The Dirty Dozen. During the 40s, towards the tail-end of World War II, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) made custom orders from 12 manufacturers in Switzerland for military spec watches to equip its soldiers. Amongst them, were brands such as IWC, Longines and Jaeger-LeCoultre and they had to follow the strict specifications set out by the MoD.
The watches needed to have a black dial with Arabic numerals, to be waterproof and luminous, regulated to a chronometer level and composed of a rugged stainless steel case. Furthermore, they had to have fixed bars, have a broad arrow on the dial, signifying that it was property of the government and also on the case back which included other government serial numbers. Nicknamed the ‘Dirty Dozen’ by collectors, they were officially set out by the MoD as W.W.Ws, standing for ‘Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof’. The result was a group of 12 watches, that embodied the very idea of ‘purpose-built’, and it doesn’t get any more utilitarian than this.
The IWC is one of the rarest and most sought after of the Dozen. With an estimated 5000-6000 pieces made, it is alongside the Eterna, the second rarest. Do note, that these are production numbers of watches that went into action and I would assume that most have been destroyed or in horrible condition. Compared to it’s more popular Mk 11 younger sibling, the W.W.W. is much harder to find. It is important to note that calling it the Mark X is a misnomer and was never named this. The correct name would simply be the IWC W.W.W.
Interestingly, the IWC W.W.W. was the only watch in the Dirty Dozen that featured a snapback case back. As to why this was the case is a mystery, as it would seem logical that soldiers needed screw back waterproof timepieces. That being said, this is one of the tightest snapbacks I’ve come across, and opening it is no easy task- I would certainly assume in order to be able to meet the MoD demands.