For some watch makers, the term 'Mark' is used so infrequently, that when a new version is issued, the fanfare is akin to that which might accompany a coronation. (they are about as frequent too) For other watch manufacturers the rotation of designs and upgrades are so regular they can barely keep up with a coherent naming convention and the term 'Mark' in that instance becomes largely meaningless.
I've always thought it's a sign of a relative lack of confidence for a company to make so many upgrades and changes on such a regular basis. Almost as if they are searching for their own zeitgeist. It makes owning one their watches as a potential investment piece for a serious collector almost impossible to gauge. No sooner do you have a watch in your possession than the company in question has a new version in the market place, at which point they strive to tell you why it's so much better than the one you've just invested your hard earned cash into. Not for me.
A 'Mark' upgrade for me has to be something that evolves as a result of years of circulation, countless reviews, user feedback, technological advancement and perhaps cultural changes. So when Rolex upgrades its Submariner, regardless of what you might think of those changes, you can be certain the company has taken its time to consider every aspect of the new version and why they felt the need to do it. You might not like it! But you can't argue it's impetuous!
Which brings me to the subject of my own favourite marks. I've chosen three here which are personal favourites.
This Omega Speedmaster Mk III with its unique blue dial was a real departure for the company at the time and was introduced in the early 1970’s, intended as a bold statement moving away from the more subtle Speedmaster MK II Professional chronograph, which replaced the original and iconic moon watch (although all three models remained in the range until the late 1970’s and the moon watch has never left the range).
The MK III was the first Speedmaster Professional to be equipped with an automatic chronograph movement, the calibre 1040, which went on to form the basis of Omegas Chronograph range in various guises right up until the late 1990’s. It is a remarkable piece of engineering and was designed to have the same Professional application durability as the watch itself.
The MK III is an amazing piece of design, and the striking blue dial is among the hardest to find and most sort after variants of this model.
Mentioning Rolex earlier brought to mind one of the great ranges which anchored this amazing brand, the Explorer. Introduced in 1971 the Explorer MK11 was purposely made for a select sporting group of speleologists (or cave explorers to you and I ) Now, I have to confess I am not sure who at Rolex thought that was a great gap in the market but needless to say the watch was not generally well received when it was launched. That is almost certainly the sign of a great brand challenging its base of devotees. When you don't change a watch for decades, then don't be surprised if your brand advocates rebel! If we could go back in time and hoover up all those unsold MkII's then we'd make s serious killing now, so popular have these watches become.
The third watch in this particular triptych of famous marks is perhaps the less well known amongst the three, but it is a watch I personally find intriguing and unique.
The Omega Flightmaster was developed in the late 1960’s by Omega for the use of commercial pilots. One Omega advert from the period actually states " we made a watch for the man up front in a Boeing "This watch was designed to allow the wearer to view the time in two separate zones instantly”.
The Flightmaster was introduced in two executions, the first running calibre 910 with a plexi crystal, the second running the cal 911, this example is the latter second generation offers the improved calibre 911 hand wound chronograph movement which is recognized easily as it moves the seconds dial to 9 o'clock position and also by the improved anti reflective and anti abrasive flat tempered mineral crystal.
I also think it looks absolutely wonderful and presents a very distinctive and different feel to other watches of the same 1970's era.
These are all watches that I believe illustrate the real value of an upgrade to a new 'Mark'. The result of improvements in technology, the pursuit of tool watches to enhance user experience and the appliance of years of knowledge from use and feedback. That's the kind of heritage you really want in a watch. Especially if you are looking for something that will not only give you years of wearing pleasure but also a secure financial investment for the future.