Ceramic is a material that is now relatively common in watchmaking. It’s a nearly ubiquitous choice for bezel inserts on modern dive watches, and we’ve reached a point where full ceramic cases are becoming more and more commonplace, and certainly don’t feel quite as exotic as they did even a few short years ago. But back in 1994, when IWC released the “Fliegerchronograph Keramik,” more commonly referred to today simply as reference 3705, ceramic was very new in the watch world. Indeed, some credit the 3705 as the first ceramic cased sports watch. And, as you might have guessed, it didn’t exactly catch on. IWC produced about 1,000 of these watches before ending production, and the watch was all but forgotten for years. In recent years, as interest has grown in ceramic watches, the 3705 has grown in stature significantly, and tends to trade above $ 20,000 when they come up for sale. Now, in a release that’s exclusive to IWC’s online channels, they’ve released a limited edition that pays tribute to the 3705, and since the 1990s version was well ahead of its time, not much needed to change on the re-release.
The official designation of the new watch is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705,” and it bears the IWC reference number 387905. A side by side comparison of the new watch to the old reveals that IWC has made only small changes. The typeface reads as a bit more modern in the new version, and the IWC wordmark has been slightly shifted. The subdials on the new watch are a little larger in proportion to the rest of the dial and fill it out more. The broad strokes, however, are remarkably similar. The 12, 6, 9 subdial layout remains the same (although running seconds is now at the 6:00 position instead of 9:00), and the simple square hour markers and triangle at 12:00 are held over as well.
Most importantly, the watch is dominated by it’s dark character. The black dial is mated to a 41mm jet black case, and the whole endeavor seems designed to feel as sleek as possible. Note, however, that we’re dealing with a chunky case that measures 15.3mm thick. This is due to IWC’s use of a soft-iron inner case to protect the watch from magnetic fields.
Another important difference between the past and present ceramic Fliegerchronographs has to do with what that case is made out of. On the original, it’s solid ceramic, a material that was certainly boundary pushing for IWC in 1994. For the 2021 version, IWC has used Ceratanium, a material of their own invention. It’s essentially a case that has been machined from a titanium alloy and then fired in a furnace at extreme temperatures. The end result is a case that takes on the scratch resistant properties of ceramic, but maintains the lightweight robustness that’s so appealing with titanium.
As mentioned up top, this is a limited edition, and seems aimed squarely at big IWC fans (of which, of course, there are many). They’ll be making 1,000 of these watches, and selling them exclusively through IWC’s website and other authorized digital platforms. The price? This one will set you back $ 11,900. That’s steep by any measure, but it’s apparent that IWC is banking on hardcore fans seeing a comparitive value in the new watch versus the old, which one might expect to continue to rise in price. More information can be found on the IWC website right here.