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Review: IWC’s Mark XX Is Its Next Evolutionary Step In Aviation-Style Timepieces

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A great many of today’s most popular watches pay homage to specific eras or references of yesteryear, however, a select few stand as modern timepieces can be traced directly back earlier, historically significant watches from the same brand. One such model is the IWC Mark Series pilot’s watch. First debuting in 1948, this watch was originally developed specifically for the British Ministry of Defense and its airmen, and while it was at first exclusively available to MoD’s pilots, a later version of it was eventually made available to the general public — kicking off a 75-year-long series of Mark Series Pilot’s Watches that have culminated in the lineup’s latest evolutionary step; the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX. With a design that’s been heavily inspired by WW2 era aviation watches, we were eager to discover how well the watch lends itself to the modern world. So, we’ve managed to get a hold of one of these new timepieces for this hands-on review of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX. 

At A Glance

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX Specs

Case Size: 40mm
Lug to Lug: 49mm
Case Thickness: 10.8mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement Type: Automatic
Power Reserve: 120 Hours
Movement: IWC Calibre 32111
Lume: Super-LumiNova
Crystal: Dual AR-Coated Convex Sapphire
Band: Leather Strap

Similar But Different

First Impressions Of The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX

Right out of the box, our first thoughts on the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX is that it looks remarkably similar to its predecessor, the Mark XVIII from 2016. In fact, upon first glance the two are nearly identical, however, once examining the XX more closely, a myriad of novel details and tweaks begin to reveal themselves. One thing that most certainly has not changed is the top-shelf build quality and fit and finish of the watch, which, despite its relatively simple design, readily announces itself as being a high-end luxury watch. The elegant simplicity of the Mark XVIII – and the rest of the contemporary Mark Series references — has also been carried over. 

IWC Mark XX 2

Approaching GADA Territory

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX’s Case

First introduced back in July, the IWC Mark XX is constructed around a fully-brushed stainless steel housing with gently sloping lugs, a polished fixed bezel and a knurled IWC-logoed crown. While it maintains the XVIII’s 40mm case size, the Mark XX has a tighter lug-to-lug measurement of 49mm — 2mm smaller than the 18. This may not sound like a big difference, but the tweak results in a watch that both looks and feels more compact when on wrist. The XX’s case is ever-so-slightly-thinner as well at 10.8mm — down from 11mm. IWC has also opted to increase the Pilot’s Watch’s water resistance rating from 60 meters up to 100 meters, pushing it more squarely into GADA territory along with its slightly more compact dimensions. Like previous iterations of the Mark Series, IWC has managed to deliver a case with major purpose-built, utilitarian tool watch vibes while still looking unequivocally elegant and upscale. 

IWC Mark XX 1

A Subtle Series Of Tweaks

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX’s Dial

One of half-a-dozen versions currently offered in the lineup, we opted to get our hands on the stunning blue-dial version of the IWC Mark XX —Reference IW328203. Though it looks strikingly similar to its predecessor, the Mark XX boasts a few subtle but noteworthy elements that have been redesigned in a bid to deliver a more calculated, better-looking watch. The biggest change is the date window at 3 o’clock. In place of the 18 model’s date window which featured a background the matched the dial and numerals matching the rest of the watch’s markers, the XX’s framed window does a much better job of catching the eye, with a white date wheel juxtaposed via now-black numerals. Sitting beneath a convex Sapphire with antireflective coatings on both sides, the dial’s white handset is also now framed in silver — replacing the XVIII’s black-framed setup. More astute horological enthusiasts will also notice that the entirety of the dial’s numerals and markers have all been brought in closer to the dial, with the markers pushed inward further from the bezel, and numerals that are separated from the hour markers with wider gaps. 

IWC Mark XX 3

In-House Auto

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX’s Movement

From the outside, the Mark XX admittedly looks a lot like its 2016 predecessor. Under the surface, however, the new reference is a far cry from the 18 reference. Replacing the XVIII’s Sellita-based 35111 unit is the International Watch Company’s newly-released in-house automatic, the Calibre 32111. Ticking at 28’800 VPH, this Swiss-made movement is comprised of 164 components pieced together in-house by IWC and set inside a soft iron inner case. Equipped with 21 jewels, the Calibre 32111 packs a massive 120-hour power reserve — nearly three-times the XVIII’s 42-hour reserve. For those that haven’t done the math in their head, that’s a full five days of power reserve. This is made all the more impressive, in our opinion, based on the fact that IWC has not only bolstered the watch’s performance, but it’s managed to do so while delivering a thinner more compact case that now houses the movement. 

Calfskin Comfort

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX’s Strap

The blue dial unit that we got hands-on with for our testing process came straight from the factory with a plush calfskin leather strap that’s been dyed blue to match the dial before being accented with white stitching. This leather strap benefits from the use of both IWC’s EasX-CHANGE quick-release system. While there’s nothing particularly innovative or noteworthy going on with this strap, it’s by no means a weak point of the watch, as it’s simply a nice-looking, comfortable, and well-crafted leather strap that, like the watch’s case, doesn’t hide its high-end nature. Additionally, it’s also worth mentioning that this watch is offered with a stainless steel bracelet — albeit for a $900 premium — complete with five tool-free micro-adjustment points. 

IWC Mark XX 4

Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary

Final Thoughts On The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX

There’s no denying that the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX is simply a stunning timepiece, though it’s easy to wonder if the changes and updates justify this new release — and if the watch that these changes have collectively resulted in is worth its more-than-$5,000 MSRP. In our opinion, the answer to both is a resounding “Yes.” Visually, it may not appear all that different from its 2016 predecessor, though the 2023 XX reference is a perfect example of an already iconic watch taking an evolutionary step — rather than a revolutionary one. Though subtle, the changes to the dial and case dimensions just make for a superior overall watch, with an even-more-calculated design that looks more attractive to the eye and wears better on the wrist. And, while we think it goes without saying, the upgrade made to this Pilot’s Watch’s movement is as substantial as the tweaks to the dial are subtle. All in all, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX isn’t just a high-end Swiss-made pilot’s watch that lends itself to everyday wearing, but it’s also one that makes us extremely eager to see what the International Watch Company delivers upon the next iteration of this legendary range of aviation-style timepieces. 

IWC Pilots Watch Mark XX
Photo: IWC Schaffhausen


IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX

The latest evolutionary step in an iconic Swiss-made pilot’s watch dating back to 1948. Though similar to its predecessor in appearance and sizing, the Pilot’s Watch Mark XX sports a series of subtle aesthetic tweaks and revised dimensions. Under the surface, the Mark XX is kept ticking via an all-new in-house-made 164-component automatic movement that packs a whopping 5-day power reserve. These changes collectively result in a more refined and all-around better watch, in terms of looks, comfort, and performance.

  • Outstanding all-brushed finish looks great & hides scratches well
  • New framing makes handset & date window pop
  • Has increased 100M water resistance
  • Powered by all-new in-house auto movement w/ 5-day reserve
  • Looks very similar to 2016 predecessor
  • Expensive price
  • Steel bracelet costs additional $900