IWC Schaffhausen is getting on the tarmac for it’s trickiest launch yet. The Swiss watch purveyor is gearing up for “The Longest Flight,” a marketing stunt that celebrates its Spitfire line, particularly the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition, that debuted at this year’s SIHH. On August 5, pilots Steve Boultbee Brooks and Matt Jones from Boultbee Flight Academy at Goodwood Aerodrome in England will set out on a 26,719-mile journey across the globe, stopping in 26 nations in a revamped Spitfire, while wearing watches from the plane it is named after.
“The Spitfire has never been to most of these countries, especially in Asia,” said Christoph Grainger-Herr, the CEO of IWC Schaffhausen at the brand’s New York flagship store. “It’s a short-range plane that can only fly 700 nautical miles. There is no maintenance infrastructure for a global journey. There is no fuel supply for it. Everything had to be invented for this mission. We’re doing this because its one of the most fascinating design stories.”
Grainger-Herr went on to relay how the original Spitfire was used by Britain’s Royal Airforce during World War II—and how, at the time, it was the model of functional engineering. Designed by R. J. Mitchell, the fighter aircraft features elliptical wings and uniquely-shaped fuselage that was originally cast in camouflage. In the same vein, the watches given to these pilots were also built to perform.
“The parallel to what we do in watchmaking is really striking,” he explained. “You’re engineering machines to solve a technical problem, but, in the end, you create a shape that is timeless and beautiful. Take, for example, the crown on the Pilot’s Watch. It is designed to be operated with thick gloves. Also, the fold-around leather strap was made that way because it was meant to be worn over a suit. I think the stories of these machines with beautiful silhouettes and a mechanical heart is similar to what we see on the plane.”
To whit, the design of both a plane and a watch adhere to the same mindset—namely in that form often follows function. The mechanism that drives them outweighs what is seen on the surface. But as proven with the Spitfire plane, time and a bit of refurbishing can bring out its aesthetic qualities.
For the “The Longest Flight,” the design team at IWC stripped the Spitfire of its camouflage coat, polishing it down to a lustrous silver. “You can really appreciate its shape now that it’s not in muddled green, grey and brown,” says Grainger-Herr. As for the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition, the brand is doing more than a mere wax and buff. There is a great emphasis placed on a patented timezoner function. By pressing down on the bezel, wearers can rotate the entire mechanism to a preferred time zone that doesn’t stop the movement.
“The date is linked, so if you go across the date line when you travel, it will change automatically,” adds Grainger-Herr. “The watch does not lose a second.” This, along with 24-hour display, date display, and 60-hour power reserve, is ideal for traveling long distances. Indeed, it is perfect for a stunt called “The Longest Flight.”