The launch of the IWC Mark XVIII is one of the biggest highlights in this year’s watch season. Even more than its predecessors, it gravitates to the legacy of the legendary Mark XI. With its 40 millimetres diameter it also measures less than other pilot’s watches from IWC as well as those from most other watch manufacturers. This, as well as the accessible price point of under 5,000 EUR makes the piece particularly interesting for younger watch enthusiasts and those who haven’t yet become familiar with the pilots’ watch genre.
The three versions we have on hand are the Mark XVIII with a white dial and a black calfskin leather strap, one with a black dial and metal bracelet, as well as the “Petit Prince” limited edition in dark blue on a brown calfskin strap.
Compared to Mark XVIII’s predecessor, the Mark XVII, the toned-down date display as well as the different position of the triangular index placed well under the minute scale are the first things that stand out. A lot of people are going to be really pleased with the new date display. Its appearance has been minimised and it now only displays the current day (not the day before and afterwards like the Mark XVII).
When you take a step back and view the individual elements of each dial version, then the barely noticeable stripe finish on the dark blue Mark XVIII is particularly interesting. It can only be seen when looking at the dial towards a light source at a specific angle and it provides the watch, in comparison with its black and white dial contemporaries, with a quite lustrous appearance.
As for the black and the white dial versions, their surface appears less shiny, one might even say a bit grainier. At the same time the black dial looks less matt than in many of its photographs that are seen around on the net. At some angles, it even shines in a dark blue tone, not all too unlike the Mark XVIII dark blue version, due to the reflection of the dial in the case’s glass.
The Mark XVIII’s case is made of stainless steel with angled edges that become wider as they come closer to the lugs. The material surface has been finely brushed and provides the timepiece with a holistic appearance. Whereas on the standard version an airplane has been engraved on the case back, the navy blue limited edition displays a Petit Prince engraving, an homage to Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s famous fictional character of the homonymous famous novel.
From a technical standpoint, the Mark XVIII gets down to the nitty gritty. The Calibre 30110 is a modified automatic movement based on an ETA 2892 with a power reserve of 42 hours. The watch has a quick-set date and a screw down crown which prevents water from seeping in. With a water resistance of only 60 metres, it’s important to take note that the Mark XVIII can’t be worn during every kind of water based activity. This might make some potential customers shy away who were hoping for the qualities of a robust all-rounder. At the same time, the water resistance is higher than in many other pilots’ watches such as the IWC Big Pilot or the Zenith Pilot Big Date.
The watch has a measurement of 40 millimetres. However, when worn on the wrist and also due to its relatively long lugs it could be considered a tad bigger. The watch is very comfortable to wear and looks great even on thin wrists due to the curvature of its lugs. You instantly get a good feel when it’s strapped on as it’s one of those kinds of watches that feels like your own right away when put it on the wrist for the first time.
The Mark XVIII’s leather strap belongs to the more robust kind: just as you would expect from a serious pilot’s watch. Since the strap is relatively heavy, it manages to even out with the weight of the watch which makes the watch comfortable to wear and never top-heavy.
The strap will creak around a bit during first-wear as it rubs up against the inside of the lugs. IWC is opting here for a more rigid movement on the case lugs rather than allowing a lot of play room which contributes to the overall impression of a very robust watch. The folding clasp of the stainless steel version is very straight-forward and its utilisation is very intuitive. We especially like the Perlée finishing on the outside of the folding links of the clasp. In all likelihood, some people are probably holding out for a leather strap version with a folding clasp. However, the watch with a pin buckle stays true to its minimised roots and won’t be available with it as an option.
The Mark XVIII is the pre-destined first pilot’s watch, because it represents the most simple and broad pilot watch form. One could even argue that it is emblematic for the entire pilot’s genre, not just for its straight-to-the-point pilot character, but also because of the rich history of the Mark series. The Mark XVIII is definitely an interesting piece for watch fans that have, thus far, missed (accidentally or not) the pilot’s genre.
This is where the watch is very convincing, in terms of its concept, design, and wrist-comfort. As a first pilot’s watch, you can’t really do a whole lot wrong by opting for the black version as it comes as close to the classic Mark XI like none of its more recent predecessors. At the same time, the dark blue limited edition and the light dial version look just as gorgeous as the black one.
The Mark XVIII represents exactly what IWC at its core has always been: a manufacturer that doesn’t force your excitement, which makes it even more exciting.