Editor’s note: This is a reader contribution from one of our good Deployant Friends: Eddie Sng. The original IWC Mark XI and Mark XII were the icons of the brand having been issued to pilots during the period spanning WWII. For the author in particular, acquiring the Pilot Mark XV was a significant moment as it marked (pun intended) the start of his horology journey. He talks about his Mark XV and compared it to his Mark XVIII in this article. Views expressed are his personal views.
Recommended reading: IWC’s Pilot watch heritage in the introduction to our review of the IWC Big Pilot Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”. We also reviewed the IWC Pilot Mark XVIII here.
For many collectors, the Mark XI (and any version prior) is a Pilot’s grail piece. I did not start collecting watches until about the time of the introduction of the Mark XV. I was new to collecting then, and I bought a Mk XV as my very first mechanical watch. By then the Mark XII was already sold out (let alone the Mark XI) and the Mark XV was then the only IWC Pilot watch still being offered. Both the Mark XII and Mark XV have similar aesthetics (IWC skipped the designation Mark XIII and Mark XIV). Both was an automatic calibre with a date window at the 3 o’clock.
So when IWC announced the Mark XVIII as the tribute to Mark XI in SIHH 2016, I was elated that there is a tribute piece and hope that it will be as close to the original as possible. But it was not to be. The Mark XVIII resembles more the Mark XII (and XV) than it does the Mark XI. The Mark XII is an automatic calibre with a JLC base movement. Mark XI had a manual winding movement – the Calibre 89 and was time only, with no date.
IWC Mark XV vs XVIII
Since I don’t own a Mark XI nor the Mark XII, let me do a quick comparison of the Mark XV and Mark XVIII, both watches of which I do own. In fact, I own two Mark XVs, one with the SS bracelet.
Comparing both the Mark XV and Mark XVIII – the Mark XV is 38mm while the Mark XVIII is 40mm. The baton hands are similar, but the date window is where the difference is apparent. The date wheel is black with white digits on the Mark XVIII, as opposed to black digits on a white background in the Mark XV.
The Mark XV uses the ETA 2892 calibre while the Mark XVIII uses the Sellita SW300 movement which is a clone of the ETA. Movement-wise, the size is similar. The larger case size of the Mark XVIII makes the positioning of the date window seem to be closer to the center, and may look a bit odd to some eyes. I must admit, I am rather irritated with this seemingly little detail.
But that aside, the Mark XVIII gives out that vintage feel – much thanks to the markers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 and also the triangle at 12 which are all coated with a luminescent material.
Both at the 12 and at the 6, the markers are painted with the same yellowish luminous material. But notice the numerals too – they are thicker on the Mark XVIII than the Mark XV.
And the crown on the Mark XVIII has the “Probus Scafusia” insignia as opposed to the fish logo on the Mark XV. Both are screw down crowns.
This version of the Mark XVIII comes with a green textile strap which is Made in Italy. I had asked to try the buffalo leather strap (for the Mark XV) at the boutique but the strap is a wee bit too small.
For the Mark XV, mine came with the original buffalo leather strap. The quality of the buffalo strap is amazing – supple since day one and one of the most lasting strap I have. As mentioned, on my other Mark XV – with a white dial, also known as the Albino, which came with a steel bracelet.
From an aesthetic point of view, I feel the Mark XV is more balanced with the smaller case of 38mm. Once you see (and notice) on the placement of the date on the Mark XVIII you cannot “unsee”.
As for the Tribute to Mark XI, it is just that – a tribute. Oxford dictionary defines a tribute as “an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration.” But for me, the tribute should be as close to the original as possible – not identical but at least close.
I get it, the Mark XI is definitely more iconic than the Mark XII being the “first” of its kind. For the Mark XVIII, I would have loved a manual winding calibre as opposed to the automatic Calibre 35111. And one more thing, the date window should go. But that is just me.