Friday, 25 July 2008

Beobachtungs-Uhren ... & a cool flieger hommage watch

Before I go into the review proper of a really cool watch and something that is good value for money... i would like to provide a some definitions and personal views first...


Replica (fake) - What tries to be a copy of a real watch. (You should know what this refers to)

Replica (copy) - Identical enough to a current/recent production watch that make people who notice it wonder/ask if it's a watch from the original brand eg. Pam 249 and the army of clones and of other Panerai clones across their models. A Rolex lookalike with a different brand on the dial eg. Sandoz and (sadly) Debaufre's Rolex Submariners lookalikes. RXW and their marina militaires and their other Panerai replicas NOT hommages.

Hommage - a copy or highly identical watch of a non-current production watch. Typically the original should be a watch available some time back(several decades would be good) and must not be in recent productions, even for up to 10 or more years back, from a watch brand(s) that has any kind of official rights to it.

In my books, hommages are fine but replicas, outright fakes or copies, are rubbish but the line can be pretty thin of course.

Hommage to Replica

For eg. if someone were to issue hommage Italian military dive watches in the 1980s before panerai was big and did their own hommages to the Kampschwimmers than that would be alright(i think). But once panerai became big and did the 127, 217, 232s and 249s, all other watch companies who then make hommages to the kamp, MM, and other similar old school italian military dive watch styles, capitalising on what panerai has done, are just making replicas and they then suck BIGTIME (imho).


Replica(fake) watch wearers ... U need help

The bottom of the food chain is the people who wear watches that are total replicas/fakes. If you can't get the original than be smart and don't wear the fake. The worst kind of #@!%@^# is the kind that says 'I have the money to buy the original but I don't see the need so I just get this.' or spends on a collection of fakes that could have gotten them several decent real watches instead. If I begin criticising these @#!* I would probably not stop ranting for awhile... please go for replica rehab, realise the error of your ways and buy original watches.

The Brand at Hand

Debaufre then makes a fair number of replica(copy) watches. Eg. their Ocean-1 is a copy of the Rolex Sub and their GMT is a copy of the Rolex GMT... sigh So its not looking good but there may still be hope...


It comes in the form of a Beobachtungs-Uhren watch which has its origins in World War II (end of 1930s-mid 40s). It was a war aviator's watch for the German Luftwaffe or German aerial fighting unit then. The original watch is 55mm which is far too big, so Steinhart/Debaufre (pronounced day-boh-fray as per their site) has wisely chosen to offer 44mm and 48mm versions of it with different movements and minor variations to dial, crown and creating different series of limited and regular editions across their 2 brands. I would rather they didn't use the 'limited' moniker and then reissue a watch that is close to identical to one of their other limiteds in a regular or limited version. It can get pretty confusing after awhile.



but back to the watch... it is really quite impressive for what its supposed to be, which is a hommage to the the B-Uhr. It should be big, with an uncluttered no-nonsense dial with a rugged aesthetic and this, the debaufre nav-b limited edition delivers in spades.


If u talk to brand conscious WIS and you mention pilots watch, their thoughts immediately go to IWC and as big watches are in (at least still for now), the Big Pilot comes to mind. IWC also has several ranges of pilots watches in the Mark series, the 3717 range and the LEs. Back to the BP then... its a handsome watch in the older dial but its got too much stuff on it. it has the brand, date and power reserve. it basically is a not so great hommage to the IWC 52SC with all the clutter on the dial which is what the Nav-B is a hommage to. so in comparison then, this Nav-B LE totally works.


Watch factors
  • Size – Dimensions are (48mm (54mm with crown) * 56.5mm * 15mm) Works great for my 7+” wrist. it sits well and the crown digs in only when i bend my hand back
  • Case Construction quality – Standard 316L stainless steel. no nicks or cuts out from the box. Polished 3mm around the bezel and brushed stainless case combo works well.
  • Case back – normal solid metal caseback. It should be solid back as if its clear, you would be staring at a gawdawful metal spacer and smallish eta 2892-2 for this size watch.
  • Crystal – curved sapphire and supposed ar coating on one side
  • Aesthetic – Clutter free dial. Simplistic design, clean and bold. No unnecessary date, power reserve indicators etc. No unnecessary brand, logos, wordings. True to what most would say is the definitive beobachstung-uhr look except for the size which is 48mm vs original 55mm or wearable size vs unwearable. Anything above 50mm is a joke unless you are built like Arnuld. Rugged looking due to its WWII history(well except for the polished bit which is rectifiable if you want it all brushed or bead blasted etc)
  • Dial – no printing irregularities under higher magnification. lume application not the best though. uneven in one main part (the 12 o'clock triangle) and not applied fully over the printed numeral for some of the numbers. Proportion of the numerals to the dial size is excellent and its of course very easy to read the time
  • Hands – cut and quality is alright. under higher magnification there are light marks on it but you can't see them with the naked eye. alignment is fine. the blue of the hands is a bit dark but ok. under stronger light or at certain angles, the color looks how it should look all the time.
  • Crown – easy to grip and not sharp. good size relative to the watch and complements it perfectly.
  • Lume quality – Brightness - good. Endurance - ok. well see for yourself
Lume me up baby... LED power to the contenders...
the Nav-B LE and the PAM 111 (nuthin beats the lume on this so far)

after 5mins of charge... this is the level of glow at the start

after 5mins in a totally dark place... hard to make out the numerals on the nav-b

after 30mins... luminance is almost gone. picture was taken with reduced ISO...

  • Strap, color and quality – 2 straps came with this. Black and marone old vintage which I requested for. the black is ok but the marone shines. they are both meaty and substantial straps and decent lengths. I swapped out the black to the marone once i got it and put on a deployant :) just my preference. the buckle that comes with the watch is done well enough.
  • Movement – didn't have time to do an accuracy test but it has the eta 2892-2 workhorse so it shouldn't be that far off. will do the test some other time. Winding is smooth. Rotor is not too loud and no Valjoux wobble (as found in the 7750). Should it come with a handwind movement eg. unitas 6497 which is a better size for this and handwinding being more close to the original? Doesn't really matter imo. metal spacer ring for the huge amount of space between the movement and case size. Another great thing about this is that any watchmaker can service this for not much $ which is cool
Additional factors:
  • Presentation box and papers - box is good quality for the price. Nice wood and decent construction but strong glue smell(as someone else noted) but it totally doesn't matter as I am not inhaling the box. The metal plate has the LE number on it.Paper has LE number and is dated. Instructions on the movements within and some co. literature/cards
  • Customer service – Reasonable. They were prompt in reverts but some minor miscommunication at times but these were easily clarified.
  • Shipping time – Excellent. I had informed them of the urgency as I was moving and they sent it out express.
  • Brand – the brand is not strong (see comments above) but i wouldn't think too much about it though as it's meant to be a fun piece to own. From an aesthetics standpoint, I think it holds itself up better than the a lot of fliegers costing a whole lot more
  • Exclusivity – This is a bit of a question mark as noted before. Steinhart and Debaufre seem to come out with regular B-Uhr hommages in different sizes, dial designs, movements, crown types and make them limited or regular editions.

Conclusion: I rate this watch highly. Its well built and looks the part. A good timepiece for the price and recommended if brand is not a key factor in your watch purchase decision and you want a good hommage to the B-Uhr or a cool flieger watch.



Stefano said...

Great looking watch, Raph!

I've always loved those big pilot watches and this one looks great, clean dial and huge crown. Marks of a classic pilot watch.


raphmeister said...

Thanks Stefano. I think its a great piece too. it actually makes me realise that there are many companies that have extremely overpriced watches for those with basic ETA movements.

hmm sounds like another post coming up on that point :)

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