A Mike Stuffler Watch Review
- We owe all progress to those who do not adapt (Jörg Schauer) -
Watch Brand: STOWA
Watch Model: Stowa Chronograph 1938
Owned Since: 18 September 2010
Written: February 2011
As most of you know I collect mechanical watches for more than 20 years now and my special interest has always been the chronograph.
Therefore my collection consists of a lot of chronographs “ through the ages” if I may say so.
I love them all from vintage with movements such as Valjoux, Lemania, Landeron to contemporary chronographs from Sinn, Schauer, Damasko, Glashütte Original
What really fascinates me is the “Zeitgeist” they embody and the variety they offer to the collector (quote from my Schauer Kulisse 11 review and we will return to the Kulisse 11 from time to time in this review).
(Valjoux 7750, modified to Bi-Compax layout)
For a long time I have been searching for a none-sporty - none diver’s - none aviator like chronograph – a classic looking chronograph with kingly reluctance which would fit with casual clothing as well as with business dresses. The first one I bought was the Glashütte Original Senator chrono (see pic) which – without being a real pilot’s tool - emerged to feature a bit of Flieger design.
The second one was the Schauer Kulisse 11, again a chronograph with a black face. The Schauer Kulisse models have always been appealing to me but for a long time I shuned the investment. After years of hesitating – “a plan needs to ripe”, “money needs to come in”, “first things first”, “you have to have priorities” – I eventually took the plunge an bought one of the Kulisse chrnos.
However the wish for a real classic chrono never died and so I became a member of the “pain-in-the-ass-community” constantly urging Jörg Schauer to do a Stowa Chrono . Whenever me and other addicts met Jörg in Engelsbrand or Basel we tried to convince him that we do need a Stowa Chrono.
Elizabeth Dörr, a freelance jounalist, onece wrote “Jörg Schauer is a watch maker, not a watchmaker, but really a maker of watches” – a “Uhrenbauer”. That’s most likely the reason that the launch of a Stowa chrono took some years before the Stowa Chronograph 1938 materialized.
Here are some random pics of the “chrono project” which has been promoted on a German watch forum for some time but lateron died a sudden death (not going into details here).
I would have bought any of those chronographs but, as I said, none of those came into existence.
Some more years of waiting followed.
Eventually in 2010 I had the opportunity to see the erl-king in the flesh at Baselworld.
Wrist shots from Basel 2010 (thanks to Bhanu, a co-WIS from Prague):
I was overwhelmed and I knew in a glance that this is the chrono I have been waiting for for a long, long time. I directly ordered the chrono not knowing how it will look like in the serial version.
In May 2010 Jörg decided to give the case a slightly different shape:
As you can see Stowa changed the case design to make the chrono appear more flat.
Case, Crown & Pushers
The case is made of 316L stainless steel. The watch comes in two versions: matt and polished.
Case diameter is 41mm, height is about 13,7 mm, lug width: 22mm.
The website states that lug to lug is: 50,2mm. I measured 49mm but I think it is right to assume that the lug-to-lug is about 50mm.
The Stowa Chronograph 1938 is very solid watch, a chunk of steel. It is beautiful finished, I am inclined to say that it is the “poor man’s version” of a Jörg Schauer Kulisse chronograph.
I think that the Stowa chronograph case got the same attention all Schauer watches get
I have got difficulties to distinguish any serious difference between the cases. However it should be mentioned that the case dimensions differ a bit and despite the Kulisse 11 got a 42mm case the Stowa looks and wears a lot bigger.
Visually the Stowa by far is the more solid lump of rock. And no doubt it is a heavy watch (104 gr with leather strap for the Stowa, 96gr for the Kulisse 11).
I tend to say that the case finsh is flawless.
With 13,7 mm height the watch will easily fit under every sleeve and can be worn with cufflinks too .The Stowa chrono wears comfortable and due to the curved down lugs - we already know from the Kulisse case - it will fit even smaller wrists The curved down lugs ensure a surprisingly good feeling.
The corrugated crown is signed with the Stowa emblem (see photo above) and appears to be a bit larger compared to the Kulisse 11 crown.
Cronw and pushers fit perfectly with the case and are easy to operate, the crown is easy to grip. Both, pushers and crown are not screwed down.
The display case back very much resembles the typical Schauer case back design, is screwed and engraved with some information regarding the watch.
The photos above imho show best what I meant by saying that there is some close resemblance.
The Stowa Chronograph 1938 case is rated WR 50m / 5 bar.
Dial and hands
The Stowa Chrono dial and hands are a homage to a pocket watch dial of the 1940ties.
Design of hands and font of the numerals have been transformed to the contemporary version and underline the classic look of this watch.
To the best of my knowledge I would describe the dial’s color to be crème. The very fine printed rehaut appears to be printed in black.
Due to the modifications done on the Valjoux 7753 there are only two sub dials , a permanent second on the left and a 30 min counter) on the right. Bi-compax at its best.
The dial printing is done in a traditional way. Every dial is fine-blasted, silber plated and imprinted 8-times in order to achieve the look it features in the end.
As opposed to most Valjoux 7753 equipped watches the Stowa Chrono does not feature that day/date window which is another contribution to its overall reluctant and most classic minimalistic and typical Bi-compax appearance.
The hands are slightly vaulted, polished and rose-gold plated and mirror the rose-gold plated raised numerals. No lume on the hands and no lume on the numerals either.
During day time the Stowa chrono is easy to read. All hands are in the right proportion. The minute hand is as long as it has to be, long enough to reach well into the minutes chapter.
Same with the small rose-golden central second hand.
The sub dials do take a backseat, they give the impression that their function is of less importance and to be honest I haven’t used them yet. The permanent seconds counter nevertheless is useful to see the watch is working.
Everything on the dial is emphasizing the “classicness” and classiness of this watch.
The Stowa Chronograph 1938 is fitted with two sapphire crystals, slightly domed on thetop, flat on its back. You can’t see that the dial is slightly domed when looking on the top, you need a side view.
Out of the variety of straps Stowa offers (see online shop) I ordered my Stowa chrono with a grey croc strap (XL) which make watch and strap a perfect match.
I was really impressed by the look of that grey croc strap which made me ordering another one for my Antea LE.
The buckle itself is a solid one, much larger than the tiny buckle of my Kulisse11.
It does mirror the case dimensions and the look of the chrono. The buckle is laser engraved with the Stowa emblem and the Stowa lettering.
The watch is equipped with a modified (bi-compax) ETA/Valjoux 7753.
The ETA/Valjoux 7753 is known since 2002 and features
• Unidirectional rotor winding
• Coulisse-lever switching
• 27 jewels
• 28.800 b/h
• 42h power reserve
• 30mm diameter, height of 7,9mm
Both, the 7750 and the 7753, are known to be extraordinary tough and reliable. Gisbert L.Brunner, a well known watch maniac, described it as nearly indestructible; hopefully he’s right. In addition to that the 7753 offers a good cost-benefit ratio.
The Stowa chronograph comes with a display back offering some “insight”.
As you can see the movement is nicely decorated featuring
• Geneva stripes on the rotor
• Stowa gold lettering on the rotor
• Perlage (“circular grain”)
• Blued screws.
(You will find these features on the more expensive Kulisse 11 too).
Timekeeping has been extraordinary so far and is by all means on par with my Kulisse 11.
The average gain is +5/+7 sec/day on the wrist and on the watch stand at night.
However when I put the watch dial up on the bed side locker it performed less good (+ 10 sec/day). Now that I store it on the watch stand over night I am quite satisfied with gain and loss of my watch.
Box and Manual
The Stowa Chronograph 1938 came in the same unspectacular aluminium box the Stowa aficionados are familiar with. I have not been disappointed by this box, however a flagship watch would deserve something in leather.
1700,-- Euro (polished)
1750,-- Euro (matt)
on leather strap. Deployment clasp available for 35,-- Euro.
2 years + an exceptional after sales service
Summary / Conclusions
The Stowa Chronograph 1938 is the chrono I have been looking for since long.
The watch is a fine and excellent executed, classic timepiece.
Those shrinking back from a Jörg Schauer because of its pricing will find a less expensive chronograph with the Stowa Chrono 1938.As previously stated the Stowa Chrono is a well priced “substitute” with comparable (but not quite identical) quality.
I am convinced that the Stowa Chrono 1938 does not need to fear any competitor in its price bracket. Other brands sell less for a lot more money.