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IWC Pilot's Watch

For most of its history, IWC's signature model has been a pilot's watch. This series began with the legendary Spezialuhr für Flieger (Mark IX) in 1936 and continues through many models today.


In 1936, IWC developed a “Spezialuhr für Flieger” (Special Watch for Pilots), with a large 36 mm case, black dial with luminescent numerals, and a rotating bezel. This watch was retroactively and unofficially named “Mark IX” to differentiate it from its successor, the famous Mark X created according to British Ministry of Defense specifications after World War II. In 1940, IWC developed another key pilot's watch, the famous 55 mm “Big Pilot”, which used a pocketwatch movement, Cal. 52 T.S.C. and featured sword hands.

After World War II, the British Ministry of Defense created a specification for a pilot's watch and selected twelve companies to produce it. Along with well-known competitors like Omega, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Buren, and Eterna, IWC produced a Mark X watch for the MoD. All such watches featured similar markers, hands, and numerals and were marked by a “broad arrow” indicating British Crown ownership. The dial features numerals from 1 to 12 inside the marked chapter ring. Luminous markers are placed on the hours, with larger markers at 3, 9, and 12, contrasting with the matte black dial. Small seconds are in a subdial at 6 00. Unlike the predecessor, syringe hands are used. The Mark X uses a hand-winding movement, IWC's Cal. 83.

The Mark XI was introduced in 1948 with central seconds and different dial markings. This was a legendary “cult watch” produced until the early 1980s. Produced until the early eighties, the Mark XI was never available to the public. Instead, it was offered to military and civilian pilots as a tool for aviation.

IWC expanded the Pilot's Watch range in 1989 with the introduction of a chronograph using the Jaeger-LeCoultre Mechaquartz movement. The Pilot's Watch Chronograph Mechaquartz, Ref. 3740/3741 was the first of many complicated models. The Doppelchronograph, Ref. 3711/3713 was added in 1992 and a standard mechanical Chronograph, Ref. 3705/3706 replaced the Mechaquartz the next year. These would remain in the lineup through 2005 and were the first models larger than 36 mm.

Sensing an opportunity in the 1990s, IWC introduced a civilian version in 1993, the Mark XII, with similar styling but an automatic movement. This was produced through 1999. The dial is plain, with numerals from 1 to 11 inside the marked chapter ring. Luminous markers are placed at 3, 6, 9, and 12, with a large triangular marker at 12. A white background date window replaces the marker at 3 00, contrasting with the matte black dial. The case measures 36 mm across, with short curved lugs giving for a snug fit by modern standards. A large knurled crown screws down for 60 meters of water resistance. The bracelet has 11 flat links across, and a double deployant clasp is fitted. The solid caseback is marked “Die Fliegeruhr Automatik” (“the automatic pilot's watch”). The Mark XII uses Jaeger-LeCoultre's Cal. 889/2, known as Cal. 884 to IWC. The basic Mark XII was produced in a stainless steel case, but yellow gold and limited-edition platinum and titanium “Mellow Yellow” versions were also produced.

The successor, Mark XV was introduced in 1999. XIII was skipped because it is an unlucky number in Western countries, as is XIV in Asian cultures. Produced through 2006, the Mark XV dial is very similar to the Mark XII, with numerals from 1 to 11 inside the marked chapter ring. Luminous markers are placed at 3, 6, 9, and 12, with a large triangular marker at 12. A white background date window replaces the marker at 3 00, contrasting with the matte black dial. The case was enlarged from 36 mm to 38 mm for the Mark XV, with longer lugs to fit modern tastes. The Mark XV uses an ETA 2892/A2-based Cal. 37524 movement rather than the high-end Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre

A Spitfire version of the Mark XV has a “pie pan” silver dial and sword hands or cathedral hands. These limited-edition models, originally only for the British market, gave rise to an entirely new model in 2019, the IWC Pilot's Watch Spitfire.

The successor, Mark XVI was introduced in 2006 with an even larger 39 mm case. The dial is simplified, with the numerals at 6 and 9 removed, and sword hands (from the Spitfire) are used. The new Cal. 30110 is still based on the ETA 2892/A2, and magnetic field protection is new. Another Spitfire model is produced as well, along with a special limited-edition model (350 units) for Japan with a classic Mark IX look, complete with cathedral hands and a “railroad” chapter ring. Another special version of the Mark XVI was the Father & Son, which included two matching watches on riveted leather straps.

The chronograph was updated as well that year, with the Pilot's Watch Chronograph, Ref. 3717. A new “doppelchrono” came in 2007, the Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph, Ref. 3718. Another introduction in 2006 was the smaller 34 mm Pilot's Watch Midsize, Ref. 3256. The model returned to the original 36 mm size in 2016 with the Pilot's Watch 36, Ref. 3240.

The IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVII, introduced in 2012, grows further to 41 mm and features a controversial “triple” or “rising” date window. Said to resemble a cockpit altimeter, this feature cluttered the dial and was not popular. A “Le Petit Prince” version of the Mark XVII has a blue sunburst dial and applied numerals. An updated Pilot's Watch Chronograph, Ref. 3777/3878 was also introduced that year, as was the first Pilot's Watch Worldtimer, Ref. 3262.

The successor, Mark XVIII was introduced in 2016 with a 40 mm case and simple date window. The numerals 6 and 9 are returned to the dial as on the Mark XV, giving a classic look. The Mark XVIII has appeared in many more versions than any previous model, as the Pilot's Watch range has expanded. Special versions with larger and smaller cases are offered, some with no date window at all. Beginning in 2017, IWC began updating most Mark XVIII models to use the Sellita-derived IWC 35110 or 35111 movement.

At SIHH 2019, IWC introduced a new IWC Pilot's Watch Spitfire collection. They had previously used this term on variations of the Mark XV-XVII line, along with other models. Although based on the 39 mm Mark XVIII, the Spitfire is a new line entirely, with an in-house movement and chronograph model.


Pilot Classic


Top Gun and Miramar

Pilot Complicated

Big Pilot

See Also

iwc_pilot_s_watch.txt · Last modified: 03.07.2022 15:35 by

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