Fifteen Years Later, The IWC Big Pilot Markus Bühler Is Back, Now With A Tourbillon!

by Sameera Gamage

IWC Schaffhausen’s latest release, the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler, is the long-awaited successor to the Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Markus Bühler from 2008.

The IWC Markus Bühler is a stand-alone watch that has almost a cult following of its own. Based on IWC’s Big Pilot timepiece, the Markus Bühler edition has quite a story behind it’s creation. The IWC Big Pilot Markus Bühler ref. 5003 was created back in 2003, by an apprentice at the time in IWC. That apprentice of course was whom the watch was named after; Markus Bühler.

Markus Bühler Wearing the latest rendition of his IWC Big Pilot Markus Bühler ref. 5003.

Although watchmaking was not Bühler background, he quickly learned the ropes and graduated as an apprentice with a final examination score of 5.9 out of 6! Although Bühler rose through the ranks in IWC fairly quickly, what he’ll be remembered for will be the IWC Big Pilot Markus Bühler ref. 5003 timepiece. During his time as apprentice, the annual Prix IFHH de l’Horlogerie for apprentice watchmakers in Switzerland was held. In 2003, Bühler entered IWC into the competition with a simple yet remarkable timepiece. Out of a total of 64 contestants, Markus Bühler’s design emerged victorious.

The original IWC Big Pilot Markus Bühler ref. 5003. Image Reference

So what exactly was the design that won him the top spot? The competition rules were that the contestants were allowed 30 hours over two weeks to design and create the watch. Bühler kept the design very simple, with the IWC Big Pilot being the base design for his creation. He modifed the movement to incorporate turbine-shaped wheels on both the front and back and removed the seconds hand at 6 o’clock and barrel ratchet wheel from the movement. Bühler explained his creation as “Replacing the spring barrel of a watch with the miniature turbine engine of a passenger aircraft appears to be a bold idea on first inspection… yet both engines perform the same task. They are responsible for providing the drive.”

After Markus Bühler won the competition in 2003, IWC set about the creation of 12 special edition timepieces with this exact winning design. Although it was designed in 2003, the final of the 12 timepieces weren’t finished and delivered until 2008. Now, 15 years later, IWC Schaffhausen is bringing the Markus Bühler back into the spotlight with the release of the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler (Ref. IW329901).

The Case Back of The Hand-Wound IWC Big Pilot Markus Bühler ref. 5003.

As you may have guessed, the watch now carries a flying minute tourbillon, which has been integrated in with the characteristic aircraft engine turbine at 6 o’clock. Ahead of the launch of this new edition, Markus Bühler, who is now the Associate Director of Watch and Movement Assembly at IWC, states “When I created my Big Pilot’s Watch with a turbine as an apprentice watchmaker, I would never have imagined I would lead the development of a second edition 15  years later – let alone that I would be responsible for all assembly processes at IWC. To meet the high expectations of our collectors, we decided to create something truly exclusive and integrate the signature turbine into a tourbillon. This new edition perfectly embodies IWC’s engineering spirit while showcasing highest levels of detail and craftsmanship”.

The All-New Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler (Ref. IW329901).

Unlike the original ref. 5003 Markus Bühler edition which came with a blue dial and contrasting white hands and indices, this new edition is presented on a deep contrasting black lacquered glossy dial, with indices and hands still remaining in white. The baton style hour indices which contain generous amounts of Superlumi-Nova along with the minute track is more refined and slight smaller in appearance. The watch is presented in a 43mm platinum case, with the iconic Big Pilot crown also made from platinum. To match the black dial, the watch is presented in a black Cordovan leather strap with Markus Bühler’s signature printed on the inner side, which complements the design nicely.

Markus Bühler Working On The All-New Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler (Ref. IW329901).

For the construction of the tourbillon, the balance and escapement are housed in a small cage which rotates around its axis once per minute. Weight reduction is the primary focus, as the higher the mass and inertia, the more energy needed to operate. Therefore, to reduce the weight, the turbine used for the tourbillon was machined from a lightweight titanium alloy.

IWC states in regards to the tourbillon construction that “After machining, each of the twelve minuscule blades was polished by hand and finished to an incredibly high level of detail and aesthetic perfection. To avoid the turbine adding additional weight to the mechanism, Bühler used it as the upper part of the tourbillon cage, replacing the regulator. As a result, the eye-catcher on the dial also has a technical function: the hairspring attaches to the underside of one of its blades, and the watchmaker can adjust the zero crossing of the balance by turning the turbine. The state-of-the-art tourbillon consists of 56 parts and weighs only 0.663 grams.”

Turbine Tourbillon Being Fitted Into The 82905 Calibre Movement.

The tourbillon is adjoined to the IWC-manufactured 82905 calibre. Unlike the original competition-winning model which was hand-wound, this 82905 calibre is automatic winding, giving out an impressive power reserve of approximately 80 hours. The timepiece comes with an open case back, in which the wearer can see the PVD coated blackened plates, bridges and skeletonised rotor.

Open Case Back Of The All-New IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler.

This new Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Markus Bühler along with the original Big Pilot Markus Bühler ref. 5003 timepiece is a testament to how strong the IWC apprentice programme is. This new rendition stays true to the original design, whilst giving it a modern update with the inclusion of the tourbillon and automatic movement. The Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Tourbillon Mark is a limited edition timepiece with only 51 watches being produced.

Reference: IW329901


  • Case: 43mm / 14.5mm thick
  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Case back: Sapphire crystal case back.
  • Dial: Black lacquered glossy dial with white hour indices and hands.
  • Crystal: Sapphire glass, arched-edge, anti-reflective coating on both sides.
  • Water resistance: 100 m / 10 bar
  • Movement: Automatic movement 82905 Calibre with flying minute tourbillon.
  • Power reserve: Approximately 80 hours
  • Strap: Black Cordovan leather strap with Markus Bühler’s signature printed on the inner side.

Australian Recommended Retail Price: AUD $229,000

Availability: Limited to 51 timepeices. Select IWC Schaffhausen boutiques or enquire through IWC E-Commerce.

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