Yesterday I had a chance to compare my Stowa Flieger Baumuster B (COSC) side-by-side against a Glashütte Original Navigator Automatic, which is a watch in the same style. Price-wise, they are apples and oranges, but I thought some readers would be interested in my comments.
The location was an extremely high-end store, at which the G.O. was probably one of the least-expensive watches. The very nice and sharp sales-lady who showed me the watch was quite taken aback by the Stowa. It seems she had not seen any other watch in the B-dial style. She pronounced them essentially “identical”, at least from a distance. Indeed, at first blush, they were. She also hadn’t heard of Stowa. I explained a little bit of history behind the watches. She very tentatively and respectfully asked what I paid for the Stowa and where I got it (roughly $1k U.S., and direct-order, of course). The G.O., in stainless steel, lists at roughly 7 times as much. I think she was rather amazed by the Stowa.
During my time examining the watches, many differences became apparent. From the outside: The G.O. is significantly bigger and thicker, at 44mm vs. 40mm in diameter, and ~14mm vs. ~10-mm in thickness. It prominently displays G.O.’s logo and city on its face, plus a tiny Made in Germany beneath the dial, while the Stowa is completely “sterile”, lacking even “Made in Germany”. The G.O.'s case is brushed steel as well as wearing a polished band, and was more distinctive. The crown is conventional (though with a hint of a diamond shape at its base), vs. Stowa’s “onion” (I prefer the Stowa’s). The second hand is blued, whereas the Stowa’s is black. The color of the blued hands were essentially identical.
The layout of the B-dial showed some very subtle differences (if one ignores the labeling on the G.O.). The G.O. had no ring around the outer markers. The hour hand was slightly more elongated, and it projected a little further into the inner ring, vs. the Stowa’s rather stubby hand. Although subtle, I found the G.O.'s to be just a bit better proportioned. Otherwise, the shape of the hands were the same, except that I was disappointed to see G.O.’s opposing G’s at the end of the second hand’s counterweight (G.O. seems to like using two G’s, facing away from each other, as an alternate logo) – a minor but offensive slap at the historical face, in my opinion. The G.O. lacked the clever and artistic 60-second eclipse, wherein the Stowa's second hand's counterweight passes in front of the hour hand.
The crystal of the G.O. is anti-reflective, which gave the dial a richer look - I liked this a lot. I was amused to see that the G.O. also had lume on every other minute notation, just like the Stowa (all of the lumed features were the same). However, I also noted that the Stowa’s lumed and un-lumed features were significantly more uniform in both color and texture. The strap was a very nice smooth leather, with a simple stitch. The buckle also contained mounted G’s, which I personally did not care for.
Then, turning the watch around, one sees the biggest difference of all: The G.O. has an in-house movement. It’s big and gorgeous. The watch has a “fly-back” feature that resets the seconds hand to zero. The winder has a 21 ct. gold weight at its periphery as well as being skeletonized with the darned-blingy GG’s again. There’s a swans-neck adjuster, the balance has weighted screws, and the movement is nicely decorated. The face of the movement is a pseudo 3/4 plate, in that it’s actually two pieces broken by an arc. I thought that a full 3/4 plate would have been more in line with its Glashütte origins, but it was still very unique compared to the usual Swiss movement in the Stowa.
In passing, the lady was nice enough to show me a G.O. Senator Navigator Perpetual Calendar in rose gold. This is in the Flieger A-dial style, but with day, date, month, moon-phase and leap-year indicators. Yes, it’s a perpetual-calendar watch including accounting for leap-years. Too fussy for me, and imagine keeping it wound for four years, and then missing that leap-year adjustment! But wow, that’s a watch!
I wanted to say that the Stowa was just as good, but in the end there was no way to do that. The Stowa’s dial is truer to history, but over-all the G.O. was simply a much more spectacular and desireable watch. Whether it’s worth the order of magnitude more money is debatable, but I did see its value. On the other hand, the Stowa acquitted itself well as an awesome watch in its own right, and an even more awesome value.
With a small sigh, I put my “humble” but still-proud Stowa back on my wrist, and bid the expensive world of high-end watches goodbye (for now...).
Thank you for reading.