IWC Schaffhausen presents the new Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII with a calfskin strap or stainless steel bracelet. Unlike its predecessor, the Mark XVII, it no longer features the triple date display. Optically speaking, this provides more space on the dial and the watch appears cleaner, despite the fact that the diameter of the case, at 40mm, is one millimeter smaller compared with the previous model.
Christian Knoop, Creative Director at IWC Schaffhausen, explains: “When designing the dials for the classic Pilot’s Watches, we had one thing in mind: how could we get closer to the originals established by IWC in the form of the Big Pilot’s Watch and the Mark 11? Because we wanted to get back to an authentic, or historic, Pilot’s Watch look. And that stands or falls on the clarity of the dial, timeless simplicity and a reduction to the essential. Our entire range of Pilot’s Watches is inspired by the original. That is also why we decided to bring back the figure 9, which disappeared from the dial in 2002 with the redesign of the Big Pilot’s Watch. The triangular index has also reassumed its familiar position at 12 o’clock, just below the chapter ring.”
Past is Present
In 1941, the Royal Air Force (RAF) realized that most of their attempts at pinpointing an aircraft’s position were imprecise. One reason was that the RAF had no observer’s watches, which offer the down-to-the-second accuracy necessary for navigating with a sextant: back then this was the most accurate form of navigation. Apart from this, cockpits were subject to strong magnetic fields and fluctuating temperatures, all of which had an influence on the watches. And finally, in the event of a rapid drop in pressure, the front glass of the watch was liable to pop out of the case.
After the war, therefore, the RAF approached IWC Schaffhausen with an order for the Navigators Wrist Watch Mark 11. The Swiss company had already made a name for itself with the Special Pilot’s Watch and Big Pilot’s Watch. The new model was delivered in 1949, and it soon became clear that the Mark 11 had everything required of a high-accuracy observer’s watch. It was precise, robust, temperature-resistant, water-resistant and extremely easy to maintain. It was protected against magnetic fields by a soft-iron cage and had a screw-in glass that resisted sudden drops in pressure. Reduced purely and simply to the one function of showing the time for navigation purposes with absolute precision, it required no rotating bezel because by this time a fuel tank display was a standard feature in cockpit instrumentation. The designers even decided to forgo a chronograph because, at that time, activating an additional function would have had negative repercussions on the watch’s accuracy.
Simplicity in essence, it is a design icon that has remained a model for pilot’s watches to the present day. It was produced for over 30 years, from 1948 to 1984, and subsequently reincarnated in many other forms. The Mark 11 is one of the most coveted top-quality collector’s items known.
Not One Superfluous Detail
The time has come for IWC Schaffhausen to open up a new chapter, and with the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, three new models in stainless steel are ready for take-off. Featuring either a black or silver-plated dial, they have one thing in common: a reduction to essentials. The contrasting dial and displays come very close to the ideal of the classic pilot’s watch – hardly surprising when you recall that the designers took their inspiration from the 1930s Junkers Ju 52 cockpit instruments, which have served as the model per se for classic pilot’s watches.
The displays are round, generously sized and clearly arranged. It was from here that the cockpit design was subsequently to evolve. And there is not one superfluous detail, for everything was designed to be clear and well ordered. The Arabic figures, big and round, stand proudly in position, with just two exceptions: instead of a 12, we see a white triangle with a single dot on either side for better legibility, and at 3 o’clock a date window, as a concession to modernity. Engraved into the reverse side of the watch is a depiction of a Ju 52. Buyers have the choice of either a strap or bracelet.
Two models are available with a stylish Santoni black calfskin strap, which is lined with orange leather on the inner surface. A third model is sold with an elegant stainless-steel bracelet. Two-tone textile straps, inspired by the historic NATO straps, are now also additionally available for all Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII models. In addition, the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII also features as a model in the “Le Petit Prince” and TOP GUN lines.