Matt Baily Blog Cage Match - IWC Big Pilot 5002 vs. Panerai 1950 GMT PAM233 ¶
Part One of Three -
This week sees the premiere of our first Matt Baily Blog Cage Match, where we pit two high-end pieces in withering battle for supremacy to gain my personal endorsement. Okay, so it’s not much of an accolade - and watches like these rarely need any help to be big hits - but I need something to round out the blog and keep our dear readers entertained. After all, dry reviews tend to get a little stale after a while. So here it is, the first MBBCM (trademark pending). In this first match we will start with the big boys, the heavyweights of their categories – both have big, bold design, both have military heritage to back up their looks, and both feature fancy in-house movements with more than 7 day power reserves. I present to you the IWC Big Pilot (ref. 5002) up against the Panerai 1950 8 Days GMT (PAM 233). The Flying Deutschmann vs. the Italian Sommozzatore. Let’s begin.
Pre-fight introductions –
Let’s introduce our two competitors. First up is a legendary aviator’s watch, a high-flying design that dates back to the Second World War. The IWC Big Pilot is a modern interpretation of the original Beobachtungsuhr and Fliegeruhr designs of the 1940s; the original (made by IWC, Lange und Sohne, Wempe, Laco, Stowa and others) was a massive 55mm hand-wound watch designed to be strapped to the outside of a flight suit. The original spec was for an easy to read luminescent dial with central sweep seconds and wide sword-type hands. It featured a simple case with a turnip crown that was easy to wind with gloves on. Two dial variants existed, the “observation” dial (with outer minute track and inner hour track) and the more popular Fliegeruhr dial with simple Arabic numerals in the traditional pattern. IWC used the Flieger dial as inspiration for its version, scaled down from 55mm to a downright modest 46mm, introduced in 2002.
The Italian entry is a military watch of a different sort. Panerai made its name in military hardware for diving – the civilian watch success only happened in the 1990s (and quite by chance - by chance I mean Sylvester Stallone). From the 1930s onward, Panerai made diving instruments for the Italian Navy. The original brief was for a sturdy, large (around 47mm) watch with a luminescent dial that could be read underwater. Originally these were Rolex pocket watches modified with radium dials and wire lugs to fit a strap (aka the Radiomir). They were manufactured by Rolex for Panerai. Later Panerai began manufacturing its own cases and using a variety of movement suppliers. One of the most legendary and sought after case styles is the “1950”. It’s the love child of a Radiomir and a Luminor, featuring a cushion case with fixed lugs and the trademark “device protecting the crown”. Measuring in at 44mm across, with a nice domed sapphire crystal and classic Panerai sandwich dial, this 233 is a very close homage to the original 1950 design.
Round One: Hardware –
The IWC features the largest production automatic movement out there, the calibre 5111. Keep in mind this is a seven day movement that is an automatic – wear it a few times a week and you’ll never have to wind the sucker. Watch geeks will love the unique Pellaton automatic winding system - Impress your hot date by describing IWC’s patented eccentric cam that moves asymmetrical pawls to wind at a 5:1 ratio. The movement winds smoothly and runs very accurately. And the big turnip crown makes adjusting and setting the watch easy, as it should be on a military watch.