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A Pilot’s dilemma

Angus Davies reviews the Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches. In his article he shares his love for classic Pilot’s watches.

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

 

I have always had a love of the classic Pilot’s watch, an instrument born out of absolute necessity, to aid the navigation of a plane.

 

Historic pilot watches – The „Gro?e Fliegeruhr

The „Gro?e Fliegeruhr” was a military issue watch for use by Aviators. The large cased watches were referred to as  „B-Uhr” or “Beobachtungsuhr” (Observation Watch).

 

This specification of watch supplied to the Luftwaffe was dictated by the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium), the German Ministry of Aviation (the RLM operated from 1933 – 1945).

 

Five manufacturers made watches to the specification dictated by the RLM; Lange & Söhne, Laco (Lacher & Co), Stowa (Walter Storz), Wempe and IWC.

 

The watches had a case diameter of 55mm, were marked on the back with FL23883 and were equipped with large winding crowns to facilitate operation whilst wearing gloves.

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

 

Additional features included a hacking movement (ability to stop the second hand when pulling out the crown), Breguet balance spring, chronometer certification and a long leather strap to allow the watch to be worn over a flying suit.

 

The strap typically featured two decorative rivets on each side, near the shoulders of the watch case (four in total).

 

The watch was fitted with an anti-magnetic casing to protect the movement against magnetic fields.

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator watches – an evolution not revolution

Glashütte Original were not one of original manufacturers who made watches to the RLM specification, however, they have presented us with a range of models that offer similar features to the original large cased models worn in combat.

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

 

The Glashütte Original Senator Navigator watches feature a triangular shaped index at 12 O’clock with two dots either side which dates back to the original specification dictated by the RLM.

 

The hacking movement of the original Gro?e Fliegeruhr was necessary to synchronise the watch precisely. The second hand would stop when the crown was pulled out. Glashütte Original have refined the idea by providing a reset mechanism, a push corrector located at 8 o’clock. This is an evolution which may irritate some purists but I prefer it as it proves more user-friendly.

 

The padded strap is brown calf skin, double sewn, with a light patina to provide a slightly distressed appearance. A pin buckle is faithful to the original and the subtle padding affords comfort to the wearer’s wrist.

 

Legibility was always a key attribute of the original Pilot watches, especially in fading light. The Arabic numerals, matte black dial, large indices and blued hands all work in unison, delivering a clarity which is obvious to see. However, Superluminova provides a greater luminescence than the original RLM specification watches would have enjoyed and underscores the constant pursuit of perfection typified by this German Manufacture.

 

Variations on a theme

There are several models within the Glashütte Original Senator Navigator range but my attention is drawn to two models;

 

  • Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Automatic
  • Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Panorama Date

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Automatic

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

The original RLM specification had large hour markers on the dial as flying missions were measured in hours. Towards the latter part of the 1930’s some shorter flying missions made minutes more relevant than hours, hence a large outer scale was used for showing minutes with a smaller inner scale imparting hours.

 

The simple, uncluttered appearance of the Glashütte Original Senator Navigator works well and conveys the information required by its keeper.

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Panorama Date

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

 

The Navigator Panorama Date, features a date window at 4 o’clock, but typical of watches from Glashütte Original, the date is delivered by two independent disks which work seamlessly to provide the whole date in one aperture.

 

The dial features hour markers on the outer circumference unlike the Senator Navigator and there is an absence of the smaller inner scale of the non-date model.

 

Calibre 100

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

 

The Calibre 100 features in both models. It has a power reserve of 55 hours, is self-winding and has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz).

 

All Glashütte Original Navigator models feature sapphire backs, rather than the traditional solid case back. This is a small deviation from tradition and may anger purists, but in my humble, subjective opinion it enhances the offering.

 

Why you may ask do I need to see the Calibre within? Glashütte Original make beautiful movements in their own Manufactory which should be admired closely. Consider the details: Glashütte ribbing; screw balance with 18 weighted gold screws; 21 carat oscillating weight; three-quarter plate made of brass. The calibre 100-09 has 36 jewels, whilst the calibre 100-03 has 51 jewels.

 

I crave to see inside the case as I know inside, resides a beauty which should be enjoyed by the wearer not merely the watchmaker.

 

Conclusion

I often struggle with decisions when it means I have to choose one timepiece in favour of another I equally admire.

 

The two Glashütte models present me with a dilemma; which model would I select?

 

Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Pilot watches

 

I think at this snap-shot in time the it would probably be the Senator Navigator Panorama Date, but ask again tomorrow and I may have vacillated in favour of the Senator Navigator.

 

One thing is certain, either watch will meet the needs of any pilot and provide its wearer with faithful service for many years to come.

 

Technical Specifications

 

  • Model: Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Automatic
  • Model reference: 100-09-07-05-04
  • Case: stainless steel, sapphire crystal (front and back), diameter 44mm, height 13.9mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and reset function for seconds display
  • Dial: Matte black, inlayed with Superluminova, blued hands inlayed with Superluminova
  • Movement: Calibre 100, self-winding, 55 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph, 36 jewels
  • Strap:  Calfskin leather strap with buckle in stainless steel

 

  • Model: Glashütte Original Senator Navigator Panorama Date
  • Model reference: 100-03-07-05-04
  • Case: stainless steel, sapphire crystal (front and back), diameter 44mm, height 13.9mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, Panorama date and reset function for seconds display
  • Dial: Matte black, inlayed with Superluminova, blued hands inlayed with Superluminova
  • Movement: Calibre 100, self-winding, 55 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph, 51 jewels
  • Strap:  Calfskin leather strap with buckle in stainless steel

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