Mystery watch revealed, sort of...
I posted this pic of an IWC watch which I happened to discover. I thought it was lovely; it was the first IWC watch that I could see purchasing, owning, wearing. But from where did it come? And how? It was nowhere to be found on the IWC website. So began my investigations. I first called an IWC AD with whom I have a good relationship, only to be told he could find nothing about it from his IWC sales rep except it was not available for purchase. Not satisfied with that, I reached out to someone who was as high up in the chain as I figured I could access: the IWC boutique manager at the NYC Madison Ave shop.
I gave her the few details of the watch of which I was aware, namely the reference number, style/design, and official name. She had never heard of the watch, and she shared that the company had not distributed any material about the watch... she was clearly surprised to learn of this watch, obviously because she needs to know the product line first and foremost. Almost instantaneously, with the reference number, she was able to retrieve the watch picture and basic information on her IWC intranet. Yet there was no information regarding genesis, availability, where it was sold,... nothing. I asked her to write the home office and make inquiries about the watch, because I was most interested in it, would buy one if I could.
With her help, this is the story behind the watch, or part of it (as I have pieced it together), because, as I was told, part of the backstory is confidential.
The watch is reference number IW327008, "Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII Special Watch for Aviators/Andrew Thomas". Although I know it has a solid caseback, I have found no pictures of the caseback. It shares the brushed steel case, size and movement as the basic Mark XVIII (IW327001) and the hands of the Mark XVIII Tribute to Mark XI (IW327007), which encase IWC calibre 35111, a Sellita SW300-1 movement, except there is no date. Although this has not been confirmed to me, I highly suspect that the date wheel continues to spin under the dial, since I have no evidence that IWC has modified the movement and removed the date wheel. Notice that the reference number numerically follows that of the Mark XI tribute.
As for the dial, it is an explorer 3-6-9 type dial with 12 replaced by the pilot's style triangle flanked to two dots. Also, the arabic number font is the same as that found on the IWC 75th anniversary Portugieser hand wound 8 day steel watch (IW510205). I really liked that watch with sector-isn black dial and arabics at the poles, and had the opportunity to buy it, but passed, because I thought the 43mm case was too large and did not like the date cutting into the small seconds subdial.
All to say, this new watch, at 40mm, 10.8mm thick, 20mm lug width and nice brown calfskin Santoni strap had all the positives and none of negatives (No date!) of the aforementioned IWC pilot's and portugieser pieces. Sign me up! (Pics of all discussed watches attached for your reading/viewing pleasure).
But... who is Andrew Thomas and how did this watch come to be, but really not be, for me and basically anyone else?
(Dr.) Andrew Thomas (picture below) is head of medicinal Chemistry, Neuroscience, at Pharma Research and Early Development, Roche Innovation Center, in Basel, Switzerland. Born a Scotsman, he lives in Switzerland and is an avid supporter of both IWC and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, founded in 1999 by Daimler AG, and of which IWC Schaffhausen is now one of the foundation's global partners. One can read about Laureus by doing a simple web-search. IWC supports Laureus in various ways, most publicly by producing annual limited edition watches honoring/supporting Laureus. Between 2006 and 2016, IWC has produced ten such watches which one can read about on the IWC website. The number of each of these watches has varied, but one collector... yes, Dr. Andrew Thomas, has acquired one of each and every one of these limited edition watches. So clearly, this is at least one reason that he has cultivated a special relationship with IWC. Which brings us back to our initial question... how and why did the IW327008 come to be, and who was lucky enough to get one?
First, the IW327008 is not one the Laureus limited edition watches. Rather (and this is where the confidential bits are needed to fill in the missing pieces), the IW327008 was made in a limited run of 27 watches, all specifically for Andrew Thomas (possibly designed for him with parts on hand [mark xi hands, mark xviii case, to his desire, i.e. no date with explorer type modified pilot's style dial in black, existing sw300-1 movement) (in which case the only new part needed to be manufactured was the dial). I was told that all 27 pieces were pre-sold prior to production, and were manufactured for a special party/event either for or hosted by (or both?) Andrew Thomas himself.
So unless you attended that party, at which I assume the attendees were all given these special watches, you (and I) have little chance of ever acquiring one, unless of course one of those lucky recipients some day decide to sell it on the secondary market rather than give it away to another friend. Or maybe Dr. Thomas will read this, think of me, and send me his own, or possibly number 27 if he only has given away 25 of the other 26 so far.... fingers crossed!
Alas, the watch in unobtainable. At least in this precise form. Maybe, if I am lucky, IWC will take the design cues from this wonderful little basic watch (no date!!!) (explorer-type dial) (maybe a different yet still stylish font?) and produce a Mark Remarque version just for me. And a few others, I'll be generous with my creation. Maybe.
I hope you have appreciated my sleuthing of this little IWC under the radar curiosity.