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Pilot Etienne Bauer & His IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

Generally our watch-related jobs can lead us to satisfy fascinating individuals and to be a part of extraordinary experiences. A couple of weeks in the past, I had a cellphone name from IWC‘s headquarters, which may very well be summarized this manner: “Do you do not forget that progressive Huge Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL?… In fact, I do! Effectively, we’ve one on the market into the wild that’s presently on the wrist of a French Aéronavale pilot, flying on Rafale, for a sequence of checks. Do you wish to meet with him? Ps. you’ll be capable of see the planes in motion.” And the remainder is me leaping like a child, packing my digicam gear and driving to the Landivisiau Naval Air Base in French Brittany, on my method to meet Commander Etienne Bauer, a pilot for the Aéronavale (the French naval aviation), to see how precisely probably the most technically-advanced (and actually, probably the most badass) IWC Pilot’s Watch, the Shock Absorber XPL, was examined. And I used to be stunned to find a person that isn’t solely a skilled navy but additionally fairly a watch fanatic.

If there was nonetheless any doubt concerning the relevance of IWC’s pilot’s watches as true flight devices, my encounter with Etienne will definitely provide you with a transparent concept of the fact behind a few of these watches. As you’ll see, there are 2 watches we’ll talk about on this interview. First is a reasonably particular version of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Computerized Prime Gun, a watch that has been made particularly for the pilots of the French Aéronavale. Not many would possibly know that, however certainly IWC offers navy and civilian pilots with devoted watches. And Etienne’s watch, a black ceramic mannequin with a black dial, not solely has his squadron’s emblem on the dial, but it surely’s his each day watch. He does put on this IWC as a part of his commonplace gear, a mechanical backup that gained’t be forgotten earlier than coming into his Rafale’s cockpit.

The IWC Pilot’s Watch “Aeronavale Version” worn every day by Etienne Bauer (the watch relies on the Computerized Prime Gun IW326901)

The second watch we’ll talk about is one thing way more unique, the Huge Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL – or what Xavier named “the Huge Pilot that has by no means been extra combat-ready.” Created by the model’s Experimental Engineering Staff, and verified by the Cavendish Laboratory and the College of Cambridge, this mannequin is able to resisting shocks in extra of 30,000Gs – due to a motion suspended contained in the case by the imply of a mathematically calculated BMG bulk metallic glass spring (the gold-coloured factor surrounding the motion). Even the crown isn’t classically linked to the motion when disengaged, because it makes use of a clutch-based versatile coupling. However the Huge (pun meant) query when having this Huge Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL accomplished and prepared is… what do you do with it? Effectively, you name certainly one of your so-called “associates of the model” with an occupation that’s barely completely different out of your basic desk-job – for instance, a fighter pilot flying on probably the most superior planes, a Rafale – and also you ask him to take this watch with him throughout missions and to jot down a report on the type of forces it needed to face up to.

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPLThe IWC Huge Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL ref. IW357201

So, now that we’ve accomplished the background, let’s discuss with Commander Etienne Bauer, a pilot for the French Aéronavale, flying on Rafale (and different planes) for a number of years now, about his job, what it’s to be such a pilot, the way you prepare every day and every little thing about time, watches, and the way these are nonetheless an essential factor of a pilot’s commonplace gear.

Brice Goulard, MONOCHROME – Etienne, may you introduce your self?

Etienne Bauer – I’m Commander Etienne Bauer. I’m presently the deputy director of operations at Landivisiau Naval Air Base. I’ve been within the French Navy for greater than 20 years, spending 15 of these as a fighter pilot in Tremendous Etendard plane, then in Rafale. 

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPLCommander Etienne Bauer in entrance of his “workplace”

What’s the distinction between naval aviation and the air pressure? Folks typically get them confused…

Naval aviation is an arm of the navy which works in parallel with the air pressure on particular missions. As naval aviation fighter pilots, we function Rafale Marine plane, posted on-board the plane service, the Charles de Gaulle. The air pressure operates out of its land bases; we function from Landivisiau, and from plane carriers throughout operational missions.

Do you’re employed alongside each other?

Sure, there’s plenty of crossover. A few of our coaching program is shared. We even have the air pressure’s fighter pilots come to us, as we ship our fighter pilots to them for exchanges of round two years in period. We prepare within the US Navy, so we’re fighter pilots like our American associates. We’ve factors in widespread with the air pressure, but additionally with the Navy, which is the place our experience lies. 

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

Would you say that you’re a seaman first, and a fighter pilot second? 

Sure, that’s proper. We name ourselves the “sailors of the sky”. 

How do you change into a fighter pilot? Coaching apart, what makes you say to your self “I’m going to change into a fighter pilot”, and what’s the profession path? 

You have to have a ardour for aviation; in the beginning, you could actually wish to fly. As for me, once I was youthful, I needed to be a fighter pilot. In a while, I found plane carriers. I needed to try this as a result of it truly is the final word, absolutely the pinnacle. 

When it comes to profession path, fighter pilots come through two important routes. There are those that be part of the navy straight out of faculty through a range course of, and there are these with an identical profession path to me, who be part of the naval academy after sitting an examination, and firstly change into a naval officer, after which a pilot. 

We all know that Prime Gun just isn’t a practical depiction of what a fighter pilot does… What does your work really include? What’s a typical day? 

A fighter pilot has two lives. A life on land, at Landivisiau, the place coaching takes place. Each day, the pilots may have a flight or simulator session scheduled. So, they put together, execute and debrief coaching missions. Alongside this, the pilots have missions on the bottom, as a result of, immediately, all pilots are additionally officers. They tackle quite a lot of duties. They write documentation, handle personnel, carry out an annual evaluation of their troops, technicians, and so forth… The pilot works for them. Pilots additionally carry out this work onboard the plane service. 5 months of the 12 months, pilots are stationed onboard the Charles de Gaulle, and their days are just like these spent on land. This implies one flight every day, and managing the personnel on board. In fact, there are generally exterior operations to carry out; when this occurs, much less time is spent on inner duties, because the pilot focuses absolutely on the function, with missions of various size on board the plane service.

We prepare lots. I can’t emphasise this sufficient. A pilot will prepare daily. The bottom by no means closes; coaching flights for pilots begin each single day at eight within the morning and keep it up late into the night. Day and evening.

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

Now that you’ve got change into an teacher, you might be passing in your data to the following technology. Do you now not perform operational missions?

Sure, I’m within the second circle now. I train and put together for the longer term. I train technical points and, on the identical time, I cross on all my data and expertise. I may give younger pilots the good thing about my expertise to make sure they’re absolutely ready and might be the very best. 

So, the profession of a pilot solely lasts about fifteen years?

Sure, I used to be a fighter pilot for 15 years. I used to be approaching the tip, in mechanical phrases. We frequently ask ourselves: “is there an age restrict?”, and no, there isn’t. We’ve careers that evolve, performing roles that evolve. It’s the mechanical facet of the function that makes us step again from the precise plane on the finish of our profession.

Do you suppose you’ll proceed to fly?

Sure, I’ll proceed to fly, as it’s one thing I actually take pleasure in. It will get me away from my desk on the bottom, and into my desk within the sky. Even throughout fairly an intense coaching flight, flying a fighter airplane at all times offers you these moments of enjoyment deep inside. Flying a single-seater lets you end up.

Is the kid who dreamed of planes nonetheless there?

You can not do that job except you might be pushed by this ardour. I believe it might be unattainable. After I hear the sound of planes passing overhead, my eyes routinely scan the sky for them. I can not not look.

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

What does a fighter pilot’s coaching include? What psychological coaching is offered?

Fundamental coaching is required to grasp pilot the plane. After this, coaching is supplemented with what we name “tactical” coaching. We tackle missions. By “mission”, I imply sorts of mission. These might be air defence missions, or floor assault missions. The objective is to have the ability to do every little thing, and to modify with ease between them. Then, you’ll want to be in good bodily situation, however there are not any supermen. A fighter pilot just isn’t superhuman, let me bust that fable. We don’t spend all day lifting weights within the gymnasium, however we have to keep in good condition. One of many key factors is endurance. Why? As a result of missions are generally lengthy, with a excessive stage of bodily engagement, after which we’ve to go once more. Each day, we have to be able to stand up within the morning and fly. We have to be rigorous with our life-style, as we will’t flip up drained. In an workplace job, you may say “OK, I’m drained immediately. I’ll do higher tomorrow”. A pilot can’t. If you’re flying a airplane, you’ll want to be at your sharpest. The psychological preparation takes completely different varieties. I want to organize for the mission, for the flight, to make sure that my thoughts is as alert and lively as attainable once I fly. Then, I additionally must put any worries out of my thoughts when I’m flying. Your private life must be with a view to guarantee that you’re absolutely obtainable and that your thoughts is 100% in your mission, reasonably than elsewhere. On land, in fact, but additionally while you head off for a number of months to coach on board the plane service, you’ll want to be absolutely obtainable for the mission. 

The Dassault Rafale M (for Marine) – photograph by Ministère des Armées

In the intervening time, you might be flying the Rafale, however you began with different planes… What did you begin off flying?

I began to fly very early, earlier than I even joined the navy. I began once I was fourteen. Again then, my father gave me the selection of a scooter or flying classes. In fact, I selected flying. On the weekends, I had a number of hours of flying time. It fed my ardour. So, I began with small personal planes, a peaceable introduction. After this, I began navy coaching: The primary planes have been turbine jets, then in the US I used to be flying craft just like the T-45. Then, I got here again to France on the finish of my coaching. I began by flying the Tremendous Etendard for ten years. It’s an plane that I’ve nice affection for, as it’s fairly an previous mannequin; it has a barely rustic single-engine design, with analogue dials, but it surely by no means let me down. It’s not flown anymore. For 5 years, I flew the Rafale, which is the final word plane, the one which each pilot desires of flying, as a result of it flies so superbly. This high-quality craft can do every little thing and its efficiency is extraordinary. 

Concerning the Rafale: What do you suppose is particular about it? What makes it higher, and extra advanced?

It’s nice as a result of it’s so straightforward to fly. A pleasure to deal with, with ergonomics that instantly put you comfy; there are many buttons but it surely actually is an clever craft. It is usually a sound craft. It is ready to land on the deck of an plane service, which is a really particular characteristic in comparison with many different planes. Except for that, it offers the pilot with plenty of data. Pilots want to have the ability to filter all of this data, so it takes plenty of cognitive sources to fly. To have the ability to fly, you want to have the ability to handle extremely advanced data. There are plenty of parts to grasp, in a state of affairs the place you might be already travelling at excessive velocity; this data have to be absorbed and understood, and the airplane manoeuvred accordingly.

Is there one level that makes it superior to different planes… In that case, what’s it?

Its key superiority is its capacity to synthesise data. It has a central display screen that collates all of the alerts from all of the sensors. The plane itself is ready to synthesise these and supply parts from the varied programs. It is usually colour-coded, which may be very aesthetically pleasing to the pilot. It truly is a delight.

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

And in fight, in comparison with different plane?

On this respect, it’s amongst the very best on this planet. Possibly not the very best general, however it’s a good all-rounder. In all flight envelopes.

What’s the distinction between a runway and an plane service?

A runway is made from concrete and is a number of kilometres lengthy. An plane service runway is metallic, shifting on the ocean, and simply 265 metres lengthy. Bodily, it’s a fully completely different problem to take off from a transferring level on the ocean, that it’s important to relocate, after which land on, in comparison with manoeuvring on a totally static runway. Touchdown on the deck actually is a problem; the mission is just full upon getting landed safely on the vessel. Not like on land, the place you may calm down as soon as you might be returning to base, engaged on an plane service requires you to remobilise. Touchdown on deck is rarely the identical twice; it’s important to re-evaluate the state of affairs each time. The ocean is at all times completely different, and so are the situations.

What makes a great pilot?

The saying goes that there are not any good pilots, solely previous pilots. The qualities a pilot wants are endurance and the flexibility to reassess continuously. We’ve a briefing tradition, extra so than in another sector. We debrief after each mission on the plane service; the touchdown sign officer debriefs us systematically after touchdown. Each day we have to reassess ourselves. What did I do properly, what may very well be higher. So, daily, we have to transfer ahead like that. A fighter pilot can not ever say that nothing goes to occur to her or him. So, pilots should prepare regularly, daily.

Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

At a fateful level throughout a mission, what does a great pilot must do? A pilot making the fitting resolution?

To make the fitting resolution, you’ll want to be adequately skilled. Every little thing else must be ingrained and automated, in order that your mind doesn’t want to consider flying, it may be completely free to take key choices throughout the flight. The pilot must have a sufficiently broad understanding of the state of affairs to have the ability to see it in its totality. This is the reason we’ve each day coaching and fixed debriefing. This prepares the mind to handle the state of affairs and to take action routinely. 

In an plane, you might be continuously making choices. It’s good to ascend, descend, manoeuvre… These choices will need to have been taken repeatedly. These small choices should not be troublesome to make, in order that the actual resolution, the actually essential one – when to fireplace and when to not hearth – is totally clear.

We are saying {that a} disciplined pilot is a brilliant pilot. These pilots are predictable, that means the remainder of the workforce is aware of what they are going to do. That is extra precious than a pilot with nice technical capacity. Though a fighter pilot is flying a single-seater, they by no means fly alone. There must be this symbiosis and mutual belief inside the unit. With out this, we aren’t good pilots. Being a fighter pilot just isn’t a solitary profession. You’re a part of a bunch of pilots. We frequently consult with ourselves as a pack. We could also be wolves, however we don’t prey on one another. We defend our pack. We’re very close-knit. If anybody is in issue, they’re protected by the remainder of the group. We spend our lives collectively… I’ve comrades that I’ve recognized for 20 years, and we flew collectively for 15 of these, finishing missions, residing on the plane service… This creates very robust fraternal bonds. 

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

Are you able to clarify the sorts of forces a fighter pilot is subjected to when flying, by way of G-force?

The 2 bodily constraints exerted are the load issue and vertical acceleration. In a Rafale, this could go as much as 9 G. We’re topic to 9 instances the Earth’s gravity, 9 instances our personal weight. This is the reason we put on anti-G swimsuit trousers, to mitigate these results. The opposite issue is strain. We’re topic to large variations in altitude. In just some seconds, we will drop from 50,000 toes to 100 toes above sea stage, with an enormous improve in strain. You can not see or really feel the velocity. Breaking the sound barrier, for instance, just isn’t one thing you may really feel. The airplane tells us we’re supersonic, however we can not really feel it. 

In older plane, you might really feel it because it had an impact on the controls; you might really feel them react. On the Rafale, there is no such thing as a direct mechanical hyperlink between the stick and the controls. Every little thing is digital. The one method to see it’s through the counter, so you’ll want to be vigilant.

The plane itself is topic to strain constraints and the load issue and, additionally, as a naval plane, it will get lined in sea spray and salt… This all creates all types of constraints: thermal, chemical and bodily. The plane suffers greater than the pilot.

The Dassault Rafale M (for Marine) – photograph by Ministère des Armées

When it comes to present expertise, the place does the Rafale stand? To make a comparability, is it equal to a Formulation One automotive?

Sure, it’s equal to a Formulation One automotive. That is what the aviation world does finest. It has plenty of constraints to beat; it’s about accelerating sooner, decelerating sooner. The sector really is a hub of superior expertise. It’s a marriage of digital and mechanical engineering. Every little thing must be thought by means of, as there is no such thing as a room for probability in any such plane. An engineer has considered every little thing. 

Let’s discuss you, and about time… How does a pilot understand time? You’re by yourself, absolutely you lose a way of what’s round you? 

I’m tempted to say that, for a fighter pilot, time is every little thing. Every little thing is linked to time. A fighter pilot’s briefing begins with the chronology. What time we begin, what time we end, what time we take off… It’s essential. What time we select to fireplace a weapon. And for us naval pilots, what time we land on the plane service. Why is that this final time – recognized by us because the “Charlie” – so essential? It’s one minute: each pilot has their very own exact minute to return to the ship. The plane service just isn’t at all times able to obtain its plane. It wants to show into the wind, improve its velocity and guarantee it’s secure at this exact time. If we’re forward of time, the plane service is not going to be prepared; if we’re late, the plane service will lose time ready for us, doubtlessly leaving it susceptible. This notion of time, as a pilot, is clearly linked to precision. What we’re aiming for, as pilots, is to land inside 3 seconds of our allotted time. That is our each day problem, to be as shut as attainable to this window.

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

Does this imply that while you get into your plane, you’ll want to synchronise with the clocks and devices on the plane service or base? 

Sure. Earlier than taking off, after we are within the briefing room, there’s a digital show exhibiting the plane service time. This can be a reference time which is definitely the GPS time. We set our watches from it, we synchronise with it, and that’s the grasp time. The very first thing I do once I get into the plane is to synchronise the cockpit chronometer with my watch. At this time, in fact, we’ve system instances within the GPS, however we maintain this mechanical time – which is one thing particular to the navy – as a result of it’s analogue. We will see time passing.

Does this imply that you just fly with two mechanical time measurement devices? Why mechanical?

As a result of it gained’t break down. It’s at all times current, and the time might be learn with out effort. We SEE the time. We don’t must READ the time. We see the passage of time, we see that seconds hand transfer ahead, and that helps us to anticipate. It’s an intuitive show: we see the palms, the minutes transferring ahead. We all know that we solely have so many minutes earlier than we’ve to land, and we all know the place we must be at that cut-off date. 

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

And is there not a romantic or nostalgic facet to this? 

In fact, sure; I like stunning issues – I might not be a Rafale pilot in any other case! And that’s the reason I like these watches. It’s not essentially the complexity that I like, reasonably their intrinsic magnificence. 

How did this occur? I wouldn’t say you’re a watch collector, however you might be definitely an fanatic.

I’m getting there! With the constraints that you’re topic to in an plane, you want a dependable watch, one which retains its course, not one that can lose or acquire time. Time is essential, however an incorrect time is of no use in any respect. I have already got a watch that I take advantage of for its major perform and its reliability. It’s a cockpit instrument. Pilots put on watches. It’s good to have a phenomenal piece, in spite of everything. I put on a watch which has that means to me as a result of additionally it is stunning. A watch can imply a lot. It’s a technical instrument, but additionally an object of magnificence, a chunk of jewelry. It is usually an emblem of belonging. 

An extension of your self?

Precisely. An emblem of belonging. I do know that my identify is engraved on the again of this (exhibiting his wrist and his IWC Aéronavale). I don’t see it, however I do know it’s there. 

What is that this watch? It’s fairly a particular IWC.

It’s a naval aviation watch. It’s my private watch, that I put on as a result of it’s in French naval aviation colors. It connects me to who I’m, to my ardour, and it’s unique, it’s mine. After I have a look at it, it’s finally a mirrored image of who I’m. 

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

Do different pilots put on this watch?

Sure, it’s worn all through naval aviation. It’s not simply fighter pilots, but additionally helicopter pilots, carrier-based plane pilots… There are 30 pilots on this “membership”. It’s a watch IWC created expressly for us, at our request. Out of friendship and a shared ardour. IWC agreed to do that, and we’re happy with it. Actually, really proud.

You have been a part of an IWC check program for the Huge Pilot Shock Absorber. For you, a fighter pilot, what about it made sense to you? 

I used to be instantly attracted by the large resilience of the watch. It resonated instantly. We converse extra a few shock absorber than a load absorber, nonetheless, it is a watch that may take in hundreds of G, whereas I personally can solely take in 9. I used to be curious to see how it might behave confronted with these constraints. It’s a Huge Pilot in spite of everything. Its expertise is superior, and it jogs my memory of my Rafale. There’s a very clear hyperlink right here. 

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

What did the check program include?

It was not a set course of. I took it on a flight in a Rafale. I opened a flight log, which a pilot makes use of to make a handbook report of all of the flights she or he has made, and every little thing that occurred throughout every flight. For instance, in my log, I might write “on at the present time, we took a flight in plane quantity such-and-such, we did such-and-such a mission, and it took X period of time”. At this time, I flew virtually fifteen hours within the Rafale with the Huge Pilot Shock Absorber. I accomplished some missions with a excessive load issue, at speeds of Mach 1.6… I put it in some troublesome conditions and took the plane to the bounds of what it’s able to, to see how it might behave. All in all, there shouldn’t be any doubts as to the resilience it will possibly provide. 

Was there any supply of magnetism in your cockpit?

Somewhat, however we attempt to maintain this to a minimal. Nonetheless, we do get plenty of electromagnetic waves, however this isn’t magnetism within the strict sense. We’re topic to radar waves, and we additionally obtain electromagnetic waves from the sky too. However these are minute. It’s not sufficient to adversely have an effect on a watch. We’ve a pc, in spite of everything, and computer systems don’t work properly with magnetism.

Interview - Rafale Pilot Etienne Bauer Testing IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

What’s your suggestions immediately with this watch? 

It’s good as, regardless of its dimension, it’s mild. When you find yourself topic to 9 G of strain, each gram counts. It’s straightforward to learn. The strap is sweet. It is extremely sensible and nice to put on. It’s a pilot’s watch that may be an asset on this planet of fighter planes. 

Has your watch ever actually been of nice service on a mission? Have you ever ever stated to your self “If I didn’t have my watch with me immediately, my mission might have failed”?

In my earlier plane, a Tremendous Etendard, there was a state of affairs the place the navigation unit which shows the GPS time was jammed. I may now not entry the digital time or the navigation knowledge. I had my cockpit timepiece, an actual mechanical watch which is wound with a spring, and my very own watch on my wrist. Having my very own watch was essential as a result of this allowed me to cross-check my cockpit chronometer, and recalibrate it. With out that, my cockpit chronometer would are inclined to have drifted, which is regular after 6 hours of flying. With my watch, I used to be in a position to recalibrate it. It was essential as I used to be refuelling mid-air, and needed to meet one other plane at a selected level, at a selected time. I wanted to reach on the given time, or I might not be prepared to satisfy them. Absolute precision is essential.

For extra particulars, please go to iwc.com.

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