A long chase

Well, the second of this weeks incomings is something of a triumph. I’ve been on the hunt for the right IWC Mark XII for about a year now; I’ve nearly settled for the newer Mark XV and/or Mark XVI once or twice, but resisted the temptation in the hope that I’d find what I was looking for. That persistence paid off a week or so ago and today the watch arrived in the post. It was one of those occasions when the reality lived up to expectations, fortunately.

The history of IWC’s “Mark” series of pilot watches is an interesting one. The earlier models were made to MOD specifications, and included the relatively rare Mark IX from the 1930’s and it’s successor (the Mark X) a decade later. However, after WWII had ended IWC made the first military watch for which it was to receive real acclaim, in the form of the Mark XI. This watch was designed to meet more stringent military specifications; powered by IWC’s now famous Calibre 89 manual-wind movement and with antimagnetic shielding, the watch was durable, accurate and legible. Despite its utilitarian attributes, its beautiful style – specifically a perfectly designed and executed dial and case – made the watch a design triumph. Produced initially for Royal Air Force use, the Mark XI evolved into a legend.

The Mark XI continued in production for some three decades, but ultimately (in 1994) IWC launched its successor in the form of the Mark XII. This time, the watch was given an automatic movement (more on that below) and a date function. The dial remained clear and functional and whilst once again the watch was given anti-magnetic properties, this time it was more water-resistant too. The real change was inside the case, though, and it’s for this reason that I set my sights on the Mark XII. In fact, it’s the reason that – for many people – the Mark XII is the last of the series worthy of seeking out from a collection point of view.

The watch contains IWC’s Calibre 884/2 movement, which is essentially Jaeger LeCoultre’s Calibre 889/2 with some modifications. I’m not an expert when it comes to watch mechanics but Walt Odets certainly is, and his findings can be read here. It certainly makes for interesting reading, and whilst some have criticised the JLC movement for being less robust than it’s ETA-based successor for me that really isn’t an issue. It’s what makes this watch so much more desirable than others that can be more easily obtained, and it made the hunt worthwhile. In fact, I could have found one more quickly/easily had I been less fussy, but I specifically wanted the original tritium dial and hands (many have been changed at service), I wanted a really good matching patina on both (this one has that, as can be seen below) and I really wanted a relatively recent service. Anyway, all good things come to those who wait.

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