Form Follows Function – Why Paolo Fanton’s A-13A Pilot Chronograph Hasn’t Left My Wrist

Share this story:

When Worn & Wound originally spoke to Paolo Fanton back in January this year, we were keen to see what his A-13A pilot watch would look like when it made it out of prototyping and into production. Well, a parcel arrived last week from Italy, so I’ve had a chance to unpack it and get my very own A-13A on my wrists for a quick look.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s not been off my wrist since it arrived.

It’s always nice (if unusual) to be right. In January, Paolo commented that “. . . it’s not a watch to show off to your friends while drinking a Martini downtown.” I suggested that although you might not show it off, I was pretty sure it’d get a few comments.

The A-13A in good company.

In fact, the A-13A has got more nods than any other watch this writer owns. It simultaneously aced both the “Pip Test” and the even tougher “Business Partner Rating.” Pip is my fiancée and indulges my watch obsession although seldom notices which one I’m wearing. Without me even pointing out the A-13A, she spotted it and declared “You know, I think that’s my favorite watch of yours.” Winning a straight double, my non-watchie-but-Nomos-owning business partnerquite unpromptedasked, “What’s the new watch? I love that!” The last watch that got him that excited was an IWC MkXII.

Advertisement

It’s partly down the A-13A’s design. So many micro-brand watches forget that a watch has a job to do and that form needs to follow function if you’re not just to wear a fashion statement. They get blinged up, tweaked for the sake of tweakery, or the dial typefaces get played about, often for no functional reason. As a consequence, there’s often something that just doesn’t jell.The A-13A avoids this by closely mirroring a classic aviation designthe A-13A cockpit clock.

First made in the early 1960s, the A-13A cockpit clock does double duty for pilots as time-teller and a stopwatch. The hand-winding mechanical original will run for around 8 days (the A-13A uses a 27 jewel, ETA 251.264 quartz motor) with the bottom knob powering and setting the clock and the the top button operating the chronograph.

As an aeronautical instrument, clarity is everything and Paolo has carefully avoided messing about with the original design. He’s even kept the stepped and raised outer minute track (designed to beat parallax viewing error). The dial fonts are the same. The hands are so close as to make little difference, although the second hand and chronograph hands have black painted counterweights. The chronograph minute recorder is white arrow-tipped. You won’t need to squint at an A-13A. If you’re able to see the watch, you can read the time at a glance.

The only real dial deviations from the cockpit original are the words “PILOT WATCH” picked out in black on the black dial (shades of Hotblack Desiato’s sun-diving stuntship for those of us of a certain age) and the white-lettered “A-13A” above the six and “Made in Italy” underneath it. As the domed sapphire is double coated, there’s no problem seeing the time from almost any angle.

Despite the movement allowing for it, the watch has no running seconds. Instead, the second and central minute hand record the elapsed time for the chronograph. Paolo has removed two redundant stepper motors and their gear trains. This gives a significant reduction in energy drain.

Push the top button and the chronograph second hand starts stepping along at single second intervals. As it passes 12, the minute hand snaps to the one-minute-past position, and so on it goes until it reaches 12 again with 60 minutes of chronograph time elapsed.

You can use the bottom button to turn the watch into a lap timer. Pushing it stops the chronograph hand while the watch continues counting internally. Press it again and the hands flick catch up with the elapsed time. Press it a third time and the hands sweep back to reset.

Advertisement

The engraved and ridged crown screws down smoothly, snugging into the case and helps the watch promise a very useful 100-meters of water resistance. There’s a small, half-moon cutout under the crown to enable you to get your fingernail behind it to snick it to setting position once unscrewed.

The case back is brushed apart from the polished edges and engraved with the 1970 military specification number “MIL-C-6499E” and “MS33558”, the mil-spec typeface reference. You get a note of the movement (an ETA 251.264) and a serial number.

Paolo says the brushed 316L stainless steel case is based on the MoD military spec WWW design from World War II. It’s a 42mm case, but wears smallerprobably down to the slim bezel. At 13mm thick, it’s a chunky enough case that you won’t forget you’re wearing your A-13A. The down-swept lugs make the watch a little more comfortable to wear, though. And the watch has proper heft to itit feels like a solid, cut-from-billet piece of engineering. No need to baby it.

The 20mm strap is specifically for the watch, with the inner Lorica facing featuring the A-13A “wing profile” logo and “The A-13A Pilot Watch” stamped on it. The outer face is cordura/kevlar (although the tang holes are rubber-reinforced) and softens up nicely the more you wear it. The brushed satin steel buckle is thoughtfully stamped “A-13A” too.Paolo is an engineer as well as a pilot, and it shows in the period-style packaging the A-13A arrives in. You could probably toe-punt it several meters with little effect on the watch inside, so this is a proper form-follows-function box. But Paolo explains the thinking:

“The idea came from an old friend, an A&P mechanic, who showed me these gorgeous vintage aircraft spark plugs still in their art deco package. It was one of those ‘eureka’ moments! I figured that when you buy a watch, you want a watch and don’t really need extravagant, bulky double boxes that add little to its value. But that doesn’t mean we won’t deliver your timepiece in a cool package; in keeping with the aeronautical theme, we have created a container that resembles the tubes in which military-spec spark plugs were supplied.”

It works a treat.

Priced at €650 (about $770), it’s up against pilot-style offerings from Tissot, Glycine, Alpina and Junkersfine watches all. You could strap any of them to your wrist and smile. But none has the same level of thought, design and focused aviation functionality of the A-13A. It’s a special watchand not least because there are just 500 of themall designed and made by someone with Avgas in his veins. A-13A

Advertisement
Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
markchristie mark_mcarthur_christie
Categories:
Article / News & Releases

Paulo Fanton’s A-13A Pilot Watch Now Available for Pre-Order

By
Earlier this year, we wrote about a really cool pilot …
Article / News & Releases

Introducing the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Automatic Chronograph

By
Perhaps the thing we love to see the most in …