Now, IWC introduces the Replica IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 – a first look at the changes in the pipeline overall for the iconic and beloved Mark series. Let’s talk a little bit about the history of pilot’s watches at IWC as well.
We’re getting closer and closer to the main event for the Richemont maisons: SIHH is only 10 days away. IWC has already announced that this is going to be the Year of the Pilot’s Watch, and we had a look just recently at the new Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 and 48 timepieces, which borrow their aesthetic from the b-uhr (navigation watches) made by IWC in the 1940s. Now, IWC gives us a first look at what changes we might see in the Mark series in the form of the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 – something IWC purists will absolutely love. First, let’s talk a little bit about the history of pilot’s watches at IWC.
We’re getting closer and closer to the main event for the Richemont maisons: SIHH is only 10 days away. IWC has already announced that this is going to be the Year of the Pilot’s Watch, and we had a look just recently at the new Big Pilot’s Heritage 55 and 48 timepieces, which borrow their aesthetic from the b-uhr (navigation watches) made by IWC in the 1940s. Now, IWC introduces the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 – a first look at the changes in the pipeline overall for the iconic and beloved Mark series. Let’s talk a little bit about the history of pilot’s watches at IWC as well.
The history of manufacturing pilot’s watches goes back to the introduction by IWC, in 1936, of the so-called “Special Watch For Pilots,” which was one of the first purpose-built watches for aviators (there was also, of course, the Weems Seconds-Setting watch, which was developed by P. V. H. Weems in 1927 and which led to the development of the Longines “Lindbergh” navigation watch as well). The 1936 IWC had a rotating bezel, allowing short periods of time to be reasonably accurately measured but more importantly, it was a relatively large (37.5 mm in diameter) steel-cased watch with antimagnetic escapement, designed to be instantly readable in poor lighting conditions. The watch may have stemmed from the direct involvement in aviation of the two sons of IWC’s then-owner, Ernst Jakob Homberger; both were licensed pilots, and Rudolf Homberger, as a member of the Swiss Air Force, participated in an action against German aircraft which had violated Swiss airspace, in June of 1940. (Ironically enough the Swiss Air Force at the time was operating Me-109s, a German built fighter, and one of the most famous and widely used aircraft of the war.)
Probably IWC’s best know pilot’s watch of the war was of course the b-uhr, or navigation watch; these were shielded against magnetism by means of a soft iron inner case and dial, and were to become the inspiration for the modern Big Pilot’s Watch, launched in 2002. However for the modern Mark series of watches, we can look a bit further back to the post-war Mark XI, which was first made in 1948, and would go on to be supplied to a very wide number of both military and civilian air forces and commercial aviation organizations, including BOAC, the RAF, the New Zealand Air Force, and others. The Mark series was revived in 1994 by IWC with the Mark XII, which for many watch enthusiasts of the modern era still represents a kind of ideal incarnation of the tool watch. In the words of Walt Odets, in his now classic article “Tweaking The Mark XII,” it became ” . . . every non-pilot’s favorite pilot’s watch.”
IWC has confirmed that indeed, we will see a new version of the Mark watch this year: the Mark XVIII. The Mark XVIII won’t be unveiled until the beginning of the SIHH, however we do have a first look at the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36, which, along with the Mark XVIII, represent the entry level to the world of IWC aviation watches.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 replica is 36 mm in diameter and 10.5 mm thick, and the movement is IWC caliber 35111 (Sellita base) running at 28,800 vph, with a 42-hour power reserve. It’s smaller than the upcoming Mark XVIII, but it’s still fully antimagnetic, with a soft iron inner case and dial, and water resistant to 6 bar, with a screwed down crown. It’s going to be delivered on either a bracelet, or a Santoni leather strap. IWC describes it as “dainty and elegant on the wrist,” but does also mention in the press release that it’s “intended for watch lovers both male and female with a smaller wrist,” so I suspect we probably shouldn’t make too much of the word “dainty.”
The dial is slightly more dressy, you could say, than has been traditional for the purest members of the Mark series; there’s a slightly recessed circle inside the minute track and sunray brushing on the dial but overall, the only thing keeping it from being basically a drop-in replacement for the Mark XII, which was also 36 mm, is the slightly more ornamental dial and the hands. I personally think that such a simplified version of the IWC Pilot’s Automatic 36 Replica would be a huge hit amongst the enthusiast fan base (and after all, a dial’s fairly easy to change, so here’s hoping).
Check out IWC.com to see the existing lineup, and keep an eye out here for more updates as we get closer to the big day. The price for this one should be well below $5,000 as IWC continues to drive back towards its roots of moderately priced, well-designed tool watches.