How Good is the Mark XVIII – IWC’s Entry Level Pilot’s Watch?

Introduced at SIHH 2016, the Mark XVIII is most affordable watch in the Pilot's Watch line-up from IWC, the newest instalment in a long line of bestselling, time-only aviator's watches.
IWC Mark XVIII white

The IWC Mark XVIII is the aggressively priced, entry-level watch in the new Pilot’s Watch collection launched at SIHH 2016 endowed with the right qualities. With a palatable design, aviation heritage and affordable price, the Mark XVIII will probably sell well. But how good is it actually?

Back in the 1930s IWC was began making aviator’s wristwatches of the type that’s familiar today, with a black dial featuring large Arabic numerals. Nicknamed that Mark IX, that was succeeded by a successive pilot’s watches, culminating with the famed Mark XI of the 1950s. Fast forward to the 1990s and the idea was revived with the Mark XII, a watch that laid the foundations of the modern IWC pilot’s watch.

Newer, cheaper and better looking

Three generations later (the Mark XII made way for the Mark XV, XVI, and XVII), the Mark XVIII – the Roman numerals mean “18” – has arrived. All the elements that made earlier versions of the basic pilot’s watch have been retained and even revived. Best of all, the Mark XVIII costs almost a quarter, or US$1000, less than the model it replaces.

IWC Mark XVIII black

The look of the Mark XVIII is similar to that of the Mark XVII, but sticks to the basics instead of trying too hard. Whereas the previous model attempted to mimic the look of a cockpit instrument with a triple-date aperture and missing “9”, the Mark XVIII goes back to a more traditional look. It’s not novel at all, but it works.

Goldilocks would be pleased

At 40 mm in diameter the Mark XVIII is not too small and not too large; it is just right. The narrow bezel makes it seem larger than it is, which suits the aviation look. And it’s 11 mm high, giving relatively elegant proportions with a high diameter-to-thickness ratio.

IWC Mark XVIII steel 3

Like most IWC watch cases that of the Mark XVIII is solidly made. It’s brushed on all surfaces, except for a pleasing, narrow bevel that runs along its length. As far as watches in this price range go, the Mark XVIII case rates better than most. And it has a soft-iron cage inside to protect the movement from magnetism, a traditional feature of pilot’s watches that reassuring to have, though decidedly low-tech in the age of 15,000 Gauss Omegas.

IWC Mark XVIII steel 2

While pricier IWC watches are powered by impressively engineered in-house movements, the Mark XVIII is equipped with the calibre 30110, which is actually the ETA 2892.

Low-cost but reliable, the ETA 2892 and has a two day power reserve, as well as a date function. It’s not much to look at, but is eminently functional and par for the course. Movements of this class are pervasive in this price range.

If there’s one shortcoming it’s proportions: because the movement is relatively small, the date sits oddly far from the edge of the dial, looking stranded. However, disembodied date windows like this are nowadays inevitable enough that it isn’t much of a deal anymore.

White is the new black

Unusually the basic steel Mark XVIII is available with a black or white dial. Not since the Mark XV has IWC offered its basic pilot’s watch with a light-coloured dial. That’s a good thing, however, because the white dial is striking and different from the crowd of pilot’s watches that tend to look the same.

IWC Mark XVIII steel 1

Less special but we still love you

Priced the same but ostensibly a “special” edition – which will displease those who bought the similar limited edition in 2013 – is the Mark XVIII “Le Petit Prince”. This has a metallic blue dial that’s a hallmark of the series dedicated to the novel by French author and pilot Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

IWC Mark XVIII Le Petit Prince

IWC Mark XVIII Le Petit Prince 1

Along with the white Mark XVIII, this is the best looking of the lot, and it costs exactly the same as the black or white models. The dial is a deep, relaxing blue with stark white markings, while the case back has an engraving of the Little Prince himself.

IWC Mark XVIII Le Petit Prince 2

Named after a Marine Corps base in San Diego, the Mark XVIII Top Gun Miramar costs more but is lacking. A little larger at 41 mm in diameter, it nonetheless seems smaller because of the dark grey ceramic case. Smooth and glossy, the ceramic case looks inexpensive.

IWC Mark XVIII Miramar IWC Mark XVIII Miramar 2 IWC Mark XVIII Miramar 3

IWC Mark XVIII Miramar 1

Straps and bracelets

The basic Mark XVIII is stainless steel, available with the choice of a steel bracelet or leather strap. The bracelet feels solid, with five links across that give it suppleness, but the detailing of the bracelet, especially the shape and finishing of the links, is not crisp or refined.

IWC Mark XVIII steel 4 IWC Mark XVIII steel 5

The Mark XVIII “Le Petit Prince” is only available with a calfskin strap, while the Miramar is only sold on an embossed calfskin band that resembles canvas.

Pricing

One of the most compelling qualities of the Mark XVIII is its price, US$3950 or S$6250 on a leather strap – US$950 less than the model it replaces. The same with a steel bracelet is US$4950 or S$7650. And the Mark XVIII Miramar will cost US$5400 or S$8350.

Summary

Pros: An appealing, easy to like look, packaged inside a high quality case, plus IWC’s solid history as a maker of pilot’s watches

Cons: Basic movement, so-so bracelet


Correction March 24, 2016: Price for models on leather strap corrected.

Correction January 30, 2017: The movement inside the Mark XVIII is the calibre 30110, and not the calibre 35111.

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Introducing the Stowa Marine Singapore Edition “Singapura Red Hill”

Based on the Stowa Marine Automatic, the Singapura Red Hill limited edition is inspired by an ancient legend of a heroic boy, spiteful king and killer swordfish. Here's all you need to know, including specs and the price.
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A collaboration between German watchmaker Stowa and Red Army Watches, a Singapore watch retailer, the Marine “Singapura Red Hill” commemorates an a fable about a heroic boy who saved an island kingdom from murderous fish, only to be executed by a spiteful monarch who resented the boy’s fame.

One of the tales in the Sejarah Melayu, a 15th century compendium of stories tracing the rise and fall of the Malacca Sultanate, an empire that once included Singapore, is that of a boy who saved a kingdom from vicious swordfish (though some say the creatures were garfish instead). According to the story, the island of Singapore was regularly assailed by menacing swordfish which impaled unsuspecting locals living on the coast.

The ruling Maharajah had no solution to the maritime attacks, until a clever boy suggested building a barricade of banana stems. The banana stem wall halted the swordfish advance, with the killer fish impaling themselves on the stems. Trapped on the barricade, the fish were swiftly killed by the Maharajah’s troops.

Soon the boy was feted as the island’s saviour, adored by the masses. But the envious Maharajah soon resented the boy’s popularity, and dispatched his men to kill the child, who lived on a hill. The murdered boy’s blood soaked into the hill, turning its soil red and giving it the name Bukit Merah, or “Red Hill”.

Named after this 500-year old legend, the Singapura Red Hill is the second watch made in collaboration with Red Army Watches, the first being the Flieger Lady Chin Swee. It’s based on the Stowa Marine, a wristwatch based on the deck watches Stowa once made for the German navy. The Stowa Marine has the same oversized Arabic numerals, blued steel hands and railway minute track found on the original deck watches.

The dial is made of solid sterling silver with a matte, grained finish that’s covered with clear lacquer to prevent tarnishing, with the “12” printed in metallic silver ink to distinguish it from the ordinary Marine. And the stainless steel case is 40 mm in diameter, with a brushed finish on all surfaces.

Inside is a ETA 2824, a robust automatic movement that’s been decorated enough to make it attractive. It’s visible through the display back, but can also be hidden by replacing the clear back with the second solid back engraved with swordfish rising from the waves.

Limited to 25 pieces, numbered from 1/28 to 28/28 (with the omission of the unlucky numbers 4, 13, 14 and 24), the Singapura Red Hill is priced at S$1888 including taxes. It is available only at Red Army Watches, starting April 2016.

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Fiona Krüger Introduces the Petite Skull, Mechanical Memento Mori for the Wrist

FionaKrugerPetiteSkull5

Fiona Krüger presents a smaller, sleeker version of her trademark skull-shaped wristwatch with Petite Skull, featuring an elaborate guilloche dial. Specs and price follow below.

A Scottish designer who studied in Switzerland, Fiona Krüger’s watches developed out of her postgraduate project. Inspired by mementos mori in art, including a skull-shaped timepiece owned by the luckless Mary Queen of Scots, Krüger’s first timepiece was an oversized skull-shaped timepiece. She’ll soon launch the followup to that at Baselworld 2016, the Petite Skull.

About 15 percent smaller than the first model, the Petite Skull is still sizeable at 34.5 mm in diameter and 48 mm long. The case is stainless steel, with a porthole on the back revealing part of the skeletonised Soprod A10 movement, a robust, self-winding calibre.

The dial is brass and elaborately decorated with several engine-turned patterns. Three dial versions are available, black, blue or white, and each is decorated differently. A cutout for the eye of the skull at three o’clock reveals the endstone of the balance wheel.

Smile – it’s perlage

Each Petite Skull version is limited to 18 pieces, with a price of SFr13,000 before taxes, equivalent to US$13,000.

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