The Big Pilot style of watch has been around since the 1940’s, when the Luftwaffe pilots were supplied with Beobachtungsuhr (B-Uhr) watches. Since then, the style has barely changed at all – a fact that proves that classic design cannot age. The only thing is the slight downsizing from 55mm to a slightly more wrist friendly 47mm or thereabouts. Can you think of much else that still looks this good over 70 years on?! A fantastic job of whoever was the legendary designer. To this day, no one can actually claim credit for the design as 5 companies were commissioned to build them at once – A. Lange and Sohn, Laco, Stowa, IWC and Wempe by the German government. I guess this is the reason so many Big Pilot watch homages are out there.
I decided to try out a simple Big Pilot homage. It was on my list of “I must buy one to try it out, just because”. You cannot really say that you are an avid watch collector if you have not had a B-Uhr in your hands at least once.
This is a link to the exact one I got from Manbushijie:
Apart from being ripped off with $25 postage, I was happy with the overall transaction. It took a week to arrive. It was held in customs for a couple of days, but went though all ok.
I decided on the grey dial, because firstly I haven’t seen many this colour around, and that it looks slightly softer than a large lumpy black dialled watch sitting on your wrist. I was happy with my decision.
The lume is non-existent. But, I like how it is a creamy colour – almost “vintage”. This off colour works well with the grey dial. It is classic big pilot styling, with the hour numbers all around the dial bar 12, 9, 6 and 3. The 12 marker is not a number, but rather a triangle and 2 dots either side of the top point. There are various views on the origin of this, one is that the original B-Uhrs didn’t have hour numbers, but rather batons, so obviously 12 needed to be different. Another reason is that when using the watch as a compass, the 12 would act as a point to N. Either way, it is good design. The seconds at 9 dial is a little different to the usual Big Pilots. It has a concentric circle pattern in the dial, and the 60 seconds marker is written in red. A nice little way of getting some colour in the dial, albeit a tiny amount.
Everything on the dial is very well printed, and the hands are flawless, very well machined considering the price. Even the very small numbers printed in the seconds dial are perfect.
The 47mm case has some slightly sharp edges, but they don’t really bother me. It is all brushed, which is the cheapest way to finish stainless steel. Apparently the bezel is polished, but I can’t see it. It is made with 316L stainless steel.
The dial is mineral crystal, and you can see a blue sheen if you hit the light right – a thin layer of anti-reflective coating. Hopefully on the underside so it doesn’t get scratched off! It is ever so slightly domed.
The case back has a large mineral crystal so you can see the movement.
The classic onion crown is very well made, with very good grip. Thankfully it is not roughly machined so changing the time and winding the watch doesn’t rub your fingers! The very end of the crown is the only part of the watch which is polished.
The strap is very comfortable. You barely even notice you are wearing the watch! The underneath is so soft, when you are wearing you don’t get any rub or discomfort, which is great for the size of the watch. The strap is very thick leather too, roughly 4mm. I like the tan colour, matched with the cream stitching. The tang buckle is large, and is all polished.
It is powered by the workhorse that is the 17 Jewel Asian 6497 movement. Looks good, apart from the guilloche in places seems a bit rough, but only when you really look hard at it. It is dead easy to work, when the crown is in, you can twist it and wind it up, then pull it out and set the time. That’s it. Not amazing time keeping, but easily adjusted using the swan neck. It runs at 21,600 beats per hour – that’s 6 ticks per second.
I think for the price, and if this particular style appeals to you, I would definitely recommend one of these Big Pilot homage watches. It has impressive wrist presence, and I like how surprisingly comfortable it sits. One word of warning though – if you wear your watches on your left hand, be careful of the crown jabbing into your hand when you pull your hand up!
I hope this brief review will come in handy for people considering one of these! Some more pics below.