Junghans Meister Pilot Chronograph Review

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In the last couple of years, Junghans has focused on expanding upon their Meister line of watches, bringing out some incredible watches. The Meister line seems to be at the core of the Junghans brand and where they are going, though for a time was limited to dressier designs. They riffed on the Max Bill line the brand is so well known for, but skewed more classic. That said, they had a distinct look and a very modern execution that made them unique and appealing. A quick look at our review of the Meister Kalendar Moon model will make that apparent.

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From there, Junghans started playing with the format, releasing watches that utilized some of the aesthetic cues of the dressier pieces, but went in different thematic directions. For example, there is the Meister Telemeter, a stunning chronograph that was inspired by early-mid 20th century designs and features a striking dial. Then at Basel 2016, they showed their new Meister Driver range, which as the name suggest draws from automotive sources.

Today we’re going to take a look at a watch that is the biggest departure from the series, but a welcome addition, the Junghans Meister Pilot Chronograph. Like the Telemeter, the Pilot draws on the past, in this case from a watch they made in 1955. Designed and issued to the newly-established Bundeswehr, the watch featured a unique bezel, dual-register layout and Junghans in-house column wheel movement, the J88. Though perhaps lesser know than watches like the Heuer Bund, the originals are still wildly collectible and exceptionally rare.

Though Junghans has pulled inspiration from this watch before, the new Meister Pilot Chronograph draws closely on the elements that made that design so interesting. In particular it has that same bezel made larger and more prominent, a similar military inspired dial and angled lugs. Yet, at the same time it’s not a 1 for 1, having a firm root in their modern watches as well, and a modern size at 43mm. Powered by the J880.4 movement, which is likely an ETA 2892 base with a Dubois Depraz 2030 (unconfirmed, but based on the J880.3 should be) and featuring a sapphire (!) crystal, the Meister Pilot comes in with a price tag of $2,465. The watch is available in two versions, vintage and classic (the former featured in this review), which indicates the lume and strap color.

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$2465

Junghans Meister Pilot Chronograph Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
J880.4 (ETA Base)
Dial
Black
Lume
Yes
Lens
Domed Sapphire
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
10 ATM
Dimensions
43 x 49.5mm
Thickness
14.5mm
Lug Width
21mm
Crown
Push-pull
Warranty
Yes
Price
$2465

Case

The case of the Meister Pilot is simply a work of machined art. It’s sculptural with flowing lines, unexpected curves and fantastic finishing, making it great to view from all angels. Coming in at 43 x 49.5 x 14.5mm, it’s a sizable watch to say the least, but feels right. Some of this is from the proportioning of the dial, spacing of sub-dials, etc, but also because of the design of the watch. With all of the curves and undercuts, the larger size helps show every detail off. It’s bulky for sure, but when it’s on your wrist, you just don’t care.

Looking at the watch from above, you already have a lot to take in. First, is that stunning bezel; the signature design detail that dates all the way back to the Bundeswehr chronograph from 1955. The all steel bezel features deep scalloped-grooves for grip, giving the top surface a dramatic star-like shape. The bezel index follows the scallops, filling larger spaces with numerals, and smaller spaces with marks, all in printed black. The bezel is bi-directional and non-ratcheting, but is still one of the nicest bezels I’ve felt. It has a proper amount of resistance, requiring some strength to turn, but not too much, and a perfectly smooth feeling as it rotates. It just screams quality machining.

junghans_meister_pilot_case_2

Still from above, the lugs have an atypical shape that too pulls from the 50’s design. The lugs curve in, creating a wider space before straightening out at 21mm for the strap. The effect is subtle, but cool, continuing the flow of the midcase through the lugs, adding some aerodynamic lines. The lugs also feature a bevel on their outer edge, building on the complexity of the geometry.

From the side, the shape of the case is more fully revealed. Here, you can see the Meister lineage in the design, though this case is far more rugged and detailed than other, dressier versions we’ve seen. The case is bowl shaped overall, which does help mitigate the height a bit, as sloping sides feel less severe. The sides lead up to the bezel, which is also quite tall. From the side, the scalloped grooves are more visible, and simply gorgeous, each perfectly brushed. The lugs then provide a dramatic line that cuts through the case, riding above the pushers and crown.

One of the features of the Meister Pilot that I’m sure many people will be happy to see is the use of a sapphire crystal. Yep, for this model Junghans dropped the acrylic domes that so often causes discord amongst fans and potential buyers. I personally like them as acrylic domes look great, but they obviously have their drawbacks. Here they went for a domed, but much lower profile sapphire. I imagine this for a few reasons, the first being that this is a much more rugged watch so the tougher material makes sense in context and the second being the already considerable height.

Flipping the watch over, you have a solid case back that is held on with several screws. In the center is a star design rendered in matte and polished surfaces, with a few details about the watch. My favorite aspect of the back is actually that you get a more exposed view of the pushers and crowns. As expected, the watch features pushers at 2 and 4 and a crown at 3. The pushers are ovals, providing a nice surface to push. They sit on top of long pistons that protrude from the midcase, just behind the lugs. At first, it would appear as though the whole piston moves, though in actuality, the oval pusher is a cap that goes over the piston. The crown is then a sizable cylinder with deep teeth from grip. Because of the case shape, the crown tapers before meeting an extension that comes out of the midcase, which has a cool, architectural look.

junghans_meister_pilot_case_4

The last thing worth mentioning is the finishing. The case is entirely brushed, but done so masterfully. The surfaces feature noticeable grain, for a rugged look, but still very sharp lines between each facet. The brushing direction then changes various times, so on the top of the bezel its circular, but in the bezel grooves its horizontal. Similarly, on the lugs the top surface has straight brushing, while the bevel is on an angle. It just looks great.

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Dial

The dial of the Meister Pilot at once speaks to its military origins as well as the current Meister line. In terms of the latter, it features the same distinct doming of the main surface and inverse doming of the sub-dials that I find characteristic of the Meister watches. The main surface is satin black on which you have a primary index of numerals per hour, rendered in a bold type and a yellowed “vintage” lume. The color pops off the dial, making it very legible, and while to me doesn’t shout “vintage” is a very appealing hue. The typeface used is interesting, and a departure from the 50’s model, as far as I can tell. The numbers are thick and wide, but rather than having harsh angles, are soft. There’s something very 70’s about it, but it works and feels different.

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Around the border of the dial is a minutes/chrono-seconds index with lines per minute and small dots and numerals at intervals of 5. Rather than white, Junghans printed these numerals in a metallic silver color. This gives them a darker overall color and an interesting sheen, that gives the watch overall a higher end look. Combined with the hour index, the watch has a classic, military style, but with a Junghans twist, that works well.

The sub-dials at three and nine are for active seconds and elapsed minutes. As mentioned briefly, the sub-dials are executed in Junghans’ distinct fashion. Rather than a cut through or a bevel drop down, they are domed. This give them a very sharp line where they break from the main dial, and then a smooth corner. The result is gorgeous, probably my favorite sub-dial execution from any brand. The surface within the sub-dials is then very finely grained with concentric circles, giving them a more metallic sheen. Both feature markers and numerals printed in silver and both are very legible.

For hands, Junghans went with a set of vintage styled Roman swords with pointed tips. The hour and minutes are both brushed steel with lume filling. The hour has an interesting shape. Rather than curving in (concave) towards the tip, it curves out. This is a subtle change, but makes the hand unique looking. The seconds hand is then a classic style with a long stick, lumed pointer tip and counterweight. Interestingly, the counter weight has an applied piece on it, making it look thicker and more solid. Both the minutes and seconds hand curve at their tip, following the shape of the dial.

Overall, the design of the Meister Pilot dial is well proportioned and very attractive. As mentioned previously, the watch is large and even with a bezel, there is a lot of dial. Despite this, it feels balanced with a proper amount of negative space and design elements. In particular, the sub-dials are quite large (a good thing), which plays off of the less densely occupied space below twelve and above six. My only critique, and it’s not much of one, is that the difference between the vintage and classic model is so minimal, it seems like two models are unnecessary. I would have rather seen a cream or silver dialed option to accompany the one seen here.

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Straps and Wearability

The Meister Pilot Chronograph comes on a 21mm vintage style pilot’s strap. It’s a cool design, with a folded over and riveted end in black, and body in brown. The strap tapers, features contrast stitching and is pleasantly thin. The use of two leather colors is particularly cool and uncommon, and works nicely with the mix of black and aged lume colors in the dial. The classic comes on a solid black strap instead.

On the wrist, the Meister Pilot wears big and bold. It’s not a subtle watch at 43mm, but it’s not a monstrosity either and the 49.5mm lug-to-lug keeps it fairly well positioned on top of the wrist. It’s tall as well, but the bowl shape helps with that visually, as well as by letting it rest in your wrist a bit more. But, that’s not all to say it isn’t large, because it is, but I found it not only workable on my 7” wrist, but quite enjoyable. On occasion a big watch is what you want, and in this instance that occasion is with a watch that looks like this. It’s striking, stylish and magnetic. Hard to take your eyes off of.

THE MEISTER PILOT IS BIG, BUT LOOKS SO GOOD YOU DON’T CARE. SHIRT COURTESY OF WEAR GUSTIN; BOOTS COURTESY OF GRANT STONE.

Though military in heritage, it comes across quite exotic in person. The case is wild, with light catching the various curves and brushing grains in cool and surprising ways. The points of the bezel really stand out, looking unlike any other bezel you’ve seen, while the dial, though simple has a stark and bold presence. Paired with rugged materials, this watch looks at home and really shines.

Conclusion

Considering the Junghans Meister Pilot Chronograph is based on a watch from 1955, it feels as new and innovative as any watch I’ve seen recently. Sure, there is some vintage flair, but the bold design and sculptural lines are so complex and unique that it feels like a fresh concept. Compare this to other aesthetic-minded pilot’s watches and chronographs and it really stands above the competition. Throw in that it’s well-built and beautifully finished, and it’s in a class of its own.

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Coming in with a price tag of $2,465, the Meister Pilot isn’t inexpensive, but it’s not overpriced either, comparing in quality to watches that cost far more. German-made watches by Junghans and a few others are priced fairly, even if that price is a bit above your pain threshold. That said, the Meister Pilot is at the top of the Meister line, likely due to the increased complexity of the case and finishing. In the end, I think the Meister Pilot truly stands out in the current market, offering a riff on the pilots watch that no one else is. For people who are looking for such a watch, or have just been waiting for a Junghans with a sapphire, this is the watch to consider.

The watch reviewed in this article was provided by watchbuys.com.
WatchBuys are also an advertiser and sponsor of worn&wound as of the time of publishing this article, 11/03/16. Editorial Policy

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Zach is the co-founder and Executive Editor of worn&wound. Before diving head first into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.

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  • Tracy Swan

    Now that’s one nice looking watch!

    • john coleman

      Totally agree. Superb.

  • Churlish

    I really really like the looks of this one. Somehow it all comes together and work amazingly. Wow.

  • Svetoslav Popov

    if only it was 40mm

  • Porter Hudson

    This watch is AWESOME and thank you Junghans for ditching the Timex crystal on this one.

  • Steve

    Overall, it’s a good looking watch except one thing – too many sharp angels around bezel to destroy the beauty of this watch.

  • That’s one I never liked in photos, but when I handled one at a Watchbuys roadshow I was totally impressed. The nicest finishing of any Junghans. It is a serious chunk of steel, though.

  • Paul Zografos

    Any idea if there will be a similar but non-chrono thats more in my price range (1000 ish?)

  • dhaines

    I wish they would talk more about accuracy on their reviews they forget this is a timepiece…how well does this off brand keep time? Do they regulate them? It makes me banana’s they focus on style not the watches intended purpose on keeping accurate time. I also hate the cop out if you want accuracy get a quartz piece…That IS BS a well regualted mechanical watch is only off a few seconds a day. I have a freaking Steinhart has a hand wound unitas movement that is only off a second a day since it has a huge giant balance rotor.

    • MerricMaker

      I get similarly frustrated when they don’t mention reliability. Does the brand need more or fewer repairs than average? Is the movement known to be a champ or a turkey? If you’re spending more than two thousand dollars on something it should be something you consider.

      • Hey Merric,

        The question of reliability is one that is very hard to answer when you have but a few weeks with a watch. I’d recommend reading forum posts from long-time owners of a watch or a brand, when they can be found, as that’s likely the best way to get a sense. But, you can also take into account that Junghans is a brand with a great reputation that has been around for well over 100 years in continuous operation. Similarly, the movement is a Swiss-made ETA base, so a very reliable movement that one can have confidence in. That said, anything can happen and a watch we have a great experience with might treat you differently, but everything can be fixed and regulated.

        best,
        Zach

        • MerricMaker

          I understand the limited time thing. But I keep thinking of Consumer Reports and their data on cars and how simple it is to look up a model and know at a glance if it’s sturdy and reliable, or fussy but comfortable. I have yet to see a publication that does that for watches aside from forums–which can be a little anecdotal.

          • A bit late to this discussion but the ETA2892 with Depraz Chrono module is very well proven and very reliable and the 2892 is often found in some COSC verified watches too so is capable of very high accuracy. Tudor, Omega, TAG Heuer, Chopard, Girard Perregaux, and a multitude of others all use the exact same movement in some of their watches.

  • chesirecat77

    Everything clicks for me except I don’t like faux pilot’s strap (rivets that don’t do anything) and a personal pieve: piggyback chronograph. If it had a valjoux 7753 with omitted hour counter it would be great and the same movement can be found in watches of the same price range as this modular chronograph watch. With the valjoux I’d be saving for a purchase.