Today, we are going hands on with a special edition of possibly one of the most legendary pilot’s watches of all time, or at the very least, one of the latest versions of it. Officially unveiled a few months ago, the IWC Pilot’s Watch MARK XVIII Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” marks another addition to a long-line of military inspired models. It’s not a new watch as such, but rather part of an update to the existing Antoine De Saint Exupéry line, which includes two other models (a chronograph and a 36mm automatic ladies model). Like the standard Mark XVIII, it’s nicely sized at 40mm and features a third-party movement to keep the price down. Read on for the details and of course, some nice live photos.
IWC launched its very first pilot’s watch, the Special Watch for Pilot’s, all the way back in 1936. It was intended for civil aviation use and was very characteristic of the style at the time, with large, luminous Arabic numerals and a subsidiary seconds dial at 6 o’clock. Arguably though, it wasn’t until 1949, that the legend truly started to take shape, with the launch of the original Mark 11 Navigators wrist watch, designed for airborne personnel of the RAF. In service until 1981, the Mark 11 was eventually superseded by the extremely popular Mark XII in 1994, which itself was replaced by an updated model and so on, until the arrival of the just-about-perfect IWC Mark XVIII in 2016 (you can read all about it here).
What sets the MARK XVIII Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” (and indeed the entire Antoine De Saint Exupéry collection) apart from the standard models, is the use of a signature tobacco brown dial and matching brown strap. Admittedly, brown dials are not to everyone’s tastes and I was a bit sceptical myself when I first saw the press photos of this model, but as you can see in the live pictures, the brown is not nearly as polarising as you might expect. In fact, often times the dial appears more grey-black than brown, and it’s only in the right light that you really see that rich colour come through. Personally, I prefer it that way, as it makes the watch a little more subtle on the wrist and then, when people come up for a closer look they get a nice surprise.
Presented in a 40mm stainless steel case measuring 10.8mm thick, it is extremely comfortable on the wrist and perfectly sized to be an everyday companion. The size also gives the watch a nice weight on the wrist, so you know it’s there but you don’t have to worry too much about banging it into things. The soft, brown Santoni leather strap with contrast cream stitching of course also helps with the comfort factor, whilst simultaneously giving the watch a slightly more rugged, casual look, which I quite like. You could still wear it with a suit and tie if you needed to, but this is more a watch for the weekend, for relaxing with friends at the bar or nice long drives and I think the price is reflective of that.
The dial layout is of course very clean, with only the essentials included. Time is indicated centrally, with the hours denoted by large Arabic numerals which have been treated with super-luminova, as has the chapter-ring for the minutes running around the periphery of the dial and the hands. The date is shown via a small window at 3 o’clock on a contrasting white disc. I’m sure this will be a point of contention as I know a lot of people prefer the color of the date wheel to match the color of the dial but in this instance I don’t mind it too much as I think it works well with the rest of the contrasting white on the dial. That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing a version with a brown date disc and the numbers for the date in white (similar to the Mark XVIII Edition “Tribute to Mark XI”, which features a black date disc to match the color of the dial).
Inside is the well-known cal. 35111, the same movement that powers the aforementioned Mark XVIII Edition “Tribute to Mark XI”. As we’ve discussed before, this is actually a Sellita SW-300, most likely with an IWC engraved rotor, and it delivers 42h power reserve. The automatic winding movement ticks at 4Hz frequency and comes with 25 jewels to keep it all pivoting with minimal friction. It’s protected by a soft-iron inner case, which shields it against the influence of magnetic fields, a key consideration for pilot’s watches.
The movement is not visible however, as it is hidden away beneath a solid caseback that features an engraving of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, the aircraft in which writer and flying pioneer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took off on what would be his last reconnaissance flight over the south of France on 31 July 1944. It’s a subtle reminder of the connection between IWC and the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation, a charitable organization the brand has partnered with since 2006. Part of the proceeds from the sale of special Antoine de Saint-Exupéry watches goes to support a number of different school and education projects organised and promoted by the Foundation.
Available from IWC boutiques and retailers now, the IWC Pilot’s Watch MARK XVIII Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” (ref. IW327003) is priced at a rather reasonable EUR 4,500. More details on www.iwc.com.
Technical Specifications – IWC Pilot’s Watch MARK XVIII Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry”
- Case: 40mm diameter x 10.8mm thick – stainless steel, with soft iron cage – sapphire crystal on the dial side – 60m water resistant
- Movement: calibre 35111, Sellita SW-300 based – automatic – 4Hz frequency – 25 jewels – 42h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date
- Strap: brown Santoni leather strap with contrast cream stitching
- Reference: IW327003
- Price: EUR 4,500