By Harlan Chapman-Green
Oh great, another tribute watch let’s all just have a nice cold pint and wait for all this nonsense to blow over, right? Well, maybe not as melodramatic as that but that’s the general consensus of literally everyone nowadays. Tribute to this, tribute to that, tribute to our tribute of goodness knows what. I must admit it seems like this thing is getting a little old hat now, sure it’s great to have a watch with a pedigree but there’s no need to confuse the market with another one every five minutes, this is something IWC is quite good at (though they aren’t the only offenders here).
But, in all this sea of confusion, there must be some method to their madness right? Correct, there is a reason, in particular, the Mark XI watch is being recreated. The Mark XI watch was created for the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm and debuted in 1948, with the Royal Australian Air Force signing up in 1950 to issue these timepieces. It’s a legendary timepiece because of its long history and association with both IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre which also produced these watches as well, with the RAF choosing to only buy IWC made XI watches for a period leading up to the year 1953 when they went back to both. The venerable Mark XI ended its working career and officially retired in 1994 when a civilian model was introduced.
IWC is actually quite good at making tribute watches when it wants to and this one is faithful in all the right ways. The dial has four rectangular lume market at the four quarters on the dial, with 12 O’clock also sporting a big lume triangle pointer as well which replaces the 12 numeral. Then we come to the hands, which are also coated in lume by the way. They’re shaped just like those on the Mark XI watch, the hour hand is a rectangular one that seems to stop dead as it hits the numerals, it’s slightly longer than that of the Mark XI which doesn’t quite touch the numbers on the dial. The minutes hand is, surprisingly, not the same shape at all, it’s quite long and thin with a point that almost reaches to the end of the minutes track. Annoyingly for someone as anal as myself when it comes to dials, the seconds hand appears to be roughly the same length as the minutes and hand and subsequently doesn’t reach the end of the minutes track either.
The case is a shape we are quite familiar with, it’s 40mm in diameter and has a thin bezel flanked by shapely lugs which are connected to a military-inspired olive green NATO strap. The case finishing is mostly brushed, but there are some polished bits particularly on the back of the watch around the centre of the caseback. It’s a well-finished piece that looks the part on the outside, on the inside, it’s a slightly different story.
See, while IWC makes some great watches with fantastic in-house made movements inside them, not every watch receives this special treatment, including this one. Inside the case is an IWC Calibre 35111 which is instead not an IWC calibre but a Sellita SW300 movement, considering the fact that it’s a limited edition of 1948 pieces in total with a sticker price of €4790 that’s a steep price to pay, whether it’s worth it or not is up to you. If you love collecting old war memorabilia then this would be ideal, otherwise move along. Even then you could pick up a Tudor Black Bay Heritage for almost half the price of this and have a watch that looks pretty similar, only without the connection to the long history of the Mark XI watch of course. For more info, please visit iwc.com