The Mark XI was the first watch that really got me ‘into’ watches, and it has endured over the decades as an icon of good, utilitarian design. Its influence has been very visible in IWC’s Pilot’s family over the years, but this watch, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire, might be the closest we’ve seen IWC come in a long time to hitting that mark in a regular production model (sorry about the pun, I couldn’t help it).
There are three main reasons why this watch is so great: the dial, the case and the movement. All these elements add up to create a watch that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s break it down.
IWC has done a great job with the dial here; it’s a really nice blend of clarity and heritage. All the classic hallmarks are there: crisp white Arabic numerals, surrounded by a minute track with larger hash markers at five-minute intervals. The signature triangle and double dot at 12, along with the cardinal hours, all in a faded, cream-coloured lume, which sits on the right side of the line between vintage-inspired and overbaked. The hands, in the characteristic Spitfire sword shape, are rhodium-plated and well filled with lume. The red line of ‘spitfire’ text is subtle, as is the date window. Some people will dislike the inclusion of a date, but I think for the vast majority it won’t be an issue.
This was the real winner for me. This year the Spitfire is offered in bronze and steel cases, and in this particular model I preferred the steel. Bronze is lovely, but it’s a much more trend-oriented look. This steel is simple and timeless, which to my mind is exactly what this watch should be aiming for. The real revelation, though, is the size. It’s 39mm across by 10.8mm tall. This continues the downsizing trend of IWC’s core pilot’s watches — the recent Mark XVIII is 40mm, which is great, but I think the 39mm here is perfect. It’s such a wearable, versatile size, and it adds a nice vintage touch (without being the 36mm of the original). And if you’re used to larger watches, don’t fret too much about the size here. The combination of large crown and all-dial design means it wears very well for the size. Proportionally, the height is right, too. The caseback is emblazoned with the titular plane, and solid — after all, an antimagnetic Faraday cage is tricky with an open display back — not to mention somewhat against the ethos of this purposeful tool watch.
A view of the movement would be a nice thing to see though, as for the first time we’re seeing an in-house offering in the entry-level Pilot. We’re talking about the Calibre 32110 (based on their 32000 family) — a solid, no-nonsense auto beating at 4Hz, with a decent 72-hour power reserve. It’s a welcome upgrade from the stock Sellita ebauche IWC has used in the past and, really, at this level of watchmaking, it’s what I’d expect in a new watch.
The new IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire in steel is a compelling package. Sure, there’s a lot to like for the enthusiast crowd, but on top of that, if you walked into your local IWC looking for a good-looking, good-value everyday watch with a strong personality, you’d be hard placed to do better than this.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire in steel Australian pricing and availability
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire in steel, $6700