IWC Mark XI
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IWC Mark XI

In the waning years of World War II, an aircraft was launched that would change the face of military aviation.

Gloster Aircraft Company, in conjunction with Power Jets Ltd.—who built the first turbojet in the 1930s—developed the Gloster Meteor. A prototype of the Meteor first flew in 1941, powered by the Power Jets WU. By 1944 it entered active service—the RAF’s first jet fighter.

Whole squadrons sprung up, devoted to learning how to fly the new aircraft, like the No. 616 Squadron based in Culmhead, Somerset. The Squadron conducted conversion to the Meteor from the Supermarine Spitfire under the utmost secrecy, with only six of the squadron’s best pilots receiving training. However, after one week the remaining 32 pilots were trained, and first saw action on July 27, 1944. 

Used to the clunky piston-powered fighters like the Supermarine Spitfire and the de Havilland Mosquito, pilots thought the Meteor was exciting to fly. Of flying it, Norman Tebbit had this to say: “Get airborne, up with the wheels, hold it low until you were about 380 knots, pull it up and she would go up.. like a rocket.”

The year after the Gloster Meteor first saw combat, the De Havilland Vampire entered the war.

Like the Meteor, the Vampire was De Havilland’s first excursion into jet propulsion. In 1944, the company’s test pilot, Geoffrey de Havilland (son of the company’s founder), flew the first prototype—serial number LZ548/G. On May 13, 1944, the military placed an order for 120 of the Vampire Mark I, which was increased to 300 shortly after.

The first Vampires flew in April 1945, conducting night flights against the Axis powers.

That December, on the 3rd of the month, a Sea Vampire piloted by Capt. Eric Brown of the Royal Navy became the first pilot of a jet-powered aircraft to take off and land from an aircraft carrier, the HMS Ocean.

Alongside the Vampire and Meteor, a watch was commissioned that answered the ever-changing needs posed by military aviation.

In 1945, the Ministry of Defense issued a new standard—coded 6B/346—that necessitated that all military watches bear a chronometer-grade, antimagnetic movement.

Two manufactures were given the contract—Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC. IWC’s version, the Mark XI, was notable for the soft iron cage that enclosed the movement, acting like a Faraday Cage to repel the magnetic field emitted by instruments in a airplane’s cockpit. It entered military service in 1948 and was decommissioned in 1981.

Beloved by collectors, the Mark XI exemplifies the truest notions of a tool watch.

This particular Mark XI has a bit of an interesting story. With an issue date of 1948, it’s one of the earliest Mark XIs to enter military service and bears a first execution dial notable for the lack of an encircled T. This marking, usually found above 6 o’clock, denotes that the dial was switched out for less-radioactive tritium sometime during its service history.

However, since this Mark XI doesn’t have that marking, it’s most likely that it was never serviced by the MOD—interestingly enough, we have reason to believe that the pilot who wore it (whoever he was) might have absconded with it after his time in the military was up.

Whatever its story, this Mark XI is a true veteran and an excellent example of this highly-attractive and highly-desirable watch.

Details

SKU: AS02082

Stainless steel case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). IWC Mark XI. IWC Calibre 89 Manually-Wound movement. Circa 1948.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with signs of use and wear in keeping with its age. Dial is in good condition with signs of age, showing some deterioration to the luminescent elements of the numerals and hands. Unsigned crown. Case back has requisite military markings, and has some signs of age and use.

Includes one 18mm khaki nylon strap.

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