What a machine!

STEINHART Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding pilot Watch

STEINHART Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding pilot Watch

In this day and age of digital everything … and I mean everything, it’s no surprise that the mechanical watch with its tactile craftsmanship is resurging rapidly. It doesn’t matter if you think of a watch as man’s greatest invention, a necessity, jewelry, or an accessory. There is no denying that a mechanical watch crams in so much of man’s history, from gemology and mechanical engineering to horology, that will hold a fascination for years to come.

Swiss watches are the undisputed king of watches for good reasons. Unless you’ve had the privilege of owning a Rolex, it’s difficult to explain why a superior watch is what it is. It’s a long process of crafting including engineering metallurgy parts to micrometer technology and making it tick seamlessly on you wrist.

Steinhart is a relatively new post millennium small German watch house. A realization of an architect to follow his passion and dream. He does a damned good job of it too. STEINHART Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding is a great example and a good entry to his work. It uses one of the most beautiful Swiss hand wind movements ever made. The Unitas 6497-1, that was acquired by ETA and later by the Swatch group who also gobbled up ETA, hence ETA Unitas 6497-1. It is a large movement that fits really well inside this large watch. None of those ugly small movements inside a large case with white plastic paddings around.

Craftsmanship of this watch is beyond belief and right up there, near my Rolex, Omega and Oris in feel. Durability though not proven yet, should be good. The steel case is no Rolex surgical grade steel, but the movement is well tested over the years in many different watches including Panerai.

This is a Pilot watch however, that is enjoying a huge comeback. There is a long debate about what exactly a pilot watch really is and there are much better and more informed definitions by far better horological experts and actual pilots (some of whom actually use digital Casio’s nowadays). For me however, it has to have three main characteristics:

  • Large and easy to read, with one instant glance, which often results in a larger than normal watch. That is what my wonderful iPhone doesn’t do yet
  • As above, but in the dark. In other words, must have very high degree of luminance, perhaps above diving watches. That’s another thing my wonderful iPhone doesn’t have, or the battery will be drained in no time
  • Must pay homage to WWII fighter Pilot watches, because that is what really attracts you to their appearance and why you’re reading this article

STEINHART Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding is a 44mm watch that is really 52mm lug to lug. There is a much larger and arguably truer version at 47mm too. Truer, because it’s larger and the pilots actually wore these over their uniform as an addition or backup to the instrument panel. Some original pilot watches were the evolution of pocket watches that had lugs.

STEINHART Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding in flesh is simply stunning and feels at least twice as expensive as it is. The company does direct sales from their website and I found the customer support very good. Current retail price is 311 EUR plus 19% VAT. But,  you won’t need to pay VAT if you’re outside EU. For the US, they do charge 30 EUR for FedEx shipping that made it to California in under 2 days! (Don’t be surprised if it is sold out!)

The basic spec. on Steinhart.com for this watch is:

Movement

ETA Unitas 6497-1, made in Switzerland

18,000 vibrations per hour

Geneva stripes 18 lines (in-house design)

Pink gold plated

Blued screws

Jewels: 17 jewels

Hour and minute blued with superluminova Bgw9, white

Second at 9

Case: Satin stainless steel

Back: Stainless steel screwed (see through window)

Diameter: 44 mm

height: 14,2 mm

Weight: 107 g

Dial: Black

Crystal: Sapphire, domed, with double anti-reflecting coatings on the interior side

Bezel: Stainless steel, satin

Indices: Arabian, superluminova Bgw9 white

Lug width: 22 mm

WaterRes: Limited water resistance, no swimming or shower

Strap: Russian leather brown 22 mm

Buckle: Stainless steel pin buckle OEM, 22 mm, screwed with logo

 

As I’m writing this review, the watch has not been wound for over 49 hours and it’s still going. Steinhart claims only around 43-46 hours, but I see better. My particular example is remarkably accurate and gains only 1 or 2 seconds per day against my atomic watches. With such low level of deviation, it is possible to learn which way to rest the watch at night, that will slow or speed it up just enough to make it close to spot on.

The onion crown is historically accurate and feels fantastic. Winding this watch is not a chore, it’s an aphrodisiac!

The thick leather strap is amongst the best there is.

You can easily dish out 10 times the amount for a similar fit and finish watch like an IWC that has been making pilot watches since 1930’s right till now.

STEINHART Nav B-Uhr is not without close competition. Laco was one of the original pilot watchmakers and they can get close to the cost of STEINHART Nav B-Uhr, but some are with Citizen movements. If you get a little higher in price and a little better on the luminance, Tourby is worth a look. And if you just want to wet your feet with a pilot watch, a Japanese Orient Pilot watch is a real mechanical gem for less than $150 and an in-house auto mechanical movement now owned by Seiko. But, don’t expect the same class. I’ll do a review of those pretty soon too. There are tens of other competitors before you even get started with the Chinese copies, some of which are actually pretty fine.

Of course I have to tell you what I don’t like. STEINHART Nav B-Uhr does not have a screw down crown. It would have been so easy to add it. Hell, even the cheap Orient has it. But, this is not a swim or dive watch. Still, I wear it in rain and while I wash my hands like a horse and I have no problems.

One of the most magnificent things about this watch is the display back. Just sit and enjoy looking at that movement and make dinner or coffee conversations about it. But, what does STEINHART do? They put a fantastic domed Sapphire Crystal on the face, as they should, but no doubt to save costs, they put a cheap, and I mean cheap sounding (almost plastic – but not) display mineral crystal round the back.

Overall, would I recommend the STEINHART Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding watch as your Pilot watch or an addition to your collection?

Hell, yes!

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