Exclusive Mark 11 Pilot’s Watches Exhibition at the London boutique

 

Join us for a rare preview of historic masterpieces, and discover one-of-a-kind Mark 11 timepieces from the British Overseas Airways Corporation, the New Zealand, the Australian, South African and Royal Air Force amongst other priceless Artifacts

 


Timekeeping for navigation in the air became more and more important when, after World War I, airplanes became more powerful and thus capable of long-range flights. It was at this time the separation between the clocks on a cockpit’s instrument panel and wristwatches for pilots and navigators took place, the latter’s priorities being outstanding sturdiness and legibility. By the 1920s, civilian air travel and private flying emerged as a viable forms of transport, increasing the need for dedicated watches.

 

IWC was among the first to address the demand. Hans Ernst Homberger and his two younger brothers, Rudolf and Alex, the sons of IWC Managing Director Ernst Jakob Homberger, had gained international sporting fame as oarsmen and were attuned to the requirements for precision timing for both tool and sports watches.

 

Starting from 1936, the Pilot’s Watches became a key a part of IWC watchmaking, ultimately defining what would be a key element of the brand’s persona to this day. The 1936 original was fitted with shatterproof glass, a rotating bezel with an index for recording short periods of time and an antimagnetic escapement, together with high-contrast luminescent hands and numerals. It was robust and, as noted in IWC’s 1936 catalogue, resistant to fluctuations over a wide temperature range.

Beginning in the late thirties, the RAF worked intensively on the development of new navigation systems, e.g. beacons or radar. At that time, however, the radio beacons only had a range of around 300 miles, and ground radar could not transmit useful data whilst flying across the sea.

 

Early navigation watches used by the RAF were quite accurate, but cases made from aluminium or chrome-plated brass could not withstand either the salty North Sea air or the hot and humid Asian climate. 

 

Such challenges prompted the RAF to develop a completely new navigation watch and the result was the Mark 11. Its Calibre 89 movement provided a hacking feature necessary for both precise time-setting and for watch synchronisation, while another crucial element was its magnetic field protection superior to the standards for watches of the era. IWC’s engineers built a Faraday cage of soft iron, with the dial forming the upper part, the cage protecting the movement against magnetic fields to 70,000A/m. Finally, the high-contrast dial with luminous material made it easy to read the time even at night or in poor visibility conditions. Every watch was tested for 648 hours before shipping to the UK.

Over the decades that the Mark 11 was in service, different dials and hands were issued. Those in use between 1949 through 1952 are often referred to by collectors as the “White 12” because of the number at the 12 o’clock position, and are now extremely rare; from 1952, the RAF started to use a triangle at the 12. Until the early 1960s, radium was the luminous material for the watches; in 1963, the RAF exchanged radium dials with tritium dials, marked with an encircled “T” to show the change.

 

Each RAF watch had to be marked on dial, case and movement as Crown Property with the Broad Arrow (↑) and the same applies to several other Commonwealth Air Forces. From November 1949, the Mark 11 was issued to RAF navigators and those of other Commonwealth nations, and later to pilots as well. Remaining in service until 1981, the RAF Mark 11 continually proved, for over 30 years, its quality and reliably in the toughest conditions.


Exhibition at the London boutique

 

Join us for a rare preview of historic masterpieces, and discover one-of-a-kind Mark 11 timepieces from the British Overseas Airways Corporation, the New Zealand, the Australian, South African and Royal Air Force amongst other priceless Artifacts

 

LOCATION

138 New Bond St · London · W1S 2TJ

 

DURATION 

Until 6th Aug