A rare oversized pilot’s wristwatch with indirect center seconds

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  • Manufacturer: IWC
    Year: 1940
    Reference No: 431
    Movement No: 1'014'629
    Case No: 1'033'969, FL23883
    Model Name: B-Uhr
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 52, 20 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel
    Dimensions: 55mm Diameter
    Signed: Case and movement signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present B-Uhr is a fine example of a mid-20th century pilots’ watch and recognized for its spartan aesthetics, oversized 55mm diameter case, and mechanical hack mechanism.

    In the 1940s, the German Air Force commissioned brands like IWC, Laco and A. Lange and Söhne to produce pilot wristwatches, following their specifications. The brands manufactured watches with mechanical movements, large center seconds hands, oversized crowns and a hacking, or stop-seconds, mechanism. The oversized cases permitted the use of large dials for high legibility and featured strong luminous hour markers so the navigator could easily read the time, day or night. The dials featured a triangle at 12 o’clock with two dots on either side, which allowed the pilot to orient the watch immediately in any position.

    The present military watch is known as the B-Uhr or Beobachtungs-uhren or “Observation” watch. These rare models were produced by IWC and featured an oversized caliber 52 movement with an antimagnetic cuvette – a necessity for aviators’ timepieces. The B-Uhr wristwatches had two dial styles, the A with an outer minute track like the current example, and the B with an inner and outer minute track. Typical of many military watches, the case is marked with various designations. The case band at the 9 o’clock is marked “FL23883”, the designation for navigation. Research indicates that IWC made approximately 1000 of these timepieces, and as they were military issue, pilots were required to return them upon completion of service, therefore, few of these watches appear on the market today. So powerful is its design, the B-Uhr served as the inspiration for IWC’s highly popular, modern “Big Pilot” product line that was re-released by the brand in 2002.

    This B-Uhr is in lovely original condition and is an excellent example of these military wristwatches. Considered oversized even by today’s standards, it is a watch that perfectly reflects the era from which it was produced and for collectors that appreciate history and horology, it makes a wonderful addition to any collection.

  • Maker Bio

    IWC

    Swiss • 1868

    With a clear focus on technology and development, the Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen has been producing timepieces of lasting value since 1868. The company has gained an international reputation based on a passion for innovative solutions and technical ingenuity. One of the world's leading brands in the luxury watch segment, IWC crafts masterpieces of haute horlogerie at their finest, combining high precision with masculine design. Vintage wristwatches such as the oversized Portugieser, Aquatimer, Ingenieur and the B-UHR pilots watch are especially desirable for collectors.

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IWC

Ref. 431
A rare oversized pilot’s wristwatch with indirect center seconds

1940
55mm Diameter
Case and movement signed

Estimate
$15,000 - 30,000 
CHF14,900-29,900
€13,600-27,200
HK$117,000-235,000

sold for $22,500

Contact Specialist
Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas & International Strategy Advisor
Senior Vice President
+1 212 940 1293
pboutros@phillips.com

GAME CHANGERS

New York Auction 10 December 2019