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From IWC's earliest days, the brand established itself as a manufacturer of aviation watches. This marriage of IWC and aviation began with the production of the first watch ever developed solely for aviation, the Spezialuhr für Flieger or Special Pilot's Watch, in 1936. The Special Pilot's Watch later became known to collectors as the Mark IX, the progenitor of IWC's fabled Mark series of pilot's watches.
The Mark IX more or less set the standard for what aviator's watches would look and feel like. It had a black dial, large luminescent numerals and indices, and--most importantly--a shock-absorbent movement, the caliber 83. Production of the Mark IX ceased in 1944 and the model was supplanted by the Mark X.
The Mark X, produced from 1944 to 1948, saw combat during World War II. This is one of the famous "Dirty Dozen" produced by the twelve manufacturers that met standards passed down by the British Ministry of Defense. With case backs stamped "WWW" for "Watch Wristlet Waterproof," these watches were, as one can infer from the name, waterproof, shock-absorbent, and bore the looks (black dial, luminous hands) already typified by the "Mark IX."
As aviation became militarized, the importance of watches as navigational tools increased. Once again the British Ministry of Defense called upon manufacturers to design watches that could meet the rigorous standards required for military use. Therefore, in the late 1940s, the Ministry of Defense initiated a project to develop a watch designed exclusively for military aviation. The new standard issue, which the MOD coded 6B/346, required chronometer-grade and anti-magnetic movements. The MoD gave the contract to two manufacturers: Jaeger-LeCoultre and, of course, IWC.
In creating the Mark XI, IWC met the antimagnetic properties set forth by the MoD by covering the movement with a soft iron cage. The Mark XI was fitted with the Caliber 89, regarded as perhaps the most robust three-hand movements of all time. The Caliber 89 runs at 18,000 bph and features a double barrel, a Breguet hairspring, and a drive for the sweeping seconds hand that IWC patented.
The Mark XI entered military service in 1949 and was decommissioned in 1981. It was not replaced in the Mark line until 1993, when the Mark XII was introduced. The Mark XII maintained the look and the feel of the Mark XI, but featured an automatic movement and a date wheel. The movement, the IWC caliber 884/2, was based on the JLC caliber 889/2.
The Mark XII, more refined than its predecessors, launched the Mark line into the realm of civilian wear. And yet it retains the austerity of the military watches it succeeds, with a stainless steel case in un-fussy matte finishing. Attractive and versatile, it's at home on the modern wrist, a perfect marriage of military precision and modern sensibilities.
Stainless steel case is approximately 38mm (excluding crown). IWC/JLC Caliber 884 automatic movement. Circa 1993
Overall condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent condition, showing no major blemishes or signs of over-polishing, and only slight signs of wear and use in keeping with its age, including slight nicks on the front of the case and the lugs. Dial is in superb condition, showing only slight patination, including fine even patina to the luminescent elements on the hour plots. Signed crown; signed case back shows some light scratches and tool marks, but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes 19mm stainless steel IWC bracelet and two 19mm straps from Crown & Buckle.