January 22, 2016
by Zach Pina
There’s been a lot to get excited about with IWC’s announcements at SIHH, but perhaps one of the more welcome new releases has been the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII. Purists and IWC fans might argue this is the true spiritual successor to the Mark XII from 1993, with its reserved proportions and utilitarian aesthetic. Both watches pay homage to the original Mark XI from 1948 which was arguably one of the finest military watches ever made. After spending some time with the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, we’re happy to report that fans have a great deal to be excited about in the coming year, especially those who’ve been holding out hope that IWC would one day make a return to some of their more vintage styles. Additionally, we also got to see the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince,” another iteration of IWC’s popular homages to the children’s book Le Petit Prince.
Beyond the obvious omissions of the exotic alligator strap and the altimeter-style date window – both of which polarized fans – there’s a lot to like about the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII. But first and foremost is probably how it feels more like a traditional pilot watch, in what appears to be the result of an exercise in pure restraint on IWC’s part.
Where you do, however, find a leather strap is on the limited edition IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII “Le Petit Prince” version which has a beautiful blue face and comes on a brown Santoni calfskin strap. I’m not going to get too much into the history of the “Le Petit Prince” watches (you can read more about the connection when we debuted the watches here and again, with the red gold Double Chronograph Edition here), but they are limited edition versions of IWC Pilot’s Watches inspired by author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
When it comes to “traditional” Swiss watches, restraint comes in many shapes and forms, but it’s made most immediately apparent here with how well proportioned the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII’s 40mm-wide and 11mm-thick case feels on the wrist. IWC designers only scaled back the dimensions by a single millimeter from the XVII, but it’s a minute difference that even Goldilocks would agree feels “just right.” And since pilot watches traditionally wear a few hairs larger than their specs belie, due to greater dial real estate in the absence of a rotating bezel – a single millimeter or two can make or break the overall wearability of the watch.
But what’s likely to land the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII into the good graces of pilot watch enthusiasts, is that there’s an aesthetic simplification with a focus on legibility and classic styling. We have a subtly brushed stainless steel case, matte leather strap and a high-contrast dial that could easily pass for a German watch made by Sinn or Damasko – and believe us, this utilitarian look is a good thing because it hearkens to the IWC many have a nostalgic love for.
Getting back to the point of legibility, it is another mark of a true pilot’s watch and IWC has delivered in spades. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII is a portrait of sharp, monochromatic contrasts, enhanced by a subtly domed sapphire crystal which has been finished with an anti-reflective coating on both sides. Keen-eyed pilot watch purists might also be happy to note that IWC has brought back the 6 and 9 on the dial – noticeably absent from every Pilot watch in the collection since 2002. It’s a difference that might not even register at first – or second – glance, but it’s one that’s significantly more in line with the lineage of IWC’s famed flieger watches that once fought for air superiority during WWII.
Just don’t expect a light show, as only the hands, 12:00 triangle and indices are generously filled with luminous paint, though there is enough to make them pop on the dial. However, the minimalist approach to lume isn’t entirely out of tune with the rest of IWC’s pilot collection and shouldn’t compromise low-light legibility as the contrast of the hands against the dial is as crisp as ever. This is particularly true with the exceptional matte white dial variant, a welcome addition to the Mark family.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII is an entry-level model, and as such, operates on the IWC Calibre 30110, a modified base Sellita (ETA 2892) movement. The movement comes shielded from magnetic fields in the cockpit by a soft-iron cage, and protected from water ingress by a screw-down crown that guarantees resistance up to 6 atmospheres of pressure. It operates at 4Hz and has 42 hours of power reserve. Purists might argue that the 30110 is a far cry from the Jaeger-LeCoultre-built movement that once graced the Mark series until 2006’s Mark XVI, rest assured it has been proven as an economical workhorse that delivers while keeping the price approachable for a broader range of collectors.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII is available in two dial choices and with two strap configurations: on a rugged black Santoni calfskin strap with a price of $3,950 or on a pilot-style five-link stainless steel bracelet with a fine-adjustment clasp that will drive the price up to $4,950. We will have price for the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince” soon. iwc.com