IWC, known for its immediately identifiable Pilot’s Watch line, has very subtly released a brand new addition to its Mark collection – which takes inspiration from the original Mark XI. This is the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX, the apparent successor to the Mark XVIII (though we never did get that Mark XIX). This new watch is an improvement in several ways over the XVIII. At a quick glance, you might think you’re seeing the same watch. Look again. IWC has addressed the design and legibility of the dial (including the date window), as well as the capability of both the case and movement.
It measures the same 40mm in diameter as the former model (which is still available from IWC) and has the same identifiable matte black dial and stark white legible numerals. The first change is located right at three o’clock. That’s where the date window has been redesigned from almost hidden black-on-black, to a now white background. This keeps the overall symmetry consistent with the white numerals.
The second change is the text on the lower half of the dial. Where it once read XVIII, it now reads XX. But that’s sort of an obvious change. Moving back to the top of the dial, the IWC logo has been shifted upwards a bit bringing it closer to the classic triangle. In fact, all of the numerals on the dial appear to have been shifted closer in toward the center of the watch.
While the case diameter is the same, the case itself has been made thinner (though it still has the same soft-iron inner case to protect the movement from the effects of magnetic fields). The XVIII had an 11mm case height whereas this one is now 10.8mm in diameter. It’s that change that signals something new under the hood. That would be the IWC in-house 32111 calibre with 120 hours of power reserve.
That’s not all. This 40mm icon is now rated to 100m of water resistance, which represents a 40m increase over the Mark XVIII. Capping off all of this newness is the inclusion of IWC’s quick-change, EasX-CHANGE strap system. The new model, with all of these updates, will set prospective buyers back $750 more than the Mark XVIII at $5,250 and only comes on a strap for now in both black and blue dial variations.
In 2016, when the Mark XVIII was announced, Ben Clymer said, in his coverage, “You asked for it, you got it. Here is the IWC Pilot’s Watch you’ve been waiting for.” Well, it turned out that enthusiasts had their share of gripes. So now, after the six-year run of the Mark XVIII, maybe this is the one you’ve been waiting for?
The loudest overtures probably came in reference to the date window on the Mark XVIII. It was black, and small, and seemed – to many – to be situated a bit too far away from the three o’clock marker on the dial. The likely reason for this was the inclusion of the Sellita-based movement which required the date to be in that position, and at that size.
Well, IWC has addressed that in more ways than one. You’ll immediately notice that the date window has more contrast given that it’s now white instead of black. It also looks to be pushed further to the right this time giving it better visual cohesion and playing less on our horological pickiness.
Looking closer at the dial, it wasn’t just a simple fix of shifting the date window to the right. It appears that a host of small tweaks were made in order to craft a more proportionate dial layout. If you key in on the 12, three, six, and nine markers you’ll notice they are now rectangular in shape instead of the same thick square as all of the other markers (which is how they were on the Mark XVIII).
Everything is moved closer to the dial’s center, filling more of the empty space on the dial. The large Arabic numerals are given more distance from the markers. Even the gap between the IWC wordmark and the triangle has been closed. All the individual design elements of the dial have come closer together, and while the size of the dial itself hasn’t changed, it feels subtly new. Capping off all of these changes is an equally subtle new set of hands. Where once they were matte – they are now done in a shiny rhodium plating.
And then there’s the inclusion of the new 32111 movement. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the brand iterate within the Mark design ethos and use one of its in-house calibers. We need only look at the Automatic Spitfire. While not a Mark series in name, it bears all of the hallmarks of that look. Just like this new IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX, that watch had a contrasty white date window and utilized an in-house movement: The 32110. That moment offered 72 hours of power reserve, whereas this new one now gives us 120 hours – almost “set it and forget it” territory.
This release seems especially relevant as it comes the very same month that we saw Tudor release the new Ranger – a sort of field, everyday watch. That’s how I’ve always thought of the Mark watches. Leave the actual aviation to the Big Pilot. The Marks are pilot watch-inspired field watches in my book. With the Mark XX, what you’re getting is a ton of heritage and none of the fauxtina. All of the updates here were made to incrementally improve an almost flawless design. The Tudor might come in at a lower price point, but this new IWC offers a lot to be excited about.
For one thing, the 100m of water resistance is a big deal. In the past, the Mark XVIII’s 60m of resistance was touted as being swimmable, but that just never sat right with me. At 100m of water resistance, I can go anywhere and everywhere with this watch and not worry about a scenario where I might get pushed into a deep body of water (you just never know). And luckily, IWC has implemented its quick-release strap system on this one to let us strip off that leather and get it in something more aquatic-friendly.
The shaving off of thickness from 11mm to 10.8 is a small tweak but welcome nonetheless (the 39mm Ranger is 12mm thick by comparison). As presently constituted, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX is about as quintessential an everyday watch as they come, from any brand. At $5,250, it isn’t cheap but certainly comparable on the spectrum of offerings from brands like Tudor and Omega. I truly feel like this is the IWC Mark watch we have all been wanting for more than half a decade now, and it seems the brand has delivered. I look forward to seeing this one in the metal soon. Stay with HODINKEE for more on this new release.