Received my Flieger Klassik 40 a few weeks ago and wanted to share some photos and comments. Absolutely beautiful pilot watch, outstanding execution as has come to be expected from Stowa. Mine is the hand cranker version, no date, with logo. As I already own the Marine Original Blue LE I thought another manual wind would make a suitable complement for these classic designs. Understanding that the preference seems to be the logo-free dial I prefer seeing the brand on the dial, and as it's presented in charcoal gray it is very unobtrusive and in reality doesn't read as bright as in this detail shot.
The case design is crisp and clean with well textured and evenly applied brushing throughout. There is beauty in its simplicity, and at less than 11mm thick it is very comfortable on the wrist. Sitting proud of the case is the classic onion-shaped crown that is very easy to use for winding and time setting.
The caseback is unique in that is totally flat (with the manual wind) and makes the watch look even more compact.
This view makes it very easy to understand why I opted for the manual wind version Just beautiful finishing on the movement. It winds very smoothly, although I haven't checked the actual operating capacity. It runs faster than I would like (around +10spd) and given these are made to order in relatively small runs it would have been nice to have had a tighter adjustment. But this would be easily rectified by a local watchmaker.
While the wearability is excellent with this relatively thin 40mm case I will admit it took getting used to being an owner of primarily larger (42-44mm) watches. I actually thought the Klassik would have more presence owing to the black dial and narrow bezel, but because the Arabics are on an inner perimeter this serves to shrink the presentation a bit. This particularly evident when side-by-side with my MOBLE which, despite being only 1mm larger, looks much bigger as those big Arabics run the dial's outer perimeter. But the more I wear the Flieger Klassik the more I appreciate the size, but still would have preferred it in 41mm or 42mm (yes, I understand there is the 43mm Klassik Sport but that is a very different watch.) In its current form the Flieger Klassik 40 is timeless.
The highlight of the dial is of course the true heat-blued hands. I despise lacquered blue and can see them a mile away. Nothing compares to the tempered blue that presents perfectly even in tone, has a muted while still rich color, and can run the gamut from black to vivid blue. The sword shape is razor sharp and legibility is absolute.
That said, an area where Stowa really needs to improve is their anti-reflective treatments. The sapphire crystals on both the Flieger Klassik and MOBLE are reflection magnets which actually impairs visibility of the dial. For the Klassik where the hands flash the most light so too do errant reflections.
The Flieger Klassik 40 ships on a traditional aviator-style riveted leather strap (your choice of black or light brown.) Definitely period appropriate, although it took some time for me to warm to it. It is very well constructed and of high quality, very soft, excellent hardware. Strangely the buckle is 19mm so my hope to repurpose it on other straps was dashed. As this is my only 20mm lug width watch I needed to start pretty much from scratch and have been acquiring other straps. Here's what I have so far...
WatchGecko Old Chester...
ToxicNATO's Shiznit Navy...
I have some others en route, couple I haven't picture here yet. There are a couple of Haveston NATO's that I'm checking out having really liked how well they work on my MOBLE...
An interesting comparison can be made to another great pilot from this era...the IWC Mark XVIII. On its face this might seem absurd as the Mark XVIII retails for almost 4x the Stowa. But there is arguably more in common between them, which underscores the insane value the Flieger Klassik 40 brings to the table.
IWC is unquestionably an upper tier luxury brand with extensive history and respect in the industry. But it is well known that both IWC and Stowa were among the five watch companies contracted by the German airforce to produce pilot watches to spec in WWII. Watch Guys are suckers for a back story and Stowa brings legitimate history to the table.
Both the Klassik 40 and Mark XVIII share very similar case designs with traditional lines and the same 40mm diameter. I have tried the IWC and they sit on the wrist the same way. Likewise the quality of the brushing on both is at a very high level. Where the IWC trumps Stowa is the beautifully fine polished ribbon that runs the length of the case from lug-to-lug and around the bezel. Very sophisticated that ups the flexibility of wear. On the backside the IWC has a very well execute relief on a solid back compared to Stowa's exhibition window. This is a subjective preference, but the IWC takes the technical advantage for anti-magnetic shielding.
Almost identical dial designs which is no surprise given their shared heritage. Slightly more utilitarian typeface on the Stowa. The Stowa dial gets the win here for both clean presentation (no date window, minimal text) and the heat-blued hands are outstanding.
The Mark XVIII sports a tuned ETA 2892 under the hood if I recall. A fine, well-established movement but also something that can be found on much cheaper watches. The choice of auto for the Flieger Klassik is Top Grade and well finished so no slouch, although doubt it is set up for the same level of accuracy. And I prefer the manual wind ETA to both.
Overall Package, Fit & Finish
The IWC XVIII is an IWC. 'Nuff said. The Klassik 40 is cleanly executed in every respect although could benefit from better AR coating. Packaging is more utilitarian but that is reflected in the price. Really nothing that leaves me wanting.
The Klassik 40 is not a Mark XVIII nor does it strive to be nor does it need to be. What it does provide is a fantastic and legitimate pilot watch that has excellent wearability, fit and finish. Highly recommended for those looking to scratch a pilot itch.
Providing some more information on the manual wind ETA 2804-2. My limited understanding of the lineage for this movement is that the 2804-2 is essentially the 2824-2 without the automatic rotor assembly. There is a date mechanism with the 2804-2 (2801-2 is without) but I presume that in the interest of reducing supply/manufacturing burden Stowa opted to source just the one regardless of dial choice (with or without date); the same manual movement caliber is listed for both versions. With the Flieger Klassik 40 the Top Grade 2824-2 is used in the auto version but I don't know if that also grade also translates to the manual 2804. The 2804 shares the same core specs as the 2824-2 with a 28,800bph (4Hz) rate along with hacking seconds.
As noted above Stowa does a very nice job finishing the movement. Below is what appears to the base 2804-2 (photo courtesy of the interwebs)...
In contrast the finished 2804-2 in the Klassik 40 (photo courtesy of Stowa)...
The striping is crisp as is the engraved (and filled) Stowa logo.
I also measured the accuracy of my reference using the Hairspring iOS app. Given some care it does a reasonable job at least for this purpose. I tape the mic over the balance and cover the watch, letting the measurement run for a while to average some error and taken in multiple positions. Shakes out as follows...
That averages out to just shy of +8spd with a maximum deviation of +10.9spd and maximum positional variance of 7 seconds. Best performance (and thus resting position) is crown up with a very reasonable +3.9spd. This is taken with a full wind and will lose accuracy over time courtesy of physics and constant force. I don't have the motivation to check at different intervals but if I have a change of heart will update here. Overcoming constant force takes you into a dramatically different realm of watch. This is where an auto has an advantage to keep up a full wind during the course of wear.
Rated accuracy for this series is +/-12spd with maximum positional variance of 30 seconds for base/standard grade so I'm running well within those specs. The Top Grade 2824-2 tightens those tolerances to +/-4spd with maximum positional variance of 15 seconds. There is nothing on the Stowa site to indicate the grade is equivalent for both the manual and auto movements and given what I'm measuring reality agrees. If I were really concerned a quick trip to my local watchmaker would have this running within COSC specifications in multiple positions as it's a very standard and easily accessible movement.
I would recommend the manual wind version if you want a bit more historical caché and appreciate the beauty of a wide open movement (the upcharge is a nominal US$20). If you don't want to deal with having to wind yourself or want the Top Grade option go with the auto. Either way you're dealing with a tried and true movement that will be easily serviceable down the road.
Measurements are included on the Stowa site but including them here for reference:
Case Diameter: 40mm (43.7mm including crown)
Lug Width: 20mm
Thickness: 9.1mm (the website spec of 10.2mm must be for the automatic version with a thicker back to accommodate the rotor)
Weight is a trivial 69g/2.4oz on included aviator leather strap. In contrast, the Magrette Moana Pacific Professional Kara that I'm wearing as I type this comes in at 132g on rubber – almost twice the weight – despite the titanium case. Granted these are entirely different watches in every respect but the comparison is offered for perspective. The Flieger Klassik 40 pretty much disappears on your wrist.