2 Of The Best Pilots: IWC Spitfire Vs Mark XVIII
James Elliott26 May 2021 | 6 min read
If you’re in the market for a pilot watch, there aren’t many better mid-range brands than IWC. Since 1868, the Swiss brand has specialised in aviation-themed watches, with the brand pioneering the use of titanium in its builds.
Two of the most popular IWC models from their current range are the Spitfire and Mark XVII. The watches look very similar on the face of it, leaving many watch fans putting them side-by-side when choosing their next pilot’s watch!
In this article, we’re going to attempt to help you work out which IWC is right for you. We’ll compare both on their design, specs and price to help you understand which watch would look best on your wrist!
Let’s get comparing!
- IWC Spitfire vs Mark XVII Comparison
IWC Spitfire vs Mark XVII Comparison – Dial
The first thing you’ll notice when you see these watches side-by-side is that we weren’t joking when we said they look very similar. Both dials just scream classic pilot’s watch and no matter which one you go for, you’re getting a great mix of standard IWC style. But, there are some subtle differences to appeal to different tastes.
Let’s start with the Spitfire. A large black dial is matched with large white numerals and rectangular markings around the chapter ring. The Spitfire brings a little bit of colour to its dial with light yellow hands matched with the classic triangle and yellow dot 12 o’clock marker you’ll see commonly with IWC watches.
With the Spitfire, you’ll also find a white-backed date window at 3 o’clock and the Spitfire branding in red in the centre of the dial. It’s these splashes of colour that bring fans to the Spitfire, as a classic and simple pilots watch with a little bit of character.
The Mark XVII is super similar. This time, the black dial is solely matched with white accents with all of the numerals, chapter ring markings, hands and 12 o’clock marker in white only. The date window at the 3 o’clock position is no longer backed with white and instead blends into the dial with a black background.
In two watches that are so similar, it’s ultimately going to come down to your preference of colour or simplicity. Those who like a very plain and traditional pilot watch will prefer the Mark XVII, but if instead, you’d like to add a bit of colour, it’s the Spitfire for you!
IWC Spitfire vs Mark XVII Comparison – Bracelet/Strap
The great thing about both the Spitfire and the Mark XVII is they both come in a number of different variations with a few different strap and bracelet options.
Starting again with the Spitfire, the model we’ve pictured here (IW326803) comes equipped with a brown calfskin strap complete with a pin and buckle clasp and white stitching. It’s a great quality strap that can also be purchased separately for any compatible IWC watch for around $250.
For the Spitfire, straps also exist in various textile colours as well as a green calfskin option. For those that like steel bracelets, you’ll need to look into the Spitfire Chronograph model which is markable more expensive given both the bracelet and additional features.
With the Mark XVII, it’s a very similar story with leather and steel options available. The IW327009 model of the Mark XVII we featured above comes equipped with a black calfskin strap with a pin and buckle clasp.
Whilst there are no stock options of the Mark XVII available with a textile strap, you could equip this watch with a separately purchased accessory from IWC. Standard configurations of the Mark XVII are also available on a steel bracelet but be prepared to pay slightly more.
Ultimately, there isn’t much to choose from between the two watches when it comes to their straps. If you want a textile strap as default, the Spitfire will have more options for you, but given the range of straps that can be purchased separately from IWC, we wouldn’t suggest you make your buying decision based on a strap or bracelet alone.
IWC Spitfire vs Mark XVII Comparison – Movement
As we head inside the case, we start to see some of the main differences between the Spitfire and the Mark XVII.
The Spitfire’s 32110 Calibre movement is a top-notch piece of Swiss engineering. Manufactured in house by IWC, the automatic self-winding mechanism delivers 72 hours of power reserve whilst staying highly accurate thanks to its 4Hz frequency. The movement also hacks and of course drives the 3 o’clock date window too.
The Mark XVII’s 35111 Calibre is slightly less powerful. This isn’t an IWC movement and instead uses an external Sellita component to deliver 42 hours of power reserve at 4 Hz.
Ultimately, your decision here is based on two factors. Firstly, would you prefer an in-house IWC movement or would you be ok with something more generic? And secondly, what level of power reserve do you need?
Some fans of both watches feel a little let down by the Mark XVII’s external movement with those who plan to wear the watch as a daily beater having no preference over 42/72 hours of reserve given it will be self-winding on the wrist!
IWC Spitfire vs Mark XVII Comparison – Technical Specs
Sometimes the best way to compare two watches that are so closely matched is to dive into the technical specs. With so little to chose from in the design and straps, there may be a particular feature you need from either watch to set it apart from the other!
|IWC Spitfire||IWC Mark XVII|
|Movement Type||Automatic, Self-Winding||Automatic, Self-Winding|
|Power Reserve||72 Hours||42 Hours|
|Crystal||Convex, AR Sapphire||Convex, AR Sapphire|
IWC Spitfire vs Mark XVII Comparison – Price
The final comparison point between the two watches is their price, arguably one of the most important factors when choosing between any two watches. And like we’ve seen throughout this article, it’s pretty evenly matched.
For the two models we’ve compared there’s only a $200 difference in price. The Spitfire comes in at $4,450 when buying directly from IWC with the Mark XVII retailing at $4,250. That $200 difference is likely driven by the slightly better, in house movement inside the Spitfire’s case given that so many of the other features are almost identical.
Both ranges have a number of other variations to choose from. The Spitfire tops out at around $17,000 for their most premium ‘Annual Calendar’ model which delivers powerful complications on an all-steel construction.
The Mark XVII range is a lot tighter packed with variations in dial colour and strap/bracelet options driving the price up to around $5,200 at a maximum.
So, as with most points in this comparison, when it comes to price there isn’t much to choose between on the base models. Unless you’re on a very specific budget, you’re unlikely to favour one over the other on price with both watches available comfortably for around $4,000-$4,500.
Both the IWC Spitfire and Mark XVII are quintessentially awesome pilot watches with fans of both models split on which one they prefer. And it’s no surprise that’s the case.
Both watches are so similar in many ways and ultimately it’s going to come down to two factors when choosing between them – the design and the movement.
The Spitfire brings slightly more colour and flair to the dial with the yellow markings and the white-backed date window. But those that like a sleek and clean design may prefer the Mark XVII’s black and white finish. Movement wise, the Spitfire’s is slightly more powerful and is made in house, but in the reality of day-to-day wear there’s isn’t much to separate them.
Ultimately, whichever one you go for, you’re getting a great pilots watch from one of the best mid-range Swiss brands on the market!