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A Love Affair to Remember (6/97)
My initial reaction to the Fliegerchronograph
was love at first sight! Having lived with this watch now for
several months, I ‘d like to share with you my longer-term view
as well. After the honeymoon, I am still very much in love-the
idiotic grin on my face remains a mystery to those not in the
know-but I have regained enough of my senses to formulate rational
thoughts concerning the strengths and weaknesses of this watch.
At the US retail price of $4995 (1997), the IWC Fliegerchronograph
is not inexpensive, but I feel it represents an excellent value,
perhaps more so than its bigger and admittedly better brother,
the Doppelchronograph, at twice the price.
- Model: IWC Fliegerchronograph; stainless-steel
case and bracelet.
- Movement: Valjoux 7750, IWC-modified;
- 24 rubies; 44-hour autonomy; shock-resistance.
- Case: SS, 39 mm diameter ; 15.5 mm thick.
- Dial: Crystal: 32.4 mm dia.; 3 small registers,
8 mm dia.; day/date.
- Bracelet: SS, 20 mm wide and 3.2 mm thick
- Weight: 142 g (5 ounces) with a 7-inch
- Retail price: $ 4995 in SS with SS bracelet.
Other models not reviewed: $ 3,995 in SS crocodile strap; $ 6,000
in zircon oxide finish with leather strap
Left: SS with leather strap Right: SS with SS bracelet
Zircon Oxide finish with leather strap (not reviewed)
My Flieger runs +5 second fast exactly
every day (without the chronograph), with about 1-second variation
from day to day, which is an amazing feat. Feedback from TimeZone
and Watchnet suggests a typical accuracy of +1 to +3. Many of
my watches vary several seconds daily. Not this one. Folks on
TZ and Watchnet recommended that I do not mess with regulating
it as the watch will tend to naturally slow down some with age.
I have decided to wait a few years, then get the watch cleaned
and regulated at a service center. A word of warning: as with
many movements, it is not a good idea to adjust the watch between
10 PM and 2 AM. I am not sure about this particular Valjoux movement,
but I would not pull any stupid stunt with such an expensive
watch! I am not intimately familiar with the work that IWC did
to the rotor, balance wheel, escapement wheel, jewel hole and
sockets, etc., of the Valjoux 7750 movement. I defer to IWC experts
such as Richard Paige and Jack Freeman for the movement finishing
by IWC. My non-expert rating solely based on the performance:
a very solid 8.5.
my eyes, this is an extremely attractive Sports watch. The satin-finish
SS, the matte-black dial, and the shiny sapphire crystal form
a ménage à trois made in heavens-is such a thing
permissible? The first impression is one of understated elegance,
utter functionality, and durability. A closer look, reveals a
pervasive attention to details for both style and function that
deserves the highest praise.
round case has a soft satin finish that brings out both the strength
and beauty of stainless-steel. The attention to details on this
finish is incredible; the SS finish alternates from matte to
shiny between adjoining surfaces, from the back of the case all
the way to the bezel. This special finish must have added a considerable
amount of time. It is definitely time well spent. The Flieger
deceptive elegance could not have been achieved with a single
finish. The lugs are simple extensions of the case, quite in
keeping with the understated look of the watch. With a 39-mm
diameter, the Flieger is hardly a small watch. But the narrow,
sloping bezel makes the watch appear smaller, while leaving room
for the multi-register dial. The bezel butts against the crystal
forming a flat circular strip (1-mm), and slopes down toward
the case, leaving no sharp edges for accidental chipping or denting.
Very nice! For those of us not blessed with neuro-surgeon fingers,
the screw-down crown is thankfully large and easy to use. The
two chronograph buttons are in polished steel. Their actions
are positive, but very firm, a bit intimidating on an expensive
watch. They also stick out too much (about 4 mm). I much prefer
the shorter buttons on the Bertolucci Chrono (round), or the
Girard-Perregaux GP7000 (rounded rectangles). The double case
for magnetic shielding adds to the thickness (15.5mm) and weight
(142 grams or 5 ounces with bracelet). Now that IWC and Porsche
Design have parted company, is there any plan at IWC for fitting
this mighty knight with a lighter armor, say hardened titanium
à la Ventura? Rating: 8.5.
-The dial, matte-black with large white Arabic
numerals (3-mm), is very to easily read. A large white triangle
at 12 o’clock serves as a focal point for the positions of the
hands. The Museum watch is a more radical example of this concept.
It really works. The hands are straight white batons, short and
blunt for the hours, and long and pointy for the minutes. The
white tritium coating leaves bare the shiny contour of the hands.
This combination allows clear viewing in different lightings
and angles. In indirect light, these white hands show up clearly
against the matte-black dial. Bright direct light wash them out,
but their polished contours become reflective thus keeping the
hands clearly visible. The slight curve on the sapphire crystal
adds depth to the dial without detracting much from the readability.
In a dark theater (The Empire Strikes Back rerun), I could easily
tell the time thanks to the four tritium-coated markers at 3,
6, 9 and 12 o’clock. The day and date are in black (2.2 mm in
height) and easily visible within the white windows. The absence
of a magnifying glass allows viewing from very low angles, a
definite plus in my book. Rating: 9.
-In keeping with the
design scheme, the long and thin chronograph sweep-hand is also
white, contrasting well with the matte-black dial. There are
fine white divisions for 1 and 1/4 second on the dial perimeter.
The three sub-registers (sweep second, minute- and hour counter)
are about 8 mm in diameter with finely etched, white numbers
and markers, and small straight baton hands. Thin white circles
delineate the two chronograph registers. All three small registers
seem to fade into the background when you are not focusing on
them, and interfere minimally with normal time reading. This
is uncommon with most chronographs I own: they tend to look very
busy. Well done, IWC! Unfortunately, the generic complaint about
ALL chronograph registers still applies here: the registers are
too small for quick reference and aging eyes. Large jump-hours
would greatly facilitate the reading. I haven’t got the faintest
idea how to execute such a design, but the first chrono to do
that will be a very popular one indeed. Rating: 8.
user-friendly bracelet is the crown-jewel (no pun intended).
This is the best SS bracelet I’ve ever had the pleasure of using,
period. It is wide (2 cm), and strong (slightly over 2 mm thick),
and has a satin finished that hides the scratches extremely well.
The clasp, also in brushed SS, is only about 1-cm long, and far
less prone to scratching than the longer clasps for Rolex, Omega,
or Tag/Heuer. A gentle pressure with the thumb, and the IWC clasp
locks with a positive click. To open, just depress a tongue on
the side of the clasp. Each link for the bracelet is a row of
five rectangular pieces only 5.5 mm long, well rounded, and held
together by a spring-loaded pin. This excellent design produces
a very solid and highly flexible bracelet that fits your wrist
like a glove, without sharp angles, kinks, or large gaps. To
remove a link, merely depress a small indentation marked by a
circle on the back of each link, et voilà! The pin pops
out by spring action, and may be removed easily with your fingers!
No more recalcitrant push-pins, needle-nose pliers, padded vise,
or sonicator. Good-bye to accidental scratches. Those sadists
who designed bullet links with directional push-pins (usually
with the cooperative spirit of a donkey) or the forever-stretching
Jubilé bracelets should be made to study this bracelet
for one year to atone for their sins. My Audemar Piguet Royal
Oak at the eye-popping price tag of $10,000 has a bracelet that
is admittedly dressier, but not nearly as well designed (threaded
pins). Buy the Flieger with the bracelet! You won’t regret it.
The thick (15.5mm) and heavy (142 grams
or 5 ounces) IWC Flieger fits my small wrist (7 inches) amazingly
well! Dave Allen, an active participant of the Forum, mentioned
the very same thing to me about his Flieger. I think this has
to do with the combination of three things. First, the bracelet
with its short links follows the contour of the wrist exceedingly
well, thus allowing perfect fit, not too loose, or too tight.
Second, the large case spreads the heavy weight around while
the bracelet acts as counter-weight. I have an Orfina Porsche
Design that feels considerably heavier at 129 grams than the
Flieger at 142 grams because the weight on the Orfina is mostly
in the SS case, without counter-balance from the lighter bracelet.
Third, I like to wear the bracelet snug, not so tight as to leave
red marks on the skin, but certainly not loose. The incredible
fit of the Flieger bracelet allows me to do just that with comfort.
The Flieger also feels lighter on the wrist than the SS Omega
Seamaster at a mere 130 grams because the Omega bracelet with
longer links does not mold the wrist as well. My point is this:
ignore the dead weight. Try the watch on with its bracelet adjusted
to fit. However, those of you who like to wear your watch loose,
forget about the Flieger. This heavy watch would run laps around
you wrist all day long-well, maybe not that bad, but you get
the picture. This is regrettable, because the Flieger is truly
an incredible watch, worthy of your attention. I do no want to
make too big a deal about the size and weight of the IWC Flieger.
After all, the mighty Royal Oak Offshore for example tips the
scale at 240 grams or 8.5 ounces in SS, and 450 grams in gold-that’s
one pound, folks! (see Hans Z. post). As Dave Allen told me,
the Flieger makes “a dandy set of stainless-steel knuckles”
in street fights. Muggers beware! Rating: 7.5.
Quality Control/Service/Resale Value
I have not had any reason to send this
watch back for servicing, so I cannot yet comment on this area.
I would appreciate any experience, positive or negative, that
you have. One disturbing fact though: before purchasing this
particular watch, I had to reject a brand-new one in the box:
its hour-register would not reset properly, and the crown had
a wide gap at the full-lock position. The watch was promptly
sent back and replaced by the one I end up buying. But, poor
QC like that should not happen to a watch in this price range!
On the positive side, I’ve heard nothing but high praise for
the IWC authorized dealers and service centers I am familiar
with. Finally, the unusual discounts from small dealers on IWC
Flieger- and Doppelchronograph in the past few months are perplexing.
One wonders what this would do to future prices and re-sale values?
Wwill there be a re-alignment of European and American prices?
After so many apocryphal stories, I think I will postpone the
rating in this area until I know more.
The IWC automatic Fliegerchronograph is
quite an accomplishment by IWC. Understated elegance in black
and white, stainless steel with low-maintenance finish, great
accuracy, high legibility, and ruggedness: a winning combination.
Do not kid yourself, IWC attention to details externally and
internally will not be found in less expensive watches with the
same movement. No, the Flieger is not a perfect watch. For one,
it suffers from the generic limitations of chronographs: the
small registers are well executed but still hard too read. Additionally,
its large size and heavy weight will make it unsuitable for some.
Pity! A lighter material for the case and bracelet (e.g., hardened
titanium) would truly broaden the appeal of this watch. But,
for those who like large watches and do not mind wearing them
comfortably snug, this stainless-steel beauty is a great choice.
I never regretted mine. The love affair continues. Overall rating:
8.5 out of a possible 10.
to thank the following individuals for their comments to the
original version of this review posted on TimeZone: Dave Allen,
Jack Freedman, Richard Gross, and Daniel Parish.
Thanks for the great review. I whole-heartedly
agree with your assessment of the IWC Fliegerchronograph automatic.
I owned mine (w/ ss bracelet) for ~8 months now and I remain
totally satisfied. In fact, I liked it so much initially that
I it 24 hr/day, until I managed to club myself (and wife) in
the head with it a couple of times while rolling over in my sleep.
I can vouch for the fact that it would make an ideal weapons
system in a melee. In any case, I now take it off at bedtime…
As for accuracy, my experience has been
even better than yours. I spent several months timing it in a
variety of positions with the following results. Leaving it flat
on its back at night (the only time I don’t wear it) provides
for the most accuracy. In the warm months it consistently runs
about +1.5 sec/day, and if that isn’t amazing enough, once the
temperature dropped in the winter (if you can call it that in
California) it slowed slightly to about +0.8 sec/day. Yes you
read that right, less than +30 seconds off per month. I am simply
in awe of this mechanical wonder and I am now looking to move
somewhere where the temperature will regulate the watch to atomic
Several things in particular that you mention
in your review are what drew me to the watch.
- The understated appearance does not attract
much attention and goes equally well with both dress clothes
- The satin-matte finish–for some reason,
shiny watches do not appeal to me as much as matte-finished ones.
- The chronograph dials, while remaining
legible, do not overwhelm the overall appearance of the watch;
they actually seem to fade into the background when one just
glances at the time. My one complaint is with the sweep 24-hr
counter; it took me quite a bit of practice to be able to read
it properly at a glance. I would much prefer a jumping hand similar
to the minutes counter.
- The bracelet–absolutely top-notch for
all the reasons given in your review.
In conclusion, I haven’t regretted trading
my hard-earned $$ for this watch for even a second and I recommend
Lucky you! I have to wait until next year
to get the accuracy you are enjoying now.
Actually, I did also get the best accuracy
with the watch on its back also but I ran into a problem I failed
to mention in the review (already too long!). The Flieger has
a polished annulus on the back. This is a design flaw. If you
are not careful, the bracelet WILL rub against the watch as you
lay it flat and easily leave scratch marks. You can use a plastic
circle to protect the back of the watch. I just lay it on its
side. A better solution would be for IWC to finish the entire
back of the case in brushed SS, or better yet, use a deep-groove
design as on the Omega Seamaster Pro to hide the scratches.
Justin: Again, superlative. I just became
the proud owner of the automatics little brother, the meca-quartz
version on leather strap. In a nutshell, your ratings for the
auto could very easily be duplicated for the meca-quartz version.
My only complaint so far, is that I wish I had the bracelet instead
of strap. But $1000 is a lot of money for a bracelet. Thats at
least another watch for my collection. Rationality rears its
ugly head. I must agree that IWC has created a pair of master-pieces
in these two watches. Richard
I really enjoyed the detail of your article.
Consider submiting it to IWW. In your article you mentioned you
owned a Royal Oak. As a prospective owner I would GREATLY appreciate
your comments as some one who has lived with the watch for some
Thanks in advance Doug
An excellent review which I enjoyed immensely.
Bob L. is correct about the movement. It’s
a basic Valjoux 7750 movement, modified and finished by IWC.
The number is IWC’s own calibre reference for this basic Valjoux.
Your information, as apparently taken from Watches 96, was incorrectly
published in that collectors watchbook.
I also bring to your attention that Orfina
Porsche Design SS watch has a steel bracelet and not a titanium
one. In the days when that model was manufactured, titanium was
not used in watches.
As for the accuracy of your watch, I too,
suggest DON’T ROCK THE BOAT! Don’t have it adjusted at this time.
Most other watch companies would be envious for such superior
By the way, IWC until recently never had
a chronometer because they always tried to adjust their watches
between 0 – +5 seconds a day which is even better than the range
allowed for a certified chronometer. Only after there were customer
requests to introduce a model equivalent to a Rolex certified
chronometer did IWC bring out their INGENIEUR certified chronometer
model with a CYCLOP magnifier calendar window.
Jack Freedman, President
SUPERIOR WATCH SERVICE INC.