IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII: Complex Simplicity

Raman Kalra is the founder of The Watch Muse blog and has kindly agreed to share some of his articles with us here on Quill & Pad.


IWC is one of the most recognizable names in the luxury watch market. They have multiple iconic models – one of them being the Pilot’s Watch Mark collection. The Mark series began with the Mark X in 1944 and has remained somewhat constant since then.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

The Mark XVIII was released in 2016 and went out of production in early 2023 and was replaced in July 2023 by the Mark XX.

Given the respect of the brand, it is a clear contender for any watch enthusiast to have on their wish list – whether as a first watch or an addition to the collection. 

Despite this, The IWC Pilot’s Watch is often looked over. And there are three questions about the Mark XVIII that I will try to answer:

First, is the Mark XVIII the ultimate tool watch?

Second, does it question the definition of what a luxury watch is today?

And finally, is it desirable enough in its current form?

Quick Background

Despite the brand being established in 1868, the “Special Pilot’s Watch” (also known as Mark IX) was born in 1936, making the brand what it is today. At the time, it followed the growing trend of aviation-inspired watches, with IWC wanting to create a watch that would improve pilot’s lives. It featured shatterproof crystal, non-magnetic properties and a rotating bezel, providing pilots with a timing functionality.

The original IWC Big Pilot’s Watch from 1940

A few years later in 1939, the Portugieser was released, followed closely by the Big Pilot’s watch in 1940. Shortly after, in 1944, the Mark X was introduced for use by the British Armed Forces. The Mark X closely resembled the earlier Mark IX with a visible dial and a non-magnetic Faraday cage, while also being waterproof. 

“W. W. W” was engraved the back of the watches, standing for Watch, Wrist, Waterproof. Through the years, IWC has updated the Mark series, but only after the Mark XI had been on the market for four decades, from 1949-1993! With each iteration since, the core formula has been maintained – aviation inspired, legible, simple, and timeless. 

All of this can be seen in the latest Mark XVIII, and in addition, you are getting a watch with heritage and versatility at a reasonable price point (in the context of high-end watch prices). 

The Ultimate Tool Watch?

A “tool watch” has no formal definition, but if it did, it would loosely resemble the following: A watch created with a specific purpose or functionality in mind, serving as the primary apparatus for a calculation intended (even if just telling the time!). Tool watches have been created for pilots, divers, racing drivers, and scientists to name a few, leading to complications including the GMT, diving bezel and chronograph.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII on the wrist

In the modern world we are lucky to have accurate technology meaning the need for tool watches is no longer what it used to be. The lust and desire remain, but the need, except in rare cases, doesn’t.

So where does the Mark XVIII fit in all of this, and why could it be the ultimate tool watch even today?




I think the wearability of a watch is underestimated. What do I mean by wearability? To me the key aspects are comfort, watch size, and the ability to be worn everywhere. The IWC Mark XVIII is sold in multiple sizes (36mm and 40mm), it is relatively thin at 11mm and can be worn on several different strap options.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36

These attributes are not exclusive to the Mark XVIII, but the ability to be worn everywhere is not something that can be said about many watches. Consider this – wearing the watch on a NATO strap would not look out of place while hiking; wearing it on a leather strap can make it the perfect office watch; and, wearing it on a bracelet makes it a more traditional sports watch for casual settings.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX

The aesthetics are understated and clean. Nothing about the watch is ostentatious. It really is an item you can put on each morning, regardless of what your day holds. Very few watches achieve this, especially as some of the more traditional go-anywhere models are becoming larger and more tuned toward a piece of jewelry.

Let me use two of the most well-known watches as examples, and let me know if you agree or disagree!

The Omega Speedmaster looks great on all straps, but it is a large, thick watch and not one I would want to take swimming for example. Also, depending on taste, it might look out of place in formal scenarios.

Meanwhile, the Rolex Submariner/GMT also works well on different straps but has turned more towards jewelry over recent years with a shiny finish of the ceramic bezel insert, and a polished bracelet in the case of the GMT.

There are many others that have similar traits of working very well in one situation but lack versatility. This really adds to what the Mark XVIII offers as a package – a true everyday watch.


The purpose of a watch is to tell the time. An obvious point, but also not necessarily the driving factor behind all watch purchases. Watch models can ‘speak’ to you regardless of how well you can read the time, and often I find myself intrigued by some more complicated-looking dials, as they reflect the complexity of what goes into making a watch movement.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

Coming back to the core purpose of a watch, you would be hard-pressed to find a piece that can tell the time better than the Mark XVIII. There are different dial options, but the core of the collection comes in black with bright white indices, and white with deep black indices. The date wheel and window are blended into the dial with a color-matched border, and the hands are large and clearly contrasted.

To top it all off, there is anti-reflective coating on both sides of the sapphire crystal. This combination of features leads to the sole purpose of telling the time. There are no polished indices that could become less visible in poor light and no overlap of colors used. These, alongside the Arabic numerals, help maximize clarity, making the Mark XVIII a very legible timepiece.

Given the degree of wearability and legibility of the Mark XVIII, does this make it the ultimate tool watch of the modern day? Does it fit a niche in an environment where watches are actually no longer a necessity? I would like to think so. I appreciate there are other watches that satisfy both these categories, but I wonder if any achieve it to the same degree?



Contradicting the Definition of a Luxury Watch

Following the point made above, it is fair to say a luxury wristwatch is not a necessity in life. A wristwatch may be, especially for some professions, but a luxury wristwatch is not. I try to tell myself they are a necessity so I can justify owning a watch collection (I am sure we all do this!), but luxury watches today can be considered more jewelry than ever before.

So how does this fit with the Mark XVIII?

The Mark XVIII has a rich heritage and arguably is a beautiful watch while remaining simple. The sole purpose of this watch is to tell the time clearly. It removes all the excess that usually defines a luxury watch, apart from the brand name written on the front. It has minimal polishing on the case.

The dial and strap options of the core collection are muted and purposeful, focusing more on refinement than anything else.

Other brands however are catering towards the ‘luxury’ in ‘luxury watches’, with some also differentiating themselves by following a fashion. This could be using the inspiration of vintage watches, varying dial colors and textures, and different materials. Even other IWC models fall into this category.

Taking this all into consideration, does the Mark XVIII contradict the modern definition of what a luxury watch is?



Is it Desirable Enough?

In my opinion, the Mark XVIII is a fantastic watch. It has an excellent heritage and story. However, let us now view the watch from a consumer point of view. Starting with price. The watch has an RRP of £4,090 on a leather strap and £4,750 on the bracelet – not cheap by any means.

For that money, what are you getting? A versatile watch from a respected brand with a good quality strap and overall finishing but using an IWC re-finished Sellita SW 300 movement.

Back of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

To be fair to IWC, they do use a soft-iron inner case to give the watch non-magnetic properties, but is this enough in the context of the competition? For the same money you can be considering nearly any watch in the Tudor range (or even two if you choose correctly), a choice of Omega using a METAS-certified in-house Co-axial movement, or even a Grand Seiko, finished to the highest standard of any watches in the price bracket.

This is only scratching the surface. I have not mentioned Breitling, Nomos, Panerai, Bremont and other IWC models – the list goes on. We are truly fortunate for the great variety we now have!

With all this in mind, let us return to the Mark XVIII. I am no movement nerd, but I can appreciate the difference between a re-finished movement and something built in-house. This is especially the case with the likes of the Co-axial Omega movement or Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive.

I am not saying in-house is always better, but when you are buying a watch with a movement whose base is also used in watches at half the price, you have to start asking whether the rest of the package justifies the premium.

Moving away from the movement, let us focus on the two key selling points of the Mark XVIII – legibility and wearability. This is what the watch excels in, but does it do a better job at this than the Hamilton Field Watch for example, retailing at 10x less than the IWC? This all comes down to your personal view, but for me, I find this hard to overcome.

Thankfully, IWC is now experimenting with different case materials, as well as editions such as the Spitfire and Top Gun. Although these aren’t technically the same model, they are close. IWC needs to continue innovating the model to remain competitive or consider bringing the price down of the Mark XVIII to make the entry into the brand more attainable.


The Mark XVIII really is the modern-day quality tool watch. A go-anywhere do-anything watch that is becoming harder to find as the industry becomes more luxurious and more closely follows fashions. Going into the local AD and seeing it always reminds me what a beautiful and cool watch the Mark XVIII  is.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

But is IWC doing enough with the Mark XVIII to keep up with the competition? If you had £4-5k to spend, is this where you would spend it when competitor watches offer similar packages with in-house movements?

I really admire IWC as a brand for the niche they have found for themselves – one that overall focuses on purpose, quality and engineering across all models offered. At some point I want to share my thoughts on their other pieces as there is a lot of depth to IWC.

For more information, please visit

Quick Facts IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking seconds, date

Case: 40 x 11 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 35111, 42-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields
Water resistance: 60 meters
Strap: calfskin
Price: From around €4,000
Remark: out of production early 2023

You can read more articles by Raman Kalra at

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9 replies
  1. Yachtmaster2021
    Yachtmaster2021 says:

    Why no mention that IWC made pilot watches for the Luftwaffe before they made them for the RAF? Doesn’t fit in with the rich history legacy narrative?
    I bet you also think the Wehrmacht fought a “clean” war.

    • Ian Skellern
      Ian Skellern says:

      The article was about the IWC Mark series, not a full history of IWC. Many German companies were involved in the country’s war, including Volkswagen. Do Americans associate Brooks Brothers with the slave trade?
      I’ll bet you think that Americans have a “clean” history. I don’t really think that but the last sentence in your comment was similarly out of order.
      We can learn from the past without blaming the present generation of companies and people for the sins of their fathers.
      Regards, Ian

      • Ray
        Ray says:

        That’s right Ian,this gen is the most backwards looking I have ever heard of and also so sure under the exact same conditions and cultures would have not made the same mistakes. Ridiculous.
        Social media makes them instantly indignant and ” shocked” that the past is not the same as the present ! So silly and childish it’s beyond belief.

        • Yachmaster2021
          Yachmaster2021 says:

          Those who forget the past are destined to relive it. And we in fact are now living once again in an age of encroaching Fascism. Just attend any MAGA rally, or look at the invasion of Ukraine. Not to mention Hungary and what Bibi is doing in Israel.
          And stop with the this generation BS and Social Media to wave away any criticism you don’t like. I am 60 and have a PhD in History. Apologies if my disdain for your compartmentalization makes you uncomfortable.

          • Ian Skellern
            Ian Skellern says:

            Hi David,

            I agree with you that many countries have large populations moving or flirting with the extreme right, including France where I live, and I am very uncomfortable with that.

            However that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact that you made a totally unfair (it never purported to be a complete history of IWC) criticism of this article as well as a completely unjustified personal accusation “I bet you also think the Wehrmacht fought a “clean” war.” about the author.

            Your disdain does not make me uncomfortable at all, and I understand why some might prefer not to forget the past, but your comment would have been much more effective if you simply pointed out IWC’s history in the war and left it at that.

            I am very happy to publish dissenting and controversial views as long as they are civil. Your comment was neither civil or fair, but nevertheless was not waved away.

            Regards, Ian

  2. James Dowling
    James Dowling says:

    There has never been a MarkX from IWC, the mark series are navigation watches for the Royal Air Force and each Mark represents a different specification issued by the Air Ministry.
    The so-called “MarkX” was not commissioned by the Air Ministry but by the War Department for use by the British Army
    The IWC Mark XI wasn’t even the first Mark XI, that honour belongs to the JLC MarkXI, which not only came before the IWC version but has the singular honour of playing a major role in a seminal novel; William Gibson’s “All tomorrow’s parties”.


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