A Mike Stuffler Watch Review
The Stowa Airman – A reminiscence of former times
After having written reviews on a diver´s watch (Stowa Seatime) as well as on a „tool“ watch (Damasko DC 56) and three more classic watches (Nomos Tangente „Kleinstkredit“ vs. Stowa Antea LE, Limes Klassik Vintage 1924) I decided to write the next one on one of my Flieger watches.
I have always been attracted to diver´s and pilot´s watches but have openly to admit that I neither dive nor am I a pilot.
I made up my mind to review the Stowa Airman with a handwinding ETA 2801 movement which isn´t the regular movement of the current model of the Stowa Airman.
The current movement of the Stowa Airman is the well known automatic ETA2824-2 which is available in different grades (e.g. blued screws, chronometer version).
Instead of telling you my own version of the Stowa history I´ll stick to what you can read on the Stowa homepage (www.stowa.com).
All started with Walter Storz when he founded his own company meanwhile his father continued to run his watch factory at Hornberg/Kinzigtal.
In 1935 Walter Storz moved to Pforzheim and there he set up a new factory (1938).
End of WW II the building was destroyed completely and Walter Storz decided to move to Rheinfelden, a small town close to the Swiss border, and there again he started up the Stowa watch production (1951).
At the same time the building in Pforzheim was reconstructed and the production capacity of both factories expanded enormously. In the early 1960s Werner Storz, the son of Walter, joined the company and continued to manage STOWA´s business through 1996.
Before retiring Werner Storz looked out for a successor. He found the right one in Jörg Schauer from Engelsband, a small village close to Pforzheim, who continued the manufacture of Stowa watches.
3. The watch
Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 8 mm
Strap: 18 mm, brown leather Flieger strap
Movement: ETA 2801
Date of purchase: June 2005
Price: 570,-- Euro (incl. VAT 16 %)
The Stowa Airman isn´t just another variation on the „B-watch“ theme. The Stowa Airman has an inhouse predecessor of the 40ties which can be seen on the Stowa museum site (and here):
In 1997 Stowa celebrated its 70ties anniversary. This was a good reason for Jörg Schauer to „reanimate“ the Stowa Flieger.
The first limited edition - powered by an UNITAS 6300 - was rapidly sold out. Retail price was 2.990 DM.
From 2001 to 2003 Stowa produced another limited edition of its Flieger watch, this watch came with a slightly modified dial and was powered by a vintage DUROWE movement and retailed for 1.499 Euro.
Excursus 1: Durowe
Durowe (Deutsche Uhren-Rohwerke) was founded on 23 October 1933 at Pforzheim by Ludwig Hummel in order to provide LACO (founded by Frieda Lacher and Ludwig Hummel in 1925 as Lacher & Co.) and other firms with ebauches (Rohwerke).
During WW II Laco produced pilot´s watches and (mainly) exploders for military purposes.
After WW II, the factory has been destroyed on 23 February 1945, Hummel re-established the watch production in another factory (Metallwarenfabrik Wolff) which he owned (1949).
From 1949 to 1958 the company has been known for manufacturing high quality mechanical watches and turned their expertise toward the production of electric/mechanical movements.
In 1958 the prototype of the Laco-electric was presented at the Hannover Exhibition.
Already in 1959 Ludwig Hummel sold his shares of Durowe and Lacher & Co. AG to the U.S. Time Corporation (later: Timex Corp.).
In 1961 the first Timex electric was brought out.
In 1965 Durowe was taken over by „Ebauches S.A., Neuchatel/Switzerland (ESA).
Now the trade mark Durowe is owned by Jörg Schauer.
The Stowa Flieger I own is equipped with a handwinding ETA 2801 and could be interpreted as a hommage to the German pilot´s watches of WW II.
When ordering the watch right from the Stowa online shop Jörg pointed out that Stowa had only produced about 10 pieces of this particular ETA 2801 Flieger.
Excursus 2: Beobachtungsuhr
The German term „Beobachtungsuhr“ goes back to pilot´s watches of WW II. Strictly translated it has to be an „Observer´s watch“ or „Observation watch“ but on most watch related fora you`ll read „navigator´s watch“, „pilot´s watch“, „B-watch“ or even „Flieger“, which is the expression I like most.
These B-watches have been made for the German Luftwaffe by only 5 manufacturers
A. Lange & Söhne
Laco (Lacher & Co)
Stowa (Walter Storz)
Wempe (Chronometerwerke Hamburg)
and contained high quality pocket watch movements:
Lange & Söhne: cal. 48/1
(due to limited capacities watches have been assembled by Huber/Munich, Felsing/Berlin, Schieron/Stuttgart, Schätzle & Tschudin/Pforzheim, Wempe/Hamburg).
Laco: Durowe cal. D 5
Stowa: Unitas cal. 2812
Wempe: Thommen cal. 31
IWC: cal. 52 SC (SC= „seconde central“)
The specifications of these watches had been defined by the „Reichsluftfahrtministerium“ (RLM) – Imperial Air Ministry.
Due to those specifications all B-watches had the following features in common:
- A case diameter of 55 mm
- Marked on the back with FL 23883 (FL = flight, 23 = navigation)
- Equipped with large crowns in order to be used with gloves
- Hacking movement (the second hand stops when pulling out the crown / essential for a precise time setting)
- Breguet balance spring
- Regulated and tested as chronometers
- Long leather strap (to be worn on the sleeve of a flight jacket).
If your are interested in watches of WW II and their history I recommend to visit the hompage of Konrad Knirim (www.knirim.de) . From time to time Konrad shows up on WatchUseek.
3.2 Case, crown, crystal
The Stowa Flieger case, made by Walter Fricker, is made out of 316 L stainless steel and consists of three parts: the upper bezel, mid case including lugs and a screwed in display back. The case diameter is 40 mm.
The matt satin finish of the case is another highlight of the Stowa Flieger.
The solid lugs are coming straight out of the mid case and are curved downwards which is a benefit to the watch looking light and slim. That´s why the case will even fit smaller wrists.
Lug spacing is 20 mm, by my measurement the lug tip to lug tip is about 46 mm.
The watch feels comfortable to wear.
The edge of the display case back (sapphire crystal) is engraved with:
Sonderanfertigung („special edition“)
Saphirglas („sapphire crystal“
The crown on the Stowa Flieger is signed with the laser engraved Stowa logo.
The crown is well executed, in the right proportion, easy to grip and operate and fits with the styling.
If you would wear gloves the crown wouldn´t be that fully functional but I am not a pilot, so this is a point of minor interest to me.
The crown isn´t screwed down which I really do appreciate ( it´s a pilots´s watch and not a diver´s).
The watch is furnished with a (very) slightly domed sapphire crystal.
It´ll need some time and close examination to realize that the crystal is a domed one. When receiving the watch my first thought was „oh another flat sapphire crystal“ but closer inspection assured me it is slightly but definitely domed.
The case is water resistant to 5 ATM which is a nice atribute but not necessarily a must for a pilot´s watch.
Excursus 3: Walter Fricker
Since more than 25 years The Walter Fricker GmbH is a world wide known producer of quality cases. The headquarter is located at Pforzheim, very close to the Schauer/Stowa facilities.
A subsidary firm is located in Switzerland. Together with Sinn the Walter Fricker GmbH is owner of the SUG (known for producing cases for Sinn watches) in Glashütte/Sachsen.
Fricker cases are designed inhouse in order to answer all demands. Construction and development of the Fricker cases ist done on high tech 3-D systems.
If required Fricker is able to produce complete watches (Private Label Brand).
The Fricker GmbH proudly presents a list of their references, I will stick to the most known brands:
Alpha Time („Sawfish“)
Point Tec (Junkers)
The Dreadnought case, as some of you already may know, was also made by Fricker.
For further information I´d recommend to visit the Fricker web site which is available in english too: www.w-fricker.de/english.
3.3 Movement ETA 2801
The Stowa Flieger is outfitted with a handwinding movement from ETA – the ETA 2801.
11,5 lines = 25,6 mm diameter, height 3,35 mm
power reserve app. 46 hours
Jörg Schauer and his crew did some additional work on the ETA 2801 to get it nicely finished
Perlage on the base plate
Stripes on the bridges
„Sonnenschliff“ on both gear wheels
Blued screws (heated and not painted!)
The ETA 2801 is known since 1982 and is the base movement of the reliable and well known workhorses ETA 2824-2 and ETA 2836-2.
My Airman gains about 6 to 8 seconds per day which seems to be within the standards.
3.4 Dial and hands
The dial is black - what other colour should a Flieger watch dial have ? – and is the main contribution to the vintage flavor of this pilot´s watch.
Stowa succeeded in keeping the dial a typical Flieger´s dial, aside from „Stowa“ no useless inscription is to be read. The numerals are made in the old tradition of Flieger watches, at the 12 `o clock position you´ll find the luminous triangle accompanied by two dots on the left and on the right.
The „rehaut“ seems to be slightly polished which I see as a helpful contribution to readability of numerals and indices because the „rehaut“ reflects the light.
At the 6 o´clock position you find the „Made in Germany“ imprint.
I am satisfied with the luminosity of the Airman. Stowa uses Superluminova C 3 for the numerals, indices and hands. It´s not as bright as other watches of my collection are (e.g. Black and Orange Monster) but was always sufficient to me.
The hands are well designed and add to the vintage flavor too. The hour and minute hand are painted black on the edges and filled with Superluminova C3. The second hand is completely luminous.
The length of the minute and second hand are sized as it has to be. The second hand almost reaches the „rehaut“ and ends exactly where the indices end. That´s very close to the original WW II pilot´s watches.
Take your time to watch the second hand running !
3.4 Strap and buckle
I ordered my Stowa Airman with a brown grainy leather strap which is comfortable and durable. The inner side of the strap got two imprints: „Stowa“ on the buckle side and „Stowa since 1927“ on the other side. The stitching is colour to colour which underlines a more distinguished note of the Airman`s strap.
I decided to go for the strap without any rivets at the lug ends, so I can wear the watch under long sleeve shirts and suits too.
Straps with rivets to strengthen the pilot´s watch image are available at the Stowa online shop in black and brown.
The strap is thick enough to match with the pilot´s watch theme. Wearing the watch for the very first time I thought that the strap would be stiff but lateron it felt comfortable to wear. It still looks like new.
The buckle shows a matt finish too in order to match with the case, brand name and the Stowa logo are engraved on the buckle.
After wearing the watch for a couple of month the buckle still seems a bit too tiny to me which has no influence on ist functionality. It´s just to tiny.
The Stowa Flieger came in a nice small aluminium box, fitted with a black velvet and a black pillow. „Stowa“ and the Stowa trademark are printed on the inner box top.
The use of this aluminium box is a nice way to present a pilot´s watch, a smart way to underline again the pilot´s watch flavor.
As a matter of course the warranty card indicates a 2-years warranty.
4. Final comments / Conclusions / Recommendations
„The Stowa Airman – A reminiscence of former times ?“ was my headline question and the simple and plain answer would be: YES.
Stowa definitely managed to produce a Flieger watch which is by far above average.
The Stowa Airman ETA 2801 is a clean, simple, unpretentious, functional, clearly legible, well proportioned and distinctive satisfying pilot´s watch and is made in the tradition of Pforzheim watchmaking und provides superior quality at a reasonable price.
This watch is suitable for any occation aside from diving.
I´d definitely recommend the Stowa Airman for all WIS who want to by a pilot style watch.
For a poor man´s watch budget you´ll get a fine timepiece and a worthy addition to your collection.
Due to the fact that the current model houses an ETA 2824-2 I´d recommend to pull the trigger on the finished version with blued and polished screws. Together with the golden STOWA engraving on the rotor it is a feast for your eyes and a horological bargain.
I hope you enjoyed reading. Look forward to your comments.
Moderator German Watches Forum
Thanks to Stowa for the pics I borrowed.