Got my Flieger a few weeks ago and wanted to share my impressions. Also, I previously ordered and returned Archimede 42H and Alpina Startimer Pilot, so I wanted to share my take on all three as the questions and comparisons often come up as to which to buy.
I wanted to buy a pilot watch for a while, but I really didn’t want to spend over 1k on a pilot style watch, no matter how much I liked IWCs and Zenith's versions of it. I don’t care about the heritage much, since none of these watches really resemble the original pilot watches, and companies making them are entirely different companies than they used to be. I simply wanted a nice looking quality semi-beater in pilot style.
I initially wanted to get the Stowa, but the price together with the long wait, as well as it being on the smaller side put me off, so I ordered an Alpina Startimer 44mm. I ended up returning it and ordering an Archimede 42H thinking that it would be good enough since it’s very similar to Stowa. It was also in stock and cost a few hundred less, so it made a lot of sense. Ultimately, I returned it as well and waited 3 months for the Stowa. I am happy with my purchase, but there are definitely things Stowa can improve upon. Not commenting on the movement as I believe all 3 use variations of the same 2824-2.
Alpina Startimer Pilot 44mm
Probably the best overall finish of the three, as well as feature set (strap quality, clasp, box, screw down, etc). Also had the best dial - sharp, nice finish, antiglare coating. If you look around, you can find it for about the same price as Stowa, or a little bit more. The issue I had with this watch is that it tuned out to be much bigger than I anticipated. I have a big wrist (7”) but the watch just felt huge and stiff. The crown was way too big and sharp around the edges. It cut into my wrist. I think a comparable Stowa (with alligator strap and deployment clasp) would actually cost more than the Alpina. Had this watch fit better, I would probably keep it. The Aplina also had the best packaging/presentation as it came in a really nice case and with a really cool looking model plane.
Good watch. Even though it was 2mm smaller than Startimer, it also felt too big for its size and the crown was huge and sharp as with the Alpina. The diamond crown looks great until you put the watch on, then it just gets in the way and cuts into your wrist. I understand now that a pilot watch over 40mm should probably be a chrono as the plain matte black dial just doesn’t look right with all that empty space. The 42H was well finished, slightly worse than Stowa. I didn’t like that all the indicators had a yellowish tint to them (probably due to C3), which made the watch look a bit dull. Also, without logo and date, the watch looked like it was missing something. Overall, it’s similar to Stowa, but definitely feels a cheaper watch. It came in a very plain and generic black box - not a big deal, but presentation definitely matters. Great customer service, the watch shipped quickly and the return was easy (they even refunded original shipping fee)
Stowa Flieger with date & logo
Definitely the best overall watch out of the three. Wish the wait was shorter, but it was probably worth it. The size is perfect for a flieger, and the onion crown looks and feels fantastic. The finish is great, better than Archimede and close to Alpina. I got the TOP movement version, so the watch has been very accurate thus far and wears nicely due to its size and shape. It’s 40mm, but wears a big larger due to the lugs. Has the best lume out of the three. Customer service was great as well. Came in a really nice metal case with personalized paperwork, so it made a good impression right away. Few things that I feel could be improved, especially at this price:
- The rotor seems a bit loose by design, so it makes more noise than it has to as you move around. Not super loud, but you can hear the clicking in a quiet environment. Compared it to my co-workers 6 year old Stowa Flieger and it was the same. Doesn’t seem to impact the operation of the watch though, more of an annoyance.
- Would be great if the crown was a screw in type. I think that should be a given at this price point. Alpina had a screw in crown and 2x the rated water resistance at 10ATM. I would not feel comfortable wetting the Stowa.
- I wanted the date feature since it’s an additional (and useful) complication and the plain dial would look better with it. I think the placement could be improved though. I like how Sinn has it between 4 & 5, it's there but very much out of the way. Having the date window replace the 6 makes it more noticeable than it has to be. I still think it looks better than no date version though. Having the date window there makes the watch look a bit less round, which is a good thing.
- Dial could be a bit sharper and numbers/indicators would look better without the slightly yellowish tint (could be unavoidable due to C3). The second indicators are white but they don’t glow. Definitely better looking dial than 42H, but could be improved. Antiglare would be nice.
Hope this rant helps somebody make a decision one way or the other. Sorry for the rambling, here are some phone pics ..