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IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII & Edition ‘Le Petit Prince’ Hands-On

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

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IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII & Edition 'Le Petit Prince' Hands-On Hands-On

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

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  • iamcalledryan

    A really cool watch. Perhaps if I grew up with, or ever read, the little prince, I might understand the link – but the connection and the caseback is a major turn-off. not sure who the client market is – is this the equivalent of an Omega Snoopy? I suppose they both have loose ties with space travel.

    • DMJ

      Well, you really have to read the book to understand. There’s a movie also, from 2015.

    • the #watchnerd

      The loose ties are not with the Little Prince (or space travel), but with the estate of its late author. The Estate has been selling the image for 25 years, and now makes EUR100m from over 150 tie-ups, including IWC (source: http://www.thelittleprince.com/licensing/)

  • Luciano Oliveira

    Great watch, but 1,000 US$ for a steel bracelet?

  • I think there are more pilot’s watches on the market then there are actual licensed pilots in the world.

    • Same with certified divers and dive watches I’d imagine.

  • Ulysses31

    Not very special-looking for a “special edition”. I think it is a mistake not to have any visible “Little Prince” branding visible from the front. It needs something to distinguish it from the generic pilot look; remove the IWC branding and anyone would be forgiven for thinking this was just a $100 beater.

  • DR

    🙂

  • Like the white dial–but it should really be paired with a black strap with white stitching.

  • DR

    The steel bracelet costs $1,000?!

    Actually more, since it’s actually $1,000 + the cost of the leather strap which they aren’t supplying?

    Hmm…

    • iamcalledryan

      The point to take away is that retail prices are not the same as costs. It’s a concept that is pretty fundamental to running a business yet escapes so many watch fans!

      The retail price is cost + mark-up and the extent of that mark-up is down to goodwill, perceived value, exclusivity, demand elasticity, smoke and mirrors, marketing, everything other than objective maths.

      • DR

        Sure, there are costs other than “STEEL > COW”! Design and manufacturing will be higher on a steel bracelet than a leather band.

        Let’s be generous and say the leather band costs $200, which is built into the retail price of the leather strap model. They are charging an extra $1,000 for the steel bracelet model, so the cost for the consumer is actually $1,200.

        Given that most of the costs of getting this watch into the hands of a consumer are the same for leather and steel versions (transport, retail mark-up, likelihood of warranty replacement, etc.), $1,200 seems more than a bit steep!

        • iamcalledryan

          It is steep in terms of the difference between the two retail prices. But make no mistake that the difference is more of a reflection of demand and IWC’s preparedness to sell a certain number of alternatives to the strap-version than it is about the cost of steel.

          Lets say they budget to sell 10k units of the white dial and 10k units of the blue. They will prepare to request 10-15k straps to be made from the outset. In addition they are aware that some people will want steel, but that this will be a minority (because this particular style of watch is more traditional with leather). So they might put 10% of those models out with a steel strap and will be prepared to adjust based on the outcome. This is a variable on an otherwise locked process that costs more than just materials. You are making fewer units of the bracelet so they cost more, you are potentially swapping them out which takes time and may cause scratching and rejections. The ADs have to request for bracelet versions when they already have the strap ones, requiring more flexible shipping. So that accounts for some of the difference. Then there is the perceived exclusivity of getting a version of something that you know is going to be less common, again some more $s on the retail price.

          But this is a reverse-engineering approach to understanding the difference. The simpler one is to say “how much do IWC think they can charge without shrinking demand below their budget”? Materials are just one of many components to that calculation and there is more than enough finger-in-the-air added to that..

          • DR

            Indeed. It’s almost as if watch companies aren’t trying to keep retail prices as low as possible, so we can buy all the watches we want. 🙂

          • iamcalledryan

            LOL – exactly!

    • DMJ

      A Pilot steel bracelet for a Breitling Chronomat costs 1.400 €, so i’m not surprised. Steel bracelets with many links and fine polishing are always expensive, by my experience.

  • IanE

    Nice – but it’s an IWC, so inevitably over-priced. I’d be thinking Sinn if I wanted this style.

    • spiceballs

      agree, ‘cept I’d be thinking Citizen

  • Marius

    This is one of my favourite IWC watches: elegant and very legible. The ETA/Sellita movement is a minus, but overall, looking at the case and dial, this is a good offering for an iconic model such as this.

    Regarding the previously used Jaeger LeCoultre calibers, since both IWC and JLC are part of the Richemont Group, why can`t IWC still use the JLC calibers? Probably the price would increase, but I don`t believe that it would be by a large margin, plus, the JLC movement would help IWC to further differentiate their product, giving it a more exclusive character.

    • iamcalledryan

      You see it with brands like Dunhill, but for some reason not with IWC. Might be a production volume limitation, as well as a price-impacter. They are competing here with the likes of the Tudor North Flag, whereas adding a JLC calibre would elevate it back into their core offerings.

    • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

      I guess they believe that as long is it has a closed case back 99% of the buyers will not care about the movement inside.

  • Peter D

    So overpriced it’s disgraceful. The date placement shows they didn’t give a monkeys about the design of this watch, if microbrands can get it right then why can’t IWC. The ‘ultimate paying for the name’ watch.

    • DR

      Although they are apparently using different calibres (35111 and 30110), I believe both the IWC Pilot’s Automatic 36 and Mk XVIII are using movements originally derived from ETA 2892?

      I assume this accounts for the slightly odd position of the date in the Mk XVIII’s 40mm case – it seems to sit a little more happily (where 3-o’clock should be) in the smaller 36mm case of the Pilot’s Automatic 36.

  • Vuk Ceperkovic
  • Vuk Ceperkovic

    This Stowa flieger,

    truly limited edition,
    sunburst blue dial,
    hand brushed case,
    superluminova,
    high quality blue heated hands,
    long history in pilot watches (same as IWC),
    ETA 2824 top grade, (arguably better than Sellita movement), decorated with blued srews, transparent caseback, German silver rotor,
    for just under 1K euros.

    • Marius

      Unfortunately, it’s too cheap for my liking.

    • Alex Griffin

      Absolutely, positively, Spot. On. How on earth this new IWC watch justifies a $4k ($5k with bracelet) price is beyond ridiculous – particularly with the Sellita movement. They have a march on the design of the dial – looks great, but I defy anyone to fully justify buying this over a Stowa Flieger other than the name IWC.

      • Alex Griffin

        Come on ABlogtoWatch! Stop pandering to the snobbery of the watch world and recognise where branding overtakes true value. Wake up!

      • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

        They do not need justification – they just need sales numbers.

    • iamcalledryan

      I much prefer the case, crown and numerals of the IWC, but that price is certainly attractive.

    • Lode_Runner

      That Stowa is stunning but it does not have a screw-down crown, unlike the IWC.

      Not saying that justifies a huge premium for the IWC, but the Stowa would be unbeatable if they added that one feature.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    A very nice review of one of my particularly favorite watches.
    Historically based and kept in tune with modern technology – A very fine piece.
    Now, decision time – White/Blue on steel….?

  • spiceballs

    Nice, nothing special and not at that price.

  • pat

    At 4k dollars. How is the movement in this

    • pat

      How is this a review. They review watches purely on looks and not value?

      • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

        This is not a full review, just a hands on article.

  • word-merchant

    ‘Le Petit Movement’ more like.

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    Drop the date and I may be interested.

  • Igor R

    when will they be available?

  • Jon Andresen

    Even though it’s ill-advised I’m resurrecting this old post. Recently I purchased the petit prince version of this watch. Zero buyers remorse. It looks amazing, is impeccably built, and functions perfectly. IWC may price their watches a little optimistically at times but I can’t understand the vitriol directed at this watch. It seems to suffer from being understated. Understatement at this level is not, however, easily attained. Give credit where credit is due. Watches are more than the movement (which is not stock and is objectively excellent, jeez). They have a case, which is this example is super refined; it’s a gentleman’s tool watch. They have function/design requirements and this watch is still, after all these years, a real honest-to-goodness flieger. They have a strap/bracelet and this leather strap is so choice. The lovely Stowa flieger in contrast gave up function for display case backs of lesser movements, have middling casework, and pedestrian straps. Added to the high level of refinement is the connection with the little prince, which in a flyers watch is compelling, it touches the heart and intellect. Doing things twice as good is not twice as expensive/more difficult, it’s more like 10 times harder. This watch is not cheap, but it does convey value.

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