This legendary Mark XI wristwatch finally retired in 1993 when IWC introduced the Mark XII, a model that completed the transformation from purpose-built military into a classy civilian wristwatch, while slowly forging the identity of models to come. It shared the same dimensions as its predecessor and, apart from the addition of a date window, had similar styling. The major change was the introduction of an automatic movement (JLC Cal.889/2). After six years, IWC revamped the Mark (XV) by making it bigger (38mm) and by adopting the fabulous Calibre 37524, on an ETA 2892-A2 base.
Its successor, introduced in 2006, dropped some of the core design features that were no longer adapted to needs. Mark XVI adopted the flieger hands of the Big Pilot’s Watch, which were longer and wider so as to better fit the larger dials and cases. The watch grew by 1mm (39mm) while the dial changed font; the numerals 6 and 9 were also omitted. It used the IWC 30110 Calibre (again based on the 2892-A2) and kept the antimagnetic and waterproof qualities of the series. Production ceased in 2012 when the Mark XVII was introduced. Its bigger size (41mm) conformed to the trend for larger watches. IWC also made a controversial change to the date window, which was restyled to resemble a cockpit instrument.
The current Mark XVIII, launched in 2016, saw a return to the essentials of the line. The case has shrunk 1mm to an ideal 40mm in diameter for 11mm in height, and again accommodates the Calibre 30110 workhorse movement. The triple date window has vanished from a highly legible dial that is inspired by Junkers Ju-52 cockpit instruments. The sapphire crystal is convex and is neatly secured against sudden drops in pressure. It has an anti-reflective coating on both sides to eliminate unwanted glare and for better legibility. The Mark XVIII is water-resistant to 6 bar and antimagnetic.
The ultimate ordinary watch
The Mark is highly relevant to our age. As with all iconic products, and in our case wristwatches, we have witnessed an evolution which over the years has pretty much forged a classic watch that can play almost every role. From the very beginning it was close to perfection, something it achieved with the introduction of the date complication. It possesses an elegant style that is not greatly subject to changes in fashion. Every Mark watch had, and still has, everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Take any variant (especially from the XII onward), and it is obvious that this is the perfect everyday watch; it can be worn for almost any occasion; it is the perfect size (now more than ever before); it has a flat profile and sufficiently strong lume. It is relatively affordable, has a balanced tool watch style, an accurate and reliable movement, and a legible dial and a date. It is sufficiently waterproof and antimagnetic; it comes from a great Swiss watch company and above all has an unparalleled pedigree. The Mark series represents more than just watches; it represents the tradition of fine Swiss watchmaking: a product of almost flawless design whose specifications originated as military requirements and, over time, were gently and successfully upgraded to fit market requirements. In fact it is this gentle upgrade, always with respect for its character, that has made the Mark unique.
It is certainly not a pure dress watch, nor is it intended to be a true sports watch. It does not yell for attention on the wrist; it is neither provocative nor bling.
In some ways, the Mark series – and in our case the current Mark XVIII – symbolize the ordinary watch par excellence. Its design focuses on the essentials, making it simple and discreet almost to the point of minimalism. It is certainly not a pure dress watch, nor is it intended to be a true sports watch. It does not yell for attention on the wrist; it is neither provocative nor bling. Its technical specifications form a package that is hard to beat, particularly for anyone in the market for a great beater watch. Even when history or pedigree fail to strike a chord, it is hard to deny that as a product, the Mark comes as close to a perfect everyday wristwatch as is possible. In the words of Ferdinand Porsche: “A formally harmonious product needs no decoration; it should be elevated through pure form.”