft are usually attached to the frame with rivets, the numerals and indices are riveted to the dial in the new Spitfire watches. The appliquéd details are grouped around the raised centre of the dial, which is embossed in the truest sense of the word. If you look at the watch, not directly from the front but rather at an oblique angle, you will get an impression of the three-dimensional aspect of the dial, the surface of which has been rhodium-plated to produce a silky shimmer from which it derives its restrained elegance. The impression of this is reinforced in the chronograph by the recessed totalizers. The new hands, which resemble propeller blades, are completely coated with luminous material and offer outstanding readability both day and night.

Chrono-Automatic

The distinctive design of the stainless steel case contributes in no small measure to the striking appearance of the Spitfire models. The case diameter of the Chrono-Automatic has grown from 39 millimetres to 42 millimetres, which imparts a much more masculine appearance to the countdown facility. Its robust 79320 calibre chronograph movement permits the recording of stop times and aggregate times up to twelve hours, and it also shows the date and the day.

Mark XVI

The diameter of the Spitfire Mark XVI has also grown, in comparison with its predecessor the Mark XV, by one millimetre to 39 millimetres, which makes the proportions of this watch appear to be even more balanced. The functional design of the dial identifies the Mark XVI as a logical further development of the legendary IWC pilot’s watches. The 30110 calibre automatic movement functions as an impressive drive mechanism with a power reserve of 42 hours, which in addition to the time, also shows the date.

UTC

The UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) time display, which is based on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and remains constant throughout the world, is of great importance for pilots. Accordingly, IWC has produced a UTC pilot’s watch with a 24-hour display since 1998. This is important not only for pilots, however, but also for travellers who move between continents and time zones in rapid succession, or for business people who communicate globally. The current local time is indicated on the dial of the Spitfire UTC, and this can be advanced or turned back via the crown in 1-hour steps, including beyond the date line. The wearer’s “home” time is displayed constantly via the 24-hour display and appears in a window on the dial. In the new Spitfire UTC, the arc-shaped window has been transposed from the upper to the lower half of the dial, contributing to the optical balance of the dial and giving the watch a true smile.

Midsize

Quite new among IWC pilot’s watches is the Midsize model with a diameter of 34 millime- tres, making it ideally suited for delicate wrists. The Spitfire Midsize is also a variation of the Mark XVI on a reduced scale. Like all Spitfire models, it is worn on a matt brown crocodile leather strap with a stainless steel tang buckle, which endows the Spitfire pilot’s watches with a certain style.

The wearers of Spitfire watches, for all their elegance, need not sacrifice functionality. All models are equipped with a scratch-resistant, anti-reflective sapphire glass that guarantees optimal readability. The central screw-down steel back and a screw-in winding crown assure water resistance to a depth of 60 metres. The Spitfire models have, of course, a soft iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields. This is a feature that has always characterised IWC pilot’s watches – bound by tradition.

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IWC Spitfire Chrono-Automatic

Ref.: IW3717




Features
Mechanical chronograph movement, day and date display, small seconds with stop function
Movement
Caliber:79320
Vibrations:28,800/h / 4 Hz
Jewels:25
Power reserve:44 h
Winding:automatic
Case
Material:stainless steel
Glass:sapphire, convex, antireflective coating, secure against drop in air pressure
Water-resistant:60 m
Diameter:42 mm
Height:14.7mm
Weight
Watch in stainless steel
with crocodile leather strap
:108 g
Watch in stainless steel
with stainless steel bracelet
:172 g

IWC Spitfire UTC

Ref.: IW3251




Features
Mechanical movement, date display, 24-hour display, time display adjustable in 1-hour steps, centre seconds with stop function
Movement
Caliber:30710
Vibrations:28,800/h / 4 Hz
Jewels:23
Power reserve:42 h
Winding:automatic
Case
Material:stainless steel
Glass:sapphire, convex, antireflective coating, secure against drop in air pressure
Water-resistant:60 m
Diameter:39 mm
Height:12.5 mm
Weight
Watch in stainless steel
with crocodile leather strap
:92 g
Watch in stainless steel
with stainless steel bracelet
:146 g

IWC Spitfire Mark XVI

Ref: IW3255




Features
Mechanical movement, date display, centre seconds with stop function
Movement
Caliber:30110
Vibrations:28,800/h / 4 Hz
Jewels:21
Power reserve:42 h
Winding:automatic
Case
Material:stainless steel
Glass:sapphire, convex, antireflective coating, secure against drop in air pressure
Water-resistant:60 m
Diameter:39 mm
Height:11.5 mm
Weight
Watch in stainless steel
with crocodile leather strap
:71g
Watch in stainless steel
with stainless steel bracelet
:125 g

IWC Spitfire Midsize

Ref: IW3256




Features
Mechanical movement, date display, centre seconds with stop function
Movement
Caliber:30110
Vibrations:28,800/h / 4 Hz
Jewels:21
Power:reserve 42 h
Winding:automatic
Case
Material:stainless steel
Glass:sapphire, convex, antireflective coating, secure against drop in air pressure
Water-resistant:60 m
Diameter:34 mm
Height:10.1mm
Weight
Watch in stainless steel
with crocodile leather strap
:50 g

With more than 20,000 examples, not only does the Spitfire account for the largest number of a single aircraft ever built in Great Britain, it was also a technical and aerodynamic masterpiece in its day. Its pilots flew the Spitfire to defend their country against the German Luftwaffe in the “Battle of Britain” and turned it into a cult object in its home country. Today, the Spitfires restored by enthusiasts are among the stars in any air show.

Legend of the skies

The eponym of the Spitfire collection celebrates its 70th anniversary


This aircraft arouses emotions. Royal Air Force pilot Anthony Bartley once characterized the Spitfire as follows: “It is an aerodynamic masterpiece and fantastic to fly.” His fellow aviator, Air Marshal Cliff Spink, one of the last pilots in the world to fly a Spitfire, goes even further: “No aircraft I have flown can evoke the feeling of being in a masterpiece more than when I occupy the cockpit of a Spitfire.”

The spiritual father of the most successful British fighter aircraft of all time was Reginald Joseph Mitchell, born in 1895, and from 1918 Chief Designer at Supermarine Aviation, a specialist manufacturer of sea planes, which in 1928 became a subsidiary company of the Vickers Group. Only a short time later, Supermarine Aviation also enjoyed success with land planes. In 1929 and 1931, machines from Supermarine won the coveted Schneider Trophy awarded to the fastest aeroplane in the world: The SB.6 set a new world record with a top speed of 656 km/h. Although this made conditions quite good for securing a government contract, the Supermarine “Type 224” prototype nevertheless failed to find favour with the Royal Air Force (RAF). Mitchell still had to develop this model further.

1936 – the Spitfire makes its maiden flight and IWC presents
the first pilot’s watch

Major success eluded the designer until 1936, which was also the year that IWC produced its first “special watch for pilots”. On 5 March 1936, Vickers Chief Test Pilot Mutt Summers climbed into the cockpit of the first Spitfire F37/34 prototype and took off on its maiden flight. Six weeks later, the “Type 300” was demonstrated to the top brass of the RAF and entered series production as “Project 5054”. Government officials and pilots were soon in agreement; this was the aircraft of the future. Accordingly, the Air Ministry made funding for series development available immediately. The elliptical form of the wings, which would be a characteristic feature of this aircraft for a long time afterwards, emerged in the course of this work. The irony of fate is that the model for the wing surfaces of the Spitfire, which defended the country so successfully against the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, originated from a German aircraft, the Heinkel He 70, which the aero engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce had acquired for test purposes.

The wing surface permitted tight turning radii at high speed and thus endowed the Spitfire with superior manoeuvrability. The elliptical wing form significantly minimised induced resistance, which had a positive effect on the top extremely slender fuselage and provided the fuselage with a smooth skin: Not a single projecting rivet would reduce the performance of the aircraft.

Powerful engines and outstanding aerodynamics blend into a technical masterpiece

Much of the magnificent performance of the Spitfire in the air was due to the engine, a Rolls-Royce unit developed in close cooperation with the engineers at Supermarine. Project “PV 12” was supervised in person by Sir Henry Royce. However, the ageing mechanical engineer would not live to see the “Merlin”, as the first Spitfire engines were known, enter series production. The Spitfire Version 1 was powered by a 1030 hp engine, which provided propulsion via a fixed, two-bladed wooden propeller. However, only 77 examples were built in this configuration. Changes were subsequently introduced, first to a three-bladed and then to a four-bladed variable-pitch propeller made of steel. A total of 88 variants of the Merlin engine were developed in the course of the Second World War. A switch was made towards the end of the war to the more advanced Rolls-Royce Griffon power units, which produced more than 2000 hp.

The Spitfire was an outstanding financial success for its manufacturer. Only three months after it first flew, the Royal Air Force placed an order for more than 310 aircraft, and a second order for a further 200 machines followed in 1938, one year after its designer, Mitchell, had died at the age of 42 years. Of the 24 versions of the Spitfire, 20,351examples were built in the course of its career – a quantity that has not been repeated in Great Britain to this day. This fighter and reconnaissance aircraft became a cult object in its home country as a result of its outstanding role in the Battle of Britain, in which RAF pilots fought off the attacks by the German Luftwaffe, in particular, the similarly highly capable Messerschmitt Bf 109.

The “flying thoroughbred” is a sought-after collector’s piece today

Approximately 25 Spitfires remain airworthy today. They are popular guests at air shows throughout the world, and they have also become expensive collectors’ pieces. You would need to spend around three million dollars on a first-class restored aircraft – if you could find one in the first place. The Englishman Nick Grace actually managed to locate two examples in 1979 and restored both by himself. He then sold one of the machines to finance the six-year restoration of an ML 407. In 1985, 25 years after the Spitfire ML 407 had been decommissioned, the aircraft flew again. Three years later, after Nick Grace was killed in a car accident, his wife Carolyn took over the control column of the Spitfire. The final piece of the puzzle had now fallen into place: ML 407 began life with a woman in the cockpit. When it was brand new, in 1944, the Spitfire had been delivered by a female ATA pilot, Jackie Mogg- ridge, to no. 485 Squadron “New Zealand”, based in southern England.

The greatest challenge was the operating range, rather than the flying characteristics of the air- craft. Contrary to all rumours, the Spitfire was and is not at all difficult to fly. As Air Marshall Cliff Spink enthuses: “It handles like a dream and responds to your every touch with the responsiveness of a thoroughbred, and you cut through the air with effortless grace.”

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