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Long Term Review - IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII Edition Tribute to Mark XI (IW327007)

Updated: Oct 27, 2023




I’ve always been a fan of Pilot style watches. There’s just something very special when you wear a watch that has some heritage connection; it’s like putting on piece of history on your wrist. I suppose in today’s generational context, it’s the sense of empowerment and awe one get when they put on a superhero suit - like the Iron Man suit from the Marvel series. Or the same feeling I had as a child when I wore my first blue/red cape t-shirt that was sewn on by my mother. This particular IWC Pilot’s 'Tribute to Mark XI' Watch gives that kind of feeling when I put it on, except instead of the feeling or a superhero, I’m transported back in time, a time before digital devices were a part of our everyday lives.

First and foremost, though this is not an actual heritage watch, but one that’s inspired by one, I do feel it still carries a lot of weight - and that’s because IWC really did manufacture such watches in WW2. The IWC Mark 11 Navigator’s Wrist Watch was developed specifically for the UK Royal Air Force in 1948. The original watch was also supplied to airborne personnel of the RAF and other Commonwealth nations and remained in service until 1981. That’s quite a long run of over 34 years in commission, and though its harder to find the original watches today, I don’t think it’s exactly that rare. That watch was then replaced by the IWC Mark 12 and until today, the current model is the IWC Mark 18.

Original IWC Mark 11 (1948) - PHOTO: HEINZ HASSLER, SCHAFFHAUSEN

If you have a look back at the original Mark 11, you can see the few iconic features which are carried over to the Tribute to Mark XI - the 4 lume plots at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions on the dial; the now infamous triangle at the 12 o’clock position indicating which way is up and the matte black dial. Some other iconic features of the watch are also present - the thin minute indicators, the classic font typography. Although quite minor, the subtle differences really distinguish this watch from the more modern series. The current Mark 18 minute indicators and font is much thicker and bolder.

IWC Pilot's 'Tribute to Mark XI' Limited Edition - PHOTO: watchtime.com

IWC Pilot's Mark XVIII (IW327009) - PHOTO: IWC Website

The more obvious distinguishing feature vs the newer Mark series, would be the straight ended hour hands and counter balance of the seconds hands in stainless steel. I believe most people will notice these features and realise it’s not just another pilot’s watch from the modern mark series.

Look a little closer and you can see the 4 lume plots are also off white - in a soft cream colour - very much like faux patina. Obviously this is of great contention in the watch community and I won’t attempt to address it here - but in this watch I think it fits the bill perfectly. Honestly, I think it’s the perfect colour - just enough to make it stand out against the default green leather backed strap. I have no issues at all with the colour of the lume - to me it’s a perfect match.

What I do like:

Let’s get to the points I like about the watch straight away.

It’s the dial - Or how cohesive it looks as a whole. While the newer Mark series feels larger and bulkier (they are exactly the same size) the Heritage to Mark 11 seems slimmer and more discreet on the wrist. I believe it’s the impact of the dial - the newer Mark series’ font type and thicker minute indices gives a heavier, bulkier look. As I have a slimmer wrist, this helps with the perception of the watch to look smaller visually. Or maybe it’s also due to the nato strap. Although quite a nice strap, I find myself preferring to wear it on a simpler grey nato; I think it makes wearing this watch more versatile in general. One other thing I love about the dial, it how there is very minimal text on the dial - it just says IWC Schaffhausen at the top and Automatic at the bottom. That’s it. I’ve seen many other watches where brands tend to overdo the text portions of the dial (think of the Tudor Black Bay 58…). How I wished more watch brands wpuld adopt this. Simple is better isn't it?


What I dislike:

I have one critical issue with this watch. It’s one of the things you tend to notice only after having it long term. Although its versatile enough to be worn in most situations, I do find it hard personally to really love this piece. I can’t really pin it down to why that is so. The overall wearability of the watch is great, especially on a nato, and though it’s a little large for my small Asian wrist (it's 6 inches) the size and long lugs are alright because it IS a Pilot watch after all. They were made to wear larger and historically have been as well. It wears pretty well and interestingly enough, I can even pull it off in business casual situations. I’ve worn it a couple of times with a business blazer and it does work in today’s business casual look.

I think it’s probably because the look has been so overused, and you can find many good looking alternatives in this type of design. For a fraction of the price you can find watches in similar design by other brands such as Stowa, Laco and Archimede. And some of these manufacturers also have the heritage feel as they were also providers of pilot watches in the past. You can get maybe 80% of the look with many of these manufacturers, and they are well made watches with good movements as well. But that's not really the fault of IWC. They have the real heritage and that's what you're getting with this watch - brand heritage of an icon. I suppose this ain't a fair argument, as we cannot fault the watch manufacturer brand for creating an iconic watch that everyone seems to want to copy and emulate. It is a legendary design made famous by the IWC Mark XI after all.


Let's get to the in-house movement issue...


So this particular watch comes with the same movement of the IWC Pilot Mark VIII, which is a 35111 Calibre. The watch is of course tuned and regulated to IWC specifications with a 42h power reserve. It is also beautifully decorated with Cotes de Geneve and perlage (you can't see it though due to the anti-magnetic caseback) and is quite the workhorse movement. Of course I'd wish to see the movement in a display caseback, but that would not be true to a pilot's watch - it should be housed in an anti-magnetic inner case that protects the movement.



Honestly, after a couple years of watch collecting, I find that having an in-house movement does not mean the movement is better than ETA or Sellita movements. However, I do believe that this watch would be much more special if the movement was something more. It’s lacking that something special - perhaps if they used historical based manual movement? But then again that would push the prices up much higher wouldn't it?



Conclusions:


Owning and wearing a watch has always been about the emotional appeal to me. It's a combination of knowing you're wearing a special edition, the fact that this watch had heritage significance, that it was meticulously made and finished by artisans and not just some run of the mill item that makes the watch enjoyable to wear and to put on. If you look past the movement choice, and focus on the details of the watch, the dial, the hands, the love and labour poured into this limited edition piece, one of 1948 watches, you will find you will enjoy the watch much more. It's discreet, muted in a way, one of those watches that only an enthusiast will notice - and that is exactly how some people like it. If you're one of those who appreciate a low-key watch that also makes a wonderful conversation starter - this watch is perfect for your collection.



This watch retailed originally exclusively at IWC Boutiques worldwide for US$4,925.


You can learn more about PILOT’S WATCH MARK XVIII EDITION “TRIBUTE TO MARK XI” IW327007 on IWC Official Website




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