Unveiled at SIHH 2016 haute horlogerie exhibition, the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII pays tribute to watch legends like the Mark 11 of 1948 which had a decisive influence on the appearance of the new classic Pilot’s Watches. The contemporary Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII has been launched as an entry-level model with a calfskin strap or stainless-steel bracelet.
In 1941, the Royal Air Force (RAF) realized that most of their attempts at pinpointing an aircraft’s position were imprecise. One reason was that the RAF had no observer’s watches, which offer the down-to-the-second accuracy necessary for navigating with a sextant: back then this was the most accurate form of navigation. Apart from this, cockpits were subject to strong magnetic fields and fluctuating temperatures, all of which had an influence on the watches. And finally, in the event of a rapid drop in pressure, the front glass of the watch was liable to pop out of the case.
After the war, therefore, the RAF approached IWC Schaffhausen with an order for the Navigators Wrist Watch Mark 11. The Swiss company had already made a name for itself with the Special Pilot’s Watch and Big Pilot’s Watch. The new model was delivered in 1949, and it soon became clear that the Mark 11 had everything required of a high-accuracy observer’s watch. It was precise, robust, temperature-resistant, water-resistant and extremely easy to maintain. It was protected against magnetic fields by a soft-iron cage and had a screw-in glass that resisted sudden drops in pressure. Reduced purely and simply to the one function of showing the time for navigation purposes with absolute precision, it required no rotating bezel because by this time a fuel tank display was a standard feature in cockpit instrumentation. The designers even decided to forgo a chronograph because, at that time, activating an additional function would have had negative repercussions on the watch’s accuracy. Simplicity in essence, it is a design icon that has remained a model for pilot’s watches to the present day. It was produced for over 30 years, from 1948 to 1984, and subsequently reincarnated in many other forms. The Mark 11 is one of the most coveted top-quality collector’s items known.
In 2016, the time has come for IWC Schaffhausen to open up a new chapter, and with the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII (Ref. IW327001/IW327002/IW327011), three new models in stainless steel are ready for take-off. Featuring either a black (Ref. IW327001/IW327011) or silver-plated (Ref. IW327002) dial, they have one thing in common: a reduction to essentials.
The contrasting dial and displays come very close to the ideal of the classic pilot’s watch – hardly surprising when you recall that the designers took their inspiration from the 1930s Junkers Ju 52 cockpit instruments, which have served as the model per se for classic pilot’s watches. The displays are round, generously sized and clearly arranged. It was from here that the cockpit was subsequently to evolve. And there is not one superfluous detail, for everything was designed to be clear and well ordered.
The Arabic figures, big and round, stand proudly in position, with just two exceptions: instead of a “12”, we see a white triangle with a single dot on either side for better legibility, and at “3 o’clock” a date window, as a concession to modernity. Engraved into the reverse side of the watch is a depiction of a Ju 52. Buyers have the choice of either a strap or bracelet.
Two models (Ref. IW327001/IW327002) are available with a stylish Santoni black calfskin strap, which is lined with orange leather on the inner surface. A third model (Ref. IW327011) is sold with an elegant stainless-steel bracelet. Two-tone textile straps, inspired by the historic Nato straps, are now also additionally available for all Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII models.
In addition, the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII also features as a model in the “Le Petit Prince” and TOP GUN lines.
The Origin of the Name MARK 11
The Mark 11 owes its name to the fact that the RAF assigned the term “Mark” to all items of equipment. Although these items may have been sourced from different manufacturers, they all had the same dimensions and mounting points and were thus interchangeable. Strictly speaking, the correct form is “Mk. 11”, because shortly after the end of the Second World War, the RAF stopped using Roman numerals and went over to their Arabic counterparts.
Thanks to its superior ruggedness and precision, the Mark 11 saw off all the products from the competition within the space of a few months. More than 8,000 military standard Mark 11 watches were made in Schaffhausen over the years, and only taken out of service by the RAF from 1981 onwards.
Apart from these, around 1,500 examples were designed for civilian use, and the last of them delivered to retailers in 1984. 10 years later, the Mark XII was unveiled as a successor and revived the tradition of the Roman numerals that has been retained to this day.
Model: Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII (Ref. IW327001/IW327002/IW327011)
Central hacking seconds
Calibre 30110 mechanical movement
Frequency: 28,800 A/h | 4 Hz
Power reserve: 42 h
Case, dial and strap
Ref. IW327001: Stainless-steel case, black dial, black calfskin strap by Santoni, stainless-steel pin buckle
Ref. IW327002: Stainless-steel case, silver-plated dial, black calfskin strap by Santoni, stainless-steel pin buckle
Ref. IW327011: Stainless-steel case, black dial, stainless-steel bracelet with fine-adjustment clasp
Glass: Sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
Water-resistant: 6 bar
Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 11 mm
Soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields
Glass secured against displacement by drops in air pressure
Special back engraving