The Archimede Pilot 42 Bronze offers a pretty clear value proposition. Archimede is a leading brand in the genre of classic pilot watches, offering very affordable, German-manufactured pieces with quality build, sober design and excellent execution. And with the 42, they offer something completely unique, as no other classically styled bronze pilots exist on the market, at least as far as we can tell.
With that said, even amongst the pilot watch diehards, this watch is still not going to appeal to everyone, simply for the fact that a bronze case is of no interest. Hell, it very well may be a turn-off. The gold luster of the freshly unboxed watch quickly fades as the bronze case oxidizes, and who really likes the idea of green copper oxide residue on their wrist?
To all you naysayers, I won’t argue. Owning a bronze watch certainly comes with its unique quirks. But at the same time, there is so much unique character and intrigue that a watch like the Pilot 42 Bronze offers. Over time the watch will become truly one of a kind, with a patina on the dial and case that no other pilot can mimic, and all the while, you’ll get the enjoyment of wearing a piece that stands up to the aesthetic and quality of nearly any other pilot watch on the market, especially those priced comparably to the 42.
The model we’ve reviewed, the 42H, comes with Swiss ETA 2824-2 movement and sapphire crystal, and is prices at just $700 shipped from Archimede. It’s hard to argue with that.
Movement: Swiss Automatic ETA 2824-2
Lume: C3 luminova
Strap: Choice of black, dark brown or light brown leather
Water Res.: 50m
Dimensions: 42 x 51mm
Thickness: 9.9 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crown: 8 x 4.5 mm screw down (our measure)
Warranty: 2 years
Price: $660, $700 shipped to the US from Archimede
Bronze cases are a bit of a fad in the affordable watch market right now. Take a look at our post from last year, The Bronze Age, or our recent review of the Maranez Layan to get an idea of just what I mean. You’ll find that there are a lot of bronze divers, which makes a lot of sense, as the connection to vintage bronze diving equipment is apparent. But now that the seal is broken on the bronze case fad, it’s also clear that there is a demand for bronze pieces strictly for their aesthetic. Lum-Tec is currently taking pre-orders for their bronze M and Combat series, and of course there is the Archimede Pilot 42 and 42H.
Having spent some time with the 42H, I can say with confidence that I get the appeal of bronze. The 42H case has a rich, warm golden sheen that, as a result of being a review unit, ostensibly passed around to a few watch writers, had the charm of something worn. Any wear and tear did nothing but enhance the watch’s character, and I imagine over time the case will become even more distinctive and beautiful with age. If you didn’t know, part of the experience of owning a bronze watch is experiencing the unique patina, or oxidization of the watch that occurs over time. As the bronze oxidizes, a layer of copper oxide forms on the surface creating a protective layer over the bronze that prevents further corrosion.
At 42 mm in diameter and just 9.9 mm tall, the 42H wore comfortably, although the onion crown did occasionally poke me in the wrist a bit more than I would have liked. However this is a common problem with larger pilots, and I wouldn’t suggest that the crown included on the 42H be changed. In fact, as a general matter, the case of the Archimede Pilot, while typical for the style and plainly finished, is very well executed. This is to be expected from any watch produced in the German Ickler watch factory (also responsible for manufacturing Limes and Defakto), and certainly any pilot released by Archimede. While a young brand, founded in 2003, Archimede has quickly become known for their classic pilots watches. In the case of the bronze Archimede pilot, the brand’s work lives up to its reputation.
As noted earlier, wearing a bronze watch does come with its own set of quirks and considerations. Mainly, you run the risk of getting copper oxide residue on your wrist. It will leave your skin a greenish tint, thought this is completely harmless and washes off easily, In our time with the watch, we did experience this effect. Archimede does mitigate this effect to a certain extent, by limiting the amount of bronze that comes in contact with your skin. The model we reviewed included a display case back, revealing the ETA 2824-2 movement inside.
When picking up a bronze pilot from Archimede, you have a very important choice to make: you will need to choose between the 42 and 42H models. While each features identical cases and near identical dials, the 42H comes with no logo or other non-essential markers on the dial, no date window, blue steel hands and C3, rather than C1 luminova on the hands and hour markers. This all adds up to a drastically different aesthetic.
While the 42 model is quite handsome, the sterile dial of the 42H and blue steel hands is just spot on classic. Further, the aged aesthetic of off white C3 luminova plays very well with the aged look of bronze, especially over time as the bronze develops a darker, more vintage look.
As with all classic, ultra-sterile pilot dials, that of the 42H is supremely easy to read. The painting of the hour numerals and minute/second hash markings is precise and evenly applied, and the blue steel hands are crisp. The lume on the 42H is also quite bright, glowing a clear green.
Frankly, there isn’t a terrible amount to say other than that about the design and execution of the 42H dial. Its classic and looks great. With that said however, it is important to note that the vintage aesthetic of the sterile dial does do a lot to accentuate and integrate the bronze case into the watch’s overall charm. As I mentioned before, bronze makes total sense on a diver, as its roots to vintage diving equipment are clear. The ties between bronze and aviation are a bit less obvious. But when you focus on the character of bronze, and what it brings to the aesthetic of a classically styled pilot, you can see how well the two actually interrelate.
Straps and Wearability
The Archimede Pilot 42H Bronze comes with your choice of several leather straps in either black, dark brown or light brown. All options feature contrast stitching, bronze rivets for decoration and a signed buckle. While the review unit we received included a bronze buckle, the standard option is stainless steel. The optional bronze buckle will run you 30 euros, and we think its well worth the extra cost. The leather strap is comfortable and not too thick or bulky as some pilot straps tend to be. The review unit we received from Archimede came with the black strap installed. However, as a result of the bronze case and hardware, the black leather really appears more like a rich chocolate brown when wearing, which was a very nice effect.
I found the 42H to be a bit of a chameleon. The brownish tones of the watch and black dial and strap allowed it to pair well with both black and brown shoes. Further, given the modest 9.9 mm height of the watch, the 42H fit very nicely with dress shirts, making it a watch that you could easily wear to work everyday or just once in a while. The inherent sportiness of the pilot design also allowed the 42H to fit in with more casual attire.
It is further worth noting that, given the golden qualities of the bronze, the Archimede pilot does garner some attention. It doesn’t stand out the way some more ostentatious watches may, thought I did find a number people asking if I had gotten a new watch. There is something subtly different and unique about the Archimede pilot that causes it to stand out to even the non watch enthusiast.
In the couple weeks I’ve had the chance to wear the Archimede Pilot 42H Bronze, its gone from a watch that intrigues me to a watch that I thoroughly enjoy wearing. I frequently found myself considering what it would be like to own the watch, drawn in by its good looks, unique charm and the prospect of seeing the watch evolve over time into a truly unique piece. So much so that I overlooked any potential cons, like the whole green wrist issue, or the fact that I already own a perfectly suitable, classically styled pilot. So, if you’re like me, and there’s something curiously attractive about the 42H, you may just want to consider picking one up. It’s got a price that’s hard to beat ($700 shipped), its pretty much like nothing else on the market and it promises to evolve over time in a unique and unpredictable way.
By Blake Malin
Thanks to Archimede for providing the review unit