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Updated by Dawn Young on May 31, 2017
Headline for 8 Things To Know About IWC Mark Watches
Dawn Young Dawn Young
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8 Things To Know About IWC Mark Watches

With its long-standing relationship with aerial navigation, IWC Schaffhausen has set itself apart among today’s luxury watch brands. A mere mention of the brand brings to mind timepieces that are steeped in history and unequalled in visual appeal and technical excellence. Among these are the legendary IWC Mark watches.


Inspired By IWC’s First Observer’s Watch

Inspired By IWC’s First Observer’s Watch

Four years after creating its very first Special Pilot’s Watch in 1936, IWC came up with the T.S.C. Big Pilot’s Watch with calibre 52, touted as the first observer’s watch and the largest watch ever created by IWC with a 55-millimetre case. The instrument-inspired design of this first IWC Big Pilot’s Watch was what made it iconic in style and would become the blueprint of what a classic pilot’s watch should look like.

This distinct design became the Schaffhausen-based manufacture’s basis for creating the original in the Mark series, the Mark XI.


Purpose-built For Aerial Navigation

Purpose-built For Aerial Navigation

Prior to creating the Mark XI, IWC was among the group of watch companies commissioned by the British Ministry of Defence to develop military watches for its troops during the early 1940s. All these chosen manufacturers adopted the name “Mark X” for the military watch they were conceptualising specifically for this purpose. In 1944, the British military was issued with IWC’s calibre 83-powered Mark X which would be used for four years by various personnel in the organisation, including the British military’s Royal Air Force pilots and navigators.

Four years later in 1948, IWC released the Mark XI, a more advanced version of the Mark X, which would later become the iconic model for all Mark watches under the line.


The Most Popular Pilot’s Watch

The Mark XI is the best known model among IWC’s Pilot’s Watches due to the fact that it was the official military watch that was used by the British Royal Air Force for over 30 years.


Embodied The Qualities Of A True Pilot’s Watch

Unlike its predecessor, Mark XI was fitted with calibre 89, which featured centre seconds instead of the sub-seconds display in the Mark X. Moreover, IWC went to great lengths to make the Mark XI a true epitome of a pilot’s watch by making the model magnet-resistant as well as stable and reliable no matter the temperature it was subjected to. On top of these qualities, the Mark XI model possessed high precision and outstanding legibility. These attributes would also be present in succeeding Mark watches that would be developed under the line.


Became A Cult Favourite In The 1990s

The mid-1960s saw the Mark XI decline in popularity and was relegated as a mere backup for radio equipment that was becoming more popular at the time. By the late 1970s, the watches were sold by the Royal Air Force as surplus items at government property sales events.

Such a timepiece, however, was so iconic that it couldn’t be left in oblivion. In 1993, the Mark XI gained new fans in the form of avid watch collectors, which prompted IWC to release an updated model – the Mark XII.


Transformed Into A Timeless Everyday Watch

The launch of the Mark XII signaled the metamorphosis of the Mark watch from a military watch to an elegant everyday wristwatch. Unlike the Mark XI, the Mark XII featured Roman numerals and a date window, and was powered by an automatic movement.

The overall look of the Mark XII, however, did not depart much from the original, becoming a fitting tribute to the iconic Mark XI.


Emerged To Become A True Frontrunner In The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Range

Subsequent changes were adopted in succeeding models to reflect the needs of modern watch lovers. The Mark XV followed in 1999, which featured a larger case (38 millimetres). The Mark XVI introduced in 2006, on the other hand, saw a change in the look of the watch, particularly adopting the Big Pilot’s Watch’s hands and a bigger case (39 millimetres).

In 2012, the Mark XVII was launched, sporting a much larger 41-millimetre case to cater to the preference of watch lovers for larger watches back then. A sector date display was also added, which had the look of a cockpit instrument.


The Latest Model Is A Throwback To The Original

The Latest Model Is A Throwback To The Original

Declaring 2016 as the year of the Pilot’s Watches, IWC decided to revitalise the Mark line by going back to the basics – qualities that made it the quintessential pilot’s watch. Hence for Mark XVIII, the brand went back to its roots and made the new model more similar to the original Mark XI.

The Mark XVIII is slightly smaller than its immediate predecessor at 40 millimetres and no longer sports a sector date display. It still possesses, though, the hands of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch that make it a true reflection of the popular line while retaining the best qualities of the original such as its antimagnetic feature.

IWC has launched the Mark XVIII as an entry-level model for new fans of the classic pilot’s watch, with an option for a stainless steel bracelet or a calfskin strap. For those who love the vintage look of the original, the Mark XVIII is also offered in twin-coloured textile straps that take their inspiration from the Nato straps that the original sported decades ago.