14 August 2019
At a remote airstrip on Canada's Baffin Island, there is an unexpected sight amongst the unforgiving landscape – a silver Supermarine Spitfire. As of 14 August 2019, this gleaming beauty of polished aluminium and steel has done 4659 miles and looks set to do a few thousand more.
“The Longest Flight,” a 26,700-mile journey around the world, has been sponsored by official timekeeper and main partner IWC Schaffhausen and, apart from the wartime raids the aircraft took part in during the Second World War, this may be its greatest endeavour yet.
Piloted by Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Matt Jones, the legendary 1943 plane was discovered in a museum and required two years of detailed restoration work that involved stripping it down to thousands of individual parts. It was still in the process of being restored when IWC went full-throttle and decided to have the pilots drive the plane into a hanger at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie for the brand’s massive dinner for press and retailers.
“The Spitfire will be doing 150 stops across close to 100 countries,” says IWC CEO Christophe Grainger-Herr. “It will be flying all the way up to Iceland and then over into Canada, down the east coast and over to the west coast and back into Canada. Over to Japan, into China, down to southeast Asia, through the Middle East, Abu Dhabi, back into Europe and Paris and home.”
With a range of 1300 miles (the aircraft was designed as a rapid interceptor, not a long-distance machine) the journey will not be easy. The cockpit is non-pressurized, so every location's climate will very much be felt by the two pilots. Grainger-Herr says, “it gets freezing cold at high altitude over the Atlantic. It gets boiling hot at low altitudes over Nevada. So it’s not comfortable. I liken it to when you drive a hardcore sports car for short journeys that you enjoy."
Accompanying them on the journey? An iconic IWC Pilot's Watch, of course. Setting the watch to a different time zone requires a simple rotation of the bezel; the hour hand, the 24-hour display and the date automatically rotating at the same time. Not that they'll be needing to adjust their watches too often though...the Spitfire doesn't really do different time zones.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition "The Longest Flight" (Ref. IW395501), £11,290
Limited to 250 watches, this special edition is dedicated to the “Silver Spitfire - The Longest Flight” project. It was developed especially for the two pilots, Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Matt Jones, to assist them in their circumnavigation of the globe in a Spitfire. The 24-hour display takes the form of a rotating disc below the dial, which significantly improves its legibility. The stainless-steel case, black dial and green textile wristband were inspired by the colours found in the Spitfire's cockpit. The IWC-manufactured 82760 calibre developed especially for this watch features Pellaton winding with components made of non-wearing ceramic and has a 60-hour power reserve.
Track the Spitfire here: silverspitfire.com