IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Polaris Dawn” Shoots for the Stars

If all goes to plan, the Polaris Dawn Mission will blast off from Launch Complex 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center sometime in the summer of 2024. And, in addition to the SpaceX IVA suits they’ll be wearing onboard, the four crew members will also be outfitted with a new accessory for their journey into the Earth’s orbit: a custom-designed IWC Big Pilot chronograph. With a case crafted from white ceramic, a space-blue dial emblazoned with stars and the mission logo, and the name of each crew member engraved on the titanium case back, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Polaris Dawn” (Ref. IW389111) will go where few watches have gone before.

“We will be supporting scientific research to advance both human health interests on Earth and our understanding of human health during future long-duration spaceflights.”

Jared Isaacman

And that is fitting because Polaris Dawn is also a space mission unlike any before it. Heralding the dawn of the commercial space travel era and SpaceX’s stated goal of building colonies on the Moon and Mars, Polaris Dawn will push the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to new heights, flying higher than any previous Dragon mission and endeavouring to achieve the highest ever Earth orbit.

Heading through the Van Allen radiation belt, up to 1,400 kilometres above Earth, Polaris Dawn’s crew will conduct research with the aim of better understanding the effects of spaceflight and space radiation on human health. They will also attempt the first-ever commercial extravehicular activity (EVA) while putting a new SpaceX-EVA spacesuit to the ultimate test.

IWC Big Pilot Chronograph Polaris Dawn

“The Polaris Program is an important step in advancing human space exploration while helping to solve problems through the use of innovative technology here on Earth,” says mission commander Jared Isaacman, who previously commanded Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission to space.

“On Polaris Dawn, we will endeavour to achieve the highest Earth orbit ever flown, in addition to the testing of Starlink laser-based communication. Alongside these important objectives, we will be supporting scientific research to advance both human health interests on Earth and our understanding of human health during future long-duration spaceflights.”

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Polaris Dawn” is based on IWC’s popular Pilot’s Watch, a luxury Swiss timepiece designed to stand up to the altitude and g-forces of life in a fighter jet cockpit. A fitting accessory for space travel, its case is made using a complex manufacturing process in which zirconium oxide is mixed with other metallic oxides in a precisely defined ratio, before being sintered at high temperatures in a kiln. This not only lends it a bright white colour (one that perfectly complements the crew’s IVA suits) but also the hardness and scratch resistance required for use in the field.

IWC Big Pilot Chronograph Polaris Dawn

Powered by the 69380 Calibre IWC-manufactured movement, the self-winding chronograph boasts no less than 242 individually crafted components, 46 hours of power reserve, and elements painstakingly decorated with traditional côtes de Genève stripes — because it is still a Swiss luxury watch, after all.

To prepare for their mission, the Polaris Dawn’s crew has undertaken a rigorous training regimen, including mountain climbing in Ecuador, scuba diving in California, medical skills training, fighter jet flights, centrifuge spins, time in an altitude chamber, a zero-gravity flight, a decompression sickness study at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s rigorous AM-490 skydiving course in Colorado. In addition to developing these important skills and honing the crew’s own physical fitness, such training exercises promise to accustom them to making quick decisions in high-pressure environments — an essential skill for any astronaut.

IWC Big Pilot Chronograph Polaris Dawn: astronauts wear watch

During their five days in orbit, the crew of Polaris Dawn will conduct scientific research intended to advance our understanding of the effects of long-duration spaceflights, such as the ones that may someday transport future Martian colonists to their new homes, on the human body. Among the 38 planned scientific projects are experiments to understand the causes of decompression sickness (a familiar danger to both deep-sea divers and astronauts), studies of the effects of space radiation on the human body, and research related to Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS), an eye condition identified as a key risk to astronauts in long-duration spaceflight.

And, while the Polaris Dawn’s mission is intended to benefit all humankind, one human in particular will be rewarded with a unique prize. Upon the spacecraft’s return to earth, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Polaris Dawn” watches worn by the crew will be auctioned off to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a Memphis-based institution specializing in treatments for childhood cancers and other paediatric diseases.

IWC Big Pilot Chronograph Polaris Dawn

Presented in a ballistic case emblazoned with the mission logo and the names of each astronaut, the watches will commemorate what may prove to be a major milestone in the evolution of commercial space travel and will provide one lucky collector with a small glimpse into a spacefaring future — one that, if Polaris Dawn is successful, may not be too far off.