RAF IWC Mark XI 6B/346
Casual, utilitarian, and subtle, IWC’s Mark XI set the template for much of the manufacture’s current design language. IWC proved their metal with the Type X, made for Armed Forces in the Second World War. This led the RAF to place an order for an updated aviator’s equivalent in 1948, and the IWC Mark XI was born. Fixed spring bars, circled T, broad arrow, antimagnetic Faraday cage (and handset), and a very stringent testing and adjustment criteria: this was a no-nonsense aviator’s companion and its modern collectability should be no surprise.
The cal. 89 proved deadly accurate, which should be no surprise given assembly criteria included regulation in five positions and testing through -5 to 46 degrees C over a 44 day period at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. All this for an instrument which would undoubtedly be beat to hell by its owner. These watches were ordered in two distinct batches, the first known as anglo or ‘angleterre’ (without incabloc shock protection) and later incabloc movements.
All were cased in 36mm steel with this sparse dial. Early dials were lumed in radium, but the vast majority had their dials replaced by IWC for Tritium. Of the tritium dials we are used to seeing, there are many variations. This example does not sport the usual circled T and instead sports what I suspect may be a hand-applied T signature in white. Interesting detail. While the Mark XI was produced for the RAF, RAAF, smaller Air Forces, BOAC, and civilian markets, the RAF XIs usually attract the largest interest. Both are restrained by modern standards yet utterly beautiful. It is estimated that fewer than 8000 units of IWC’s XI were produced between 1949 and 1953, with a subsequent 1000-unit civilian production run from 1973 through 1984.
This example sports sharp case with moderate even surface wear. The dial is not showing any significant marks and all tritium applications appear matched in a light cream tone. Military engravings are deep and clear. It is said to be running well and comes from a well-regarded London retailer.
Find this Mark XI here from Subdial for 7500 GBP.