The Mark 11 is one of the most well-loved watches among collectors. But if you’re new to the world of these famous timepieces, adding one to your own collection could be a daunting task. IWC watch collector Thomas Koenig is here to help with his top tips for purchasing your first vintage Mark 11 watch.
1. Decide whether you want to buy a Mark 11 to wear on a daily basis or as a collector’s item.
In the former case stop reading here, buy the watch you like and pay the price you deem it worth. And then simply enjoy.
In the latter case keep on reading as things become a little bit more complicated.
2. Don’t buy first and only then start building knowledge.
Otherwise almost with certainty you will burn money you’d better invest in several visits to your favorite restaurant with your wife. The latter alternative results in more fun and grants more support of your watch hobby from your wife.
3. Do your homework.
My third piece of advice deserves to be numbers 2, 3 and 4. I’ll make it one point, but put it in bold given its outstanding importance: look, look, look and read, read, read. If you are intrigued to buy a Mark 11, no matter from which company, take at least three months to read as much as possible and to look at as many watches as possible.
When reading start with sources published in a book or reviewed journal. There are plenty of internet blogs but a beginner doesn’t know who is a knowledgeable contributor and who just produces hot air. An old, but nevertheless, valuable source for beginners and semi-professional collectors is the article “Man is not lost”, published in 2004. You can still download the PDF. An update is scheduled to be published by the end of the year, but it features new findings without discarding the old ones. Experienced collectors as well can help a lot when it comes to judging a specific watch.
— The Spitfire Automatic (Ref. IW326801) pays homage to the Mark 11 in many ways. Watch our series “Time Flies” to learn how.
4. Start slow.
Once you’ve fallen in love with a Mark 11 and are ready to purchase one, start with a typical Royal Air Force Mark 11 or one of the younger civilian versions, not one of the specialties. Young drivers don’t start with a Formula 1 car for a good reason: it would probably end in a crash. It’s the same with someone new to the Mark 11. If you purchase a Mark 11 and are still in love with it a year later and are keen to buy other variants, it is then the right time to dive deeper into the topic.
5. Don’t buy the cheapest watch, but a watch which is worth its money.
Normally the watches at the lower end as well as from the high end of the price range are not value for money.
6. Remember that the Mark 11 is a watch that saw military service.
Collectors prefer watches showing their age and the scars suffered on duty. So go for a watch with original dial and hands, even when the white paint on the dial and/or the luminous paint on the dial and the hands start flaking over. Prefer a watch which shows sign of use over an over-restored watch with replaced, but not original parts.
7. The value of a Mark 11 is in the details.
Small differences have a huge impact on its value.
8. Pay attention to the movements.
To start with: As a “must”, a military Mk. 11 has to have a military movement mounted. Otherwise you have bought spares: a Mark 11 case you can sell at a third of the price of an authentic complete Mark 11 and a surplus movement you can only get rid of at low prices. If the seller is not willing to provide a high res pic of the movement or at least the movement number for a check, go for another watch. There are enough watches out there and enough sellers who have no problem to help you authenticate the watch.
9. There are only few flawless all original watches for sale.
As I write this story there are about a dozen offered on a well-known website by both dealers and private sellers. I personally would buy none of them. Some weaknesses or defects can be fixed, others can’t. A wrong back or a fake case can’t be fixed. Good original dials are still available on the internet, but by now prices exceed 500 Euro and you need some time to spot such a dial. Original hands are not only expensive, they are close to impossible to find. To service or repair a Mark 11 Cal. 89 at decent prices is no problem, with a JLC Mark 11 Cal. 488/Sbr it is. So look at what the weaknesses of the watch are. In the long run the good samples will go up in price, the bad ones (if not rare versions) will at best keep their value.
10. Keep an eye on the edges of the case.
If the edges tend to be round or are even no longer there, the watch has been heavily polished. In case the edges are still crisp on both sides of the case, it’s an honest watch and you should make all other checks quickly. Otherwise it will be gone before you can make your offer.
RNZAF Mark 11, 1st series
RAF Mark 11, 1950
RAAF Mark 11
RAF Mark 11, 1948
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