Every so often we get to the point of needing to take some time out and replenish our batteries. Fortunately for me this coincided with my wedding anniversary. So, never being one to shy away from the opportunity of taking some time out, I booked a retreat for my wife and I to escape and unwind at a stately home for a few days in the countryside away from the distractions of day-to-day life.

Horwood House has been part of the Buckinghamshire landscape since the 18th century, although the current manor house was built in 1911, adjacent to the original rectory. Horwood is now a grade II listed building having recently undergone a £6 million renovation to preserve the unique features of the manor house and surrounding courtyard of thatched cottages. Great care has been taken to create a luxurious, modern environment which provides every comfort for guests, while retaining Horwood’s deep rooted heritage.

We’re on a mission to create the kind of welcome you’d get from close family, albeit on a grander scale.

Horwood House

This provided a beautifully serene setting to be able to relax, unwind, and switch off which then led to the inevitable question of which watches to take with me. As I don’t own an IWC I thought this would be a great chance to spend some time with something a little less familiar – which then left the question – which IWC would I like to spend some time with?

One of my best friends owns an IWC Pilots Chronograph which is a beautiful watch, however i find the dials of chronograph watches overly cluttered, with superfluous sub-dials and information that (in the real world at the very least) no one ever actually uses as 99% of chronograph owners never actually time anything with them. I’m sure within the enthusiast community, that number probably looks a little better, but from personal experience we end up looking for a reason to use it rather than exercising a ‘need’ to time something. So generally speaking, chronographs are not my thing. However, the IWC Pilots watch is an altogether different proposition which has for some time eluded me – until now as IWC kindly offered me the new Pilot Mark XX to spend some time with while away enjoying some rest and relaxation.

So where do we start? The new Mark XX is definitively evolution over revolution with each iteration over the years finessing subtle characteristics while maintaining its deep heritage, together delivering a near perfect balance of attributes. The changes from the Mark XVIII are subtle: the lugs-to-lug measurement is about 2mm shorter, the case is 0.2mm thinner, the dial layout has been tweaked with shorter minute markers, and the water resistance has been increased from 60m to 100m. None of these refinements are earth shattering but together the sum is greater than the parts. Overall the new Mark XX is more wearable across a broader population of wrist sizes, more usable, and an easier ownership with the new EasX-CHANGE strap system (but we’ll come onto that later!)

The heritage of this watch stretches back to WWII where IWC produced Pilots watches for the British RAF but it wasn’t until 1948 when IWC settled on the design language of the Pilot Mark 11 that you can see echoed today in their latest release the Mark XX.

The proportions on paper alone suggest an incredible wearability with a case size of 40mm, a lug width of 20mm and a thickness of 10.8mm. Traditional pilots watches from the WWII era would easily have been much much larger than this, however in time they adjusted to the more modest proportions of the Mark 11 and this is directly where the mark XX’s heritage stems from.

Overall the whole visual aesthetic is incredibly unassuming. The dial is simple with clear large arabic numerals, traditional sword hands, minute markers and a date window at 3. It has no applied markers and even the lume is limited to subtle 12,3,6,9 markers and of course the hands. There is absolutely nothing about this watch that says “Hey! – Look at me!” Notably, Ed Sheeran famously bought two of his friends smaller IWC Pilot watches as they would have felt extremely uncomfortable wearing a more exuberant brand watch. To this day this still wear them for everything they do from swimming to hiking and everything in between as their day to day watch. This does mean that it has a great ability to blend in subtly and adaptability to be worn with nearly anything. One of my friends who owns a Mark XX with a black dial uses it as his go to watch when the necessity for a Dinner Jacket arises!

However it is under the hood that this watch excels in all the technical details. The sapphire glass has anti reflective coating on both sides and is secured against a drop in air pressure (a typical requirements for perils of pilots). The movement (which is the most notable upgrade over its predecessor the Mark XVIII) is now in-house delivering 120 hours of power reserve; that’s 5 days to you and me! The aforementioned changes to the case proportions and water resistance – ensure all concerns of water ingress under normal conditions are dealt with.

Interestingly IWC uses pressure depths to signal its water resistance and the Mark XX is rated to 10 Bar – however in the manual on IWC’s website ‘10bar’ is not listed: 1,3,6,12,20,100 and 200bar are listed.

IWC have also invested in engineering a tool-less design for changing straps. Now bear with me here as I’m sure you will have already noted that many leather straps now come with quick release spring bars – and while these are incredibly useful, they are a solution to only half of the problem. What IWC has engineered has allowed them to create a secure mechanism that will mount to a standard spring bar and build this into the end links of their bracelets. They have then taken this same design and used it for the mounting mechanism of their leather straps. This is not only great for those who travel and want to be able to take a number of straps with them without tools and without the risk of scratching the underside of the watch, it means you can also take the same approach with the bracelet. One last benefit of this design is that it is inherently backwardly compatible with not only older IWC Pilots watches with a 20mm lug width, but also any other watch.

I took the opportunity to try this with my CWC Royal Navy divers watch which has welded bars. This normally prohibits the use of anything other than a NATO or pass-through strap. However, lo and behold – the IWC strap snapped into place perfectly, and released with the same ease!

The only criticisms that could be observed are that the design is typically implemented in monochromatic colour tone. The starkness of the black dial and white numerals is cold and lacks any level of warmth – however this is entirely expected for a watch that is designed with a singular purpose; legibility. IWC have released the Mark XX in a number of dial colours including a sunburst green seen here and a sunburst blue which definitely address that particular elephant in the room.

All round, the Mark XX is an understated, over-capable jack of all trades that packs a serious punch. It is easy to read, can be worn with nearly anything from a suit (or dinner Jacket) to pool-side attire and everything in between. In celebration of the 75 anniversary off the IWC Pilot’s watch, IWC have just released a new silver dial variant which is now available, however our favourite has to be the classic ‘Petit Prince’ combination of blue sunburst dial and brown leather strap which exudes a sense of colour, class and casualness that works so well with denim as well as a staple blue suit!

From the moment we arrived to our departing farewells, our time at Horwood House was exactly what we needed. The staff created a fantastic atmosphere and I’m sure in time we will take the opportunity to return when the opportunity arises. If you’re looking for a great place to relax and unwind for a couple of days, I would thoroughly recommend Horwood House. for more information, head over to www.horwoodhouse.co.uk

The IWC Pilot Mark XX is available in black, blue, green or now silver for £5,050 on leather or £5,700 on a steel bracelet. For more information or to purchase, please visit: www.iwc.com


Entrepreneur, philanthropist, technologist and watch collector, Ben is the founder of Wristworthy.

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