Earlier this year, IWC quietly dropped the new IWC Mark XX. No press release, fanfare, or announcement. Honestly, it was kind of refreshing – in a world where brands often seem to shout from the mountaintop about every little tweak made, it felt almost anachronistic for a brand to just throw a new watch on its website, waiting for us to pick up on it.
Well, pick up on it we did, and pretty quickly. For such a simple watch, the IWC Mark Series has always invited as many opinions as there are people, and that’s fair enough for what’s one of the most classic, accessible model lines around. After World War II, IWC (and for a short time, Jaeger-LeCoultre) started producing the Mark XI as a simple, no-nonsense pilot’s watch for the British Ministry of Defense powered by IWC’s vaunted caliber 89. Towards the end of the Mark XI’s run, IWC also produced some for commercial sale. Soon after the discontinuation of the Mark XI, IWC continued the model line with the Mark XII, then the Mark XV, and so on (they skipped 13 and 14 since they’re considered unlucky in parts of the world, so we’ll go easy on them for skipping 19 this time around).
Since we introduced the IWC Mark XX back in July, the brand has filled out the collection to include a total of six variants: three dial colors – matte black, sunburst blue, and sunburst green – with or without a bracelet. I went hands-on with the black and green on a bracelet, alongside the Mark XVIII (and my own Mark XII), and we were able to capture photos of the blue dial on a strap (the photos you see in this article).
Let’s start with the aesthetics of the new IWC Mark XX. Like the Mark XVIII, the Mark XX has a 40mm diameter, but it has a lug-to-lug of 49mm, about 2mm shorter than the XVIII, making for a better-proportioned watch. While the Mark XVIII was on the brink of being too big as an everyday watch (for me), this tweak pushes the Mark XX firmly into “yep, I could wear this every day without really thinking about it” territory.
As with the case, there are some changes to the dial that make it more balanced. Let’s start where I know the opinions will: The date window. I haven’t set a date window since…well, I guess I can’t tell if I haven’t set the date now, can I? But while I might prefer a watch without a date window – I’ve read enough early Hodinkee articles to have been properly brainwashed – it’s never stopped me from buying a great watch that happens to have a date window (more on my love of the properly date-windowed Mark XII below). Since it’s all relative: The Mark XX has a better-executed date window than the Mark XVII. Basically accepting that the Mark Series has to have a date window nowadays for some combination of mostly commercial reasons, the Mark XX’s is pretty good.
IWC, known for its immediately identifiable Pilot’s Watch line, has very subtly released a brand new addition to its Mark collection – which takes inspiration from the original Mark XI. This is the Mark XX, the apparent successor to the IWC Mark XVIII (though we never did get that Mark XIX). This new watch is an improvement in several ways over the XVIII. At a quick glance, you might think you’re seeing the same watch. Look again. IWC has addressed the design and legibility of the dial (including the date window), as well as the capability of both the case and movement.
It measures the same 40mm in diameter as the former model (which is still available from IWC) and has the same identifiable matte black dial and stark white legible numerals. The first change is located right at three o’clock. That’s where the date window has been redesigned from almost hidden black-on-black, to a now white background. This keeps the overall symmetry consistent with the white numerals.