In the vast pantheon of watches, the aviator is a timeless paragon of virtue and class. Traditionally given to folks who fly in planes (hence the term “aviator”), these watches were larger than standard watches and often had big crowns for easy winding. The IWC Big Pilots Watch is a classic in the form, with the clear, legible numbers and top triangular noon pip.
But, like great paintings, watches often stray from form, and often with positive results. If the Big Pilots Watch is “Whistler’s Mother” then the Praesto Modern Fliegeruhr is Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans. At once this watch is an homage, a little work of art, and a sly dig at the stuffy establishment.
The watch was designed by Russ Schwenkler, a well-known 3D rendering artist, with input from various forums and individual collaborators. The case is made in Hong Kong and runs a 21-jewel automatic Japanese Miyota 8245 movement which keeps good time and is quite rugged.
The face is quite striking with minutes around the outer chapter ring and hours on an inside chapter ring. The hands match the rings perfectly, with the tip of the hour hand touching the outer edge of the black hours ring. I have the blue-faced model but they’re also selling a black PVD model.
The watches are available for pre-order now for about $480-530, depending on the various discounts.
I love small boutique watchmakers and I especially love dudes who love watches so much that they decide to make their own. Brands like Blancier and Bathys paved the way for folks like Praesto but convincing the market that one or more folks dedicated to the craft of watchmaking can definitely take on the big guys.
As for quality, I’d give the Fliegeruhr two thumbs up. The case is large and rugged – about 44mm wide in 316L steel – and the crystal is flat and nicely set. The watch is water resistant to 200 meters and comes with a thick leather band. The watch even comes packaged amazingly well and arrives in a little tool pouch that you can later use for your own tools (results may vary). The watch has a one-year warranty.
Generally, if you like the style, then get the watch. My only complaint is that the lume, while bright, is a bit sparse on the skeletonized hands and the numbers, also lumed, are a bit hard to see in the dark. This could be a problem in the pre-release run but also understand that we’re in the dead of winter so the lume has no time to recharge before it gets dark and the wolves come out.
Generally, however, I like the blue face, the workmanship, and the value for money. In a world where you can get a nice Seiko Monster for about $200, the price here may dissuade some. But if you want a unique, almost custom limited-edition watch for less than $500, this is something to consider.