Strap Decisions: Exploring New IWC Colored Rubber Straps and Pilot’s Watch Mark XX with Its EasX-CHANGE Strap System
You can be forgiven if you missed it, but in the summer of 2022, IWC Schaffhausen launched its new Pilot’s Watch Mark XX. Rather than shouting from the rooftops about it, the legendary Swiss watchmaker let a simple website update do the job of informing fans that a new Mark was in the air.
It was a fairly discreet move considering this is a pretty significant release. The Mark XX is a smart evolution of the brand’s Mark XVIII, itself inspired by IWC’s quintessential pilot’s watch, the Mark XI, made for the British Royal Air Force in 1948.
The new Mark XX takes all the qualities of the Mark XVIII – its high-contrast, easy-to-read dial, automatic movement, and 40mm wearability – and brings them all up a level or two.
On top of that, IWC has ensured the Mark XX features its proprietary EasX-CHANGE quick-change strap system so owners can have fun swapping out their straps and bracelets without needing additional tools.
The Watchonista team was lucky enough to go hands-on with all three dial variants of the Mark XX – black, blue, and green – as well as a range of IWC’s compatible, colorful plug-and-play straps to test the theory that a new strap really does make a new watch (or in this case, make a new watch even newer!).
Subtle Dial Upgrades
It was in July 2022 that the Schaffhausen-based brand revealed the first two Mark XX dial variants – matte black and sunburst blue – which were followed up in October by the release of a striking edition with a sunburst green dial.
Compared to the face of its forerunner, the Mark XVIII, the Mark XX’s dial features a few subtle improvements. The numerals and 12 o’clock triangular index are closer to the dial center. Moreover, the date window is now more neatly in alignment with the numerals and indices, which produces a more harmonious dial layout. All dial variants also now feature a white date disc.
Likewise, the lumed-filled stick indices at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock extend further inwards, enhancing their crosshair effect. The hour and minute hands, also lume-treated, are more prominently facetted.
Refined Case and New IWC-manufactured Movement
As for the Mark XX’s stainless steel case, while it retains the 40mm diameter of the Mark XVIII, it has been thinned down by 0.2mm to a height of 10.8mm. Its shorter lugs hug the wrist better, while the crown is larger and grippier. On top of that, we now have a water resistance rating worthy of a proper tool watch – 100 meters – 40 meters more than that offered by the Mark XX’s predecessor.
This svelter, more wearable case has been made possible thanks to a better, thinner movement on the inside. Rather than the Sellita-based 35111 calibre that powered the Mark XVIII, the Mark XX packs the IWC-manufactured 32111 calibre.
Quick-Change Strap System
If the Mark XX is technically and aesthetically the best Mark yet, it is also the most versatile since it is the first to feature IWC’s EasX-CHANGE quick-change strap system.
Thanks to a quick-release push-button mechanism on the underside of the strap or bracelet, it takes just seconds to swap out straps without the need for a spring bar tool and without the risk of marking the back of the lugs.
Unlike many quick-change systems, IWC’s setup sees the spring bar remain between the lugs rather than integrated into the strap. What’s more, is the pin buckle can also be swapped between straps by simply unclicking the pin and sliding out the small pin bar.
Strap Options Aplenty
The three Mark XX dial variants come on either a five-link steel bracelet (total price $6,150) or a calfskin strap (total price $5,250) that is black for the black-dialed edition, blue for the blue-dialed edition, and brown for the green-dialed version.
As you can see from our pictures, we enjoyed trying out a mix of the default calfskin straps as well as colorful, all-weather ergonomic rubber straps that are available as optional extras.
Priced at $280 each, these rubber straps are available in three sizes – XS, Standard, and XL – and eight eye-catching colors. Each hue lends a different feel to the overall ensemble, so you can easily switch between something stealthy and understated, autumnal and military, or summery and vibrant, depending on your mood.
And it should be noted that IWC has selected a really nice rubber material here: it is supple, smooth, and non-stick, and there is a textural consistency between each strap irrespective of its color.
The Mark XX pilot’s watch, with its default calfskin strap and steel bracelet options, is available now through IWC boutiques, authorized retail partners, or online. For more information on the watches and rubber strap options featured here, visit the IWC website.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)