Although the style has been around since the 40’s the past few years have seen a growth in the popularity in the Beobachtungs-Uhren (Nav. B-Uhr or Nav. B) watches. These were worn during WWII by pilots and had some specific guidelines for their design. They had to be large (normally 55mm) as as to be easy to read, and contain luminous paint so as to be legible at night. A large crown was required so as to be operated with gloves and a movement with a hacking seconds hand.
The watches from the 1940’s will run you well into the thousands of dollars, well above the budget of many a watchnerd. And the 55mm size makes them prohibitive for most wrist sizes. Fortunately a number of brands have come to our aide and provided a range of options for the watch enthusiast to consider when shopping for a watch in this iconic design.
Parnis Pilot Watches
$75 – $150 USD
Automatic movement, type varies
Source: Parnis Watch
Starting on the low end, we have the Parnis brand, straight out of China. Some people might be hesitant about the brand given its origins, however reviewing many of the forums will find a number of satisfied customers. These watches are usually 47mm, which is still big, but not the insane 55mm of the originals. Prices will run between $75 – $150 depending on your source of choice. The watches typically are built well, although your mileage may vary. For the price point, it is an affordable way to get started with this style of watch.
Automatic 8245 Movement
Source: County Comm
Popular around these parts are the Martac pilots watches, in both a mid-size and larger size. The watch contains a different take on the Nav. B style while still retaining many of the iconic features. The onion style crown is located at 4 o’clock rather than 3 and the running seconds at 6 o’clock. You can see more on the mid-size and the large here on worn&wound.
Ticino Pilot Chronograph
Source: Direct Sale
Ticino has been offering Nav B. style watches for some time and in 2012 they introduced a chronograph version of the popular watch. The Pilot Chronograph offers a 30-minute chronograph at 3 o’clock with running seconds at 9. A 24 hour hand is at 6 o’clock and all are powered by the Seagull TY2903 hand wind movement. The Ticino offers a very affordable option for a mechanical chronograph and is a great option in the Nav B. style.
$380 – $2,000 USD
36mm – 45mm
Laco is one of the few brands that originally produced B-Uhr watches for the German Luftwaffe. They still make a number of watches in the same styles. They produce watches that range in movements and prices to fit anyone budget and taste. There are quartz options, automatic and hand-wind along with a variety of dial options, as well as chronograph model. Sizes range from 36mm and up, again options to fit any wrist. If you want a B-Uhr from a brand with direct roots to the style, Laco is the way to go.
$400 – $900 USD
ETA 2824-2, ETA 6497, ETA 7750
Source: Steinhart Watches
Steinhart makes available a variety of styles of the B-Uhr watches all with ETA movements and their great customer service behind them. Watches are available in 44mm or 47mm, two dial types, automatic or hand-wind, and chronograph models. Over the years they have also released some limited editions in the B-Uhr style. The Steinhart Nav B-Uhr models are praised on the forums for their excellent build quality classic good looks, and we quite liked the Nav B Uhr II we reviewed some months ago. The only problem is choosing which model to start with.
$600 – $1,500 USD
36mm – 45mm
ETA 2824-2, ETA 2824, ETA 6498, ETA 7750
Source: Archimede Watches
One of the standard recommendations when it comes to B-Uhr watches is the Archimede line. The German brand uses all Swiss movements in their watches, which cover all the bases from 36mm to 45mm, including a chronograph model. The Archimede watches are a clear winner regardless of which size or movement you choose.
$750 – $1,800 USD
ETA 2824-2, ETA 7753
Source: Stowa Watches
Stowa is the second brand on the list that originally produced this style of watches during WWII. They make their current line-up in a variety of dial styles and color with a number of strap and bracelet options. At the top of a line-up is a Valjoux 7753 41mm chronograph in the Nav. B style that is certain to be the object of lust for many watch nerds.
Whether you have $75 or $750 you now have some options for a Nav B-Uhr style watch. The style is in the functional and classic category and can be worn with nearly any attire. A no-nonsense design that is a winner, regardless of which brand you choose.
by James Enloe