The idea of a grail watch, like certain rare automobiles and whiskies, is what puts certain pieces in the category of collectible art. For most fans, the idea of owning one of these isn’t even an option; they could only hope to view one in person, perhaps even from behind thick plexiglass. However, it’s these particular timepieces that keep us dreaming and even hopeful. IWC has a few grail watches in its lifetime. In 2008, it released a limited-to-12 edition of its Big Pilot’s Watch, ref. IW5003, known as the Markus Bühler. It featured an aircraft turbine over the small seconds dial at the bottom. Well now, the Swiss watchmaker has brought this coveted piece back but with a few changes.
Named after Markus Bühler, the current IWC Associate Director of Watch & Movement Assembly, the turbine watch originally began during the horologist’s apprenticeship at the company back in 2003. That’s where he and his namesake watch took first prize in the Prix IFHH de l’Horlogerie competition. IWC then had him work on a production version, released in 2008.
Based on the 43mm Big Pilot’s Watch rather than the 46mm like last time, this new Markus Bühler edition for 2023 features some other welcomed changes as well. For starters, the movement is not an outsourced Unitas hand-wound movement but an in-house caliber 82905 automatic. Likewise, the 12-blade turbine on the front isn’t for a small seconds dial anymore. Rather, a tourbillon cage has taken its place, albeit with the red dot on one of the blades, and with the turbine itself serving as the upper part of the tourbillon regulator. Another change comes in the form of the watch’s case, which now features a polished platinum material instead of steel like its predecessor. And unlike the 2008 version, this edition is limited to 51 instead of 12.
Listed at $131,000, the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler is currently available from IWC. Head over to the brand’s website to learn more and/or enquire.