Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review of Steinhart Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding Bronze Pilot


Model # F0320


Brand/Model:  Steinhart Nav B-Uhr 44 Handwinding Bronze Pilot
Movement:   Swiss manual wind
Material:  bronze case with stainless steel display back, leather strap with bronze buckle
Complications:  none
Price:  MSRP about $443 USD (no VAT)


Plenty of photos follow the review. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

This is the second Steinhart watch I have reviewed on this blog and the fourth Steinhart watch I have owned (I currently own three Steinharts thanks to a buying spree early this year).  Some people think Steinhart only makes homage-style watches, which is not true.  Yes, some of their designs resemble more famous makes, but many of their designs are their own and not imitations of other brands.  One thing is certain, though:  Steinhart delivers tremendous value to the watch collector.

G√ľnter Steinhart runs his small watch company from Stadtbergen, Germany and pretty much only sells direct via the Internet.  He does have a number of distributors placed throughout the world, but none in the United States.  But when you order a Steinhart from the states, you don’t pay any VAT (value added tax as in Europe) so that amounts to a nice cost savings. 

You probably will have to pay a duty bill from the shipper, which usually runs about $25 USD depending on the value of the watch or watches you purchased, but since you’re buying direct from the manufacturer, the money you save is still substantial and helps make Steinhart watches the value proposition I mentioned earlier.

Another nice thing about Steinhart watches and perhaps the strongest reason the value is so great is that all Steinhart timepieces are Swiss Made in Jura and carry Swiss movements, mostly ETAs but some with Steinhart’s own newly developed caliber and others with Soprod movements.

What I appreciate is Steinhart’s upfront attitude about their watches; they give you all the information you need to know about the movements, cases, etc. without glossing over or resorting to puffery to describe their watches or being mysterious about the origins of the movements or other parts of the watch.  This no-nonsense approach has made me a believer in their products as well as a loyal customer.

The bronze pilot being reviewed here wasn’t really on my radar until a close WIS friend of mine bought one and turned me onto it.  The design is undeniably classic, with the added allure of the somewhat trendy bronze case.  Bronze as a case material hit the watch market about two or three years ago, when suddenly a myriad of watch companies started producing watches with cases made of bronze.  I’m no real fan of ‘gold’ tone watches, but bronze isn’t gold and doesn’t quite look the same. 

Bronze is an alloy consisting mainly of copper and tin or certain other alloys with a copper base.  The attraction to some people of the bronze cases is that they will develop a patina on their own that will vary from watch to watch and person to person and it’s this natural patina that people seem to like.  I recall some posts on the watch forums where people where inducing the patina through other means, speeding up the process by chemical action (eggs, I do remember) but that seems extreme to me.  Just let it age naturally and create its own patina.

While the bronze craze may be subsiding a bit, this is by no means to say it’s a complete flash-in-the-pan.  This case material is unique and can be a nice addition to any collection.

The Steinhart Nav B-Uhr bronze pilot starts with a full solid bronze case, bronze bezel and bronze crown that is brushed or ‘satined’ according to Steinhart.  The case measures 44mm without the large machined crown; 49.2mm crown inclusive.  The crown itself measures 8.3mm in diameter.  Steinhart lists the weight of this watch at 107 grams.

Lug width is 22mm, case thickness is 14.3mm and lug-tip to lug-tip (height) is 52.8mm.  Yes, this is a large watch, but it is not so large as to be unwearable.  It looks fantastic and is easy to read at a glance, which counts for a lot in watch design.

The screwdown caseback is a display type and is stainless steel, not sure why they didn’t make it bronze, except that maybe bronze would interact too much with a person’s skin, oils or perspiration.

Overall fit and finish on this watch is superb and it really exudes a look and feel of quality.  And double check that price!  Yes, it’s a LOT of watch for the money.

One thing the Steinhart Nav B-Uhr bronze pilot is not made for is swimming, as it has a very modest 3 atm water resistance rating, which Steinhart calls ‘limited water resistance, no swimming or shower.’  Okay, I think I can live with that.

The dial on the Steinhart bronze pilot is stellar, a beautiful grey sunburst design (Steinhart says ‘metallic grey with sunburst brushing’).  The hands are brushed gold tone with inset lume.  Being a ‘nine-eater’ dial layout, the seconds subdial is at the nine position and also has a brushed gold tone hand with inset lume. 

Both the markers and the arabics are printed on the dial and are luminous.  All lume on this watch is Superluminova Bgw9 ‘white’ which is actually the cool ice blue lume shade many of us are familiar with.  Lume quality is very good.

The dial has minimal printing, which I greatly appreciate.  Below the 12 position is a small Steinhart logo and the name ‘Steinhart.’  Other than a small ‘Swiss Made’ below the 6 position, that is it for dial nomenclature.  Clean!

Capping the dial is a slightly domed sapphire crystal with double anti-reflective coating on the inside (a nice touch), set into the fixed bronze bezel that is pressed into the case.  Presumably, the see-through caseback is a mineral crystal.

What I like most about this Steinhart Nav B-Uhr bronze pilot is the beautifully decorated ETA Unitas 6497-1 Swiss Made manual wind movement.  Tried and true and much beloved, this movement is a fixture in many a manual wind pilot watch and other large-face watch designs.  With 17 jewels, this movement beats at a gentle 18,000 vph and works perfectly.  It’d be nice if this movement hacked, but alas, it does not.  No real demerits for the lack of this feature, though.

The Unitas 6497 inside the bronze pilot is a top-grade and highly decorated model with Geneva stripes and blued screws finished with a stunning anthracite plating (grey) which matches the dial color to a degree.  It’s a joy to behold through the display caseback.

Performance of this beautiful movement has been as expected, with a long 49-3/4 hour power reserve on a single winding, with accuracy clocking in at +2 seconds over 24 hours in the crown up position.  The watch winds and sets without a problem.  No complaints here.

The strap on the bronze pilot is described on Steinhart’s web site as ‘Russian leather’ but the strap that came on my watch is slightly different than the one pictured, but not a downgrade or reason to quibble. 

The strap is a well-padded medium brown suede leather strap with contrast stitching and a black leather liner.  The strap measures 22mm at the lugs and does not taper to the signed bronze buckle.  The buckle has a screwed pin that affixes it to the strap, another small but quality touch.  The strap has two keepers, one fixed and one floating.

The strap looks smashing with the bronze case and is of a very high quality, fitting the rest of the watch perfectly in theme and style. It’s a bit stiff, but should loosen up over time.

Presentation is standard Steinhart, with a white outer cardboard two-piece box and a padded black inner box with the warranty card and instructions.  Nothing over-the-top or cheap, just pretty standard fare.

Each time I have ordered from Steinhart, I have found their service to be prompt and efficient.  The watches have come from Germany in about a week’s time from placing the order and are usually sent two-day FedEx, so they arrive promptly and are not in the shipping stream for a long period of time, which helps minimize any potential for damage or theft. 

Overall, the Steinhart Nav B-Uhr bronze pilot is a superb watch.  It has a look and feel all its own and is a high-quality timepiece that impresses even more given its relative low price-point.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the bronze case will patina over time, but in the meantime, I can enjoy the wonderfully decorated Unitas movement and be confident in knowing this watch is a keeper.  Very well done!

Pros:  high quality throughout, great solid bronze case, nicely decorated Swiss engine, nifty grey dial, sturdy leather strap

Cons: too little water resistance, watch still a bit large for some, bronze too trendy?

Verdict:  Steinhart brings home the bacon and fries it up in the pan with this bronze pilot.  No pretensions here, this watch is all business with a superb look and feel, quality build and a price that can’t be beat.  Is bronze the new black?  You decide.
 
Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.

Excelsior!


-Marc