Steinhart is a brand with a reputation for producing timepieces that achieve a level of craftsmanship and acute sense of aesthetic that far out pace their price tag. Even today, having been a Steinhart devotee for some time, I find myself pausing as I peruse the Steinhart website to think “How the hell are they selling that watch at that price?” Not too long ago I pulled the trigger on Steinhart’s Nav B-Uhr II B-Type, a pitch perfect homage to the classic German observation pilot watch, and it has certainly lived up to the Steinhart reputation.
Movement: ETA 2824-2 Swiss Made automatic
Case: satin stainless steel
Back: Stainless steel screwed
Diameter: 44 mm
height: 14.2 mm
Crystal: Sapphire domed interior non-reflecting
Bezel: stainless steel
Indices: Superluminova white C1
Lug width: 22mm
Water Resistance: limited
Strap: Juchten leather brown with double studs
As noted in my initial impressions of the Nav B-Uhr II B-Type, it is a recreation of the original observation pilot watches produced in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s for the German military Luftwaffe (air force). While Lange & Sohne were the primary manufacturer at the time, IWC, Laco, Stowa and Wempe also provided stock. As seen in the photo below, the Steinhart is a faithful recreation of the original style, remaining true to the original dial design to a tee. Steinhart has even forgone the placement of any logos or text on the dial to achieve a historically accurate design. Several of the original manufacturers of the German pilot watches continue to make them today, but none at the shockingly low price of under $400.
Unlike the original pilots, which utilized pocket watch movements, the Steinhart Nav B-Uhr II B-Type is powered by an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement with hacking second. It also features a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective finish. Its remarkable that with these two components alone, Steinhart can manage to achieve such a competitive price point. But alas, this price either won’t last long, or the ETA movement that currently powers the watch will soon be replaced by another brand name. The times of the ubiquitous and sometimes affordable ETA movement will soon be behind us, so for those interested in getting in on this deal, act fast.
The dial of the B-Type is where its similarity with the original German pilot watches is really achieved. And in being a historical match, the B-Type also achieves what for me is a hallmark of the pilot watch style, a sense of broad scale. Clean, expansive dials are a characteristic that I love in traditional pilot watches, and is a defining feature of the B-Type.
The dial of the B-Type is black with contrasted white markings and the font throughout the dial is sterile and to the point. White hash markings for the seconds/minutes line the dial’s outer rim, with every fifth hash being elongated and paired with a numerical marker. Additionally, at the 60 second/minute position an upward arrow appears, true to the historical standard.
The defining characteristic of the observation style pilot watch is the presence of an inner hour ring with numerical markings 1 through 12. On the Steinhart Nav B-Uhr II B-Type there are also dots at each hour position. In looking back at the original German pilot watches, it seems as though some featured these dots while others didn’t.
The hands of the B-type are blue steel roman sword style, however, unless viewing from an angle or in very bright light, the blue tint can be hard to see, and the hands simply appear black. The tips of the hands align perfectly with the hour or minute rings. In the case of the minute hand, the inner white portion of the hand aligns with the inner most tips of the minute hash markings. I love this detail, as it not only makes the watch subtly more legible, it also adds to its perceived quality and value. The second hand is white and extends all the way to the outer rim of the dial, furthering the sense of broad space.
Superluminova C1 is found on the hands, dots of the hour ring, each second/minute hash and every tenth numerical second/minute marking. From what I understand, this is in keeping with the overall intention of the dial design, which was to draw your eye’s attention to the passing of minutes and seconds, which is what would have been most essential for aircrew.
Case and Construction
The case of the B-Type is a close match to the original designs, but appears a bit rounder and softer in comparison. This provides for a more comfortable wear and more versatile styling. At 44 mm in diameter and just over 14 mm tall, the case is far smaller than that of its historical counterparts, which utilized pocket watch movements and were utilized as piloting tools.
When purchasing the B-Type you can choose between an onion or diamond crown, and the unit I purchased features the latter. Featuring a pull-out design, the crown of the B-Type is easy to adjust and wind. I found this particularly helpful when not wearing the watch on consecutive days.
Since posting my initial impressions of the B-Type, I have received some questions about its water resistance. It seems as though the water resistance on all non-diver Steinhart watches is “limited water resistant, no swimming or shower” as listed on the company site. After doing some reading on the watch forums and through personal use, I think it is safe to say that a watch with this limited water resistance is safe to get caught in the rain, worn while washing your hands, and all other daily tasks that require you to get your hands a little wet.
For me, this limitation is not a deal breaker, and to the extent that it helps to drive the cost of Steinhart’s watches down a bit, I am ok with it. In my experience with the B-Type and other Steinhart watches, I have found Steinhart’s build quality and attention to detail to be outstanding and am confident that a lack of water resistance is not a sign of poor craftsmanship.
Straps and Wearability
The Nav B-Uhr II B-Type comes with a brown leather strap with double studs, white stitching and signed stainless steel hardware to match the watches case. I find this strap to be quite comfortable, and unlike some other studded straps I’ve worn, it has plenty of flexibility where the studs are located. When I purchased the Steinhart it actually arrived with a darker chocolate brown strap without studs. Steinhart was very quick to respond to my email about the mix up and quickly forwarded me the appropriate studded strap. Both leather straps are of a high quality and are the perfect aesthetic companion to the military styling of the B-Type.
As it is summer here in New York, I have been primarily been wearing the Steinhart on a nylon NATO strap as it provides for a lighter, more comfortable wear. The green and brown NATO straps pictured are from Maratac.
The B-Type has quickly become my go-to daily watch. I find its versatile styling and moderate size make it an easy pick for regular use. I have found that it pairs well with business formal attire when worn with the leather band, and is right at home with shorts and t-shirt when on a nylon NATO.
When it comes to accurate remakes of the German pilot watches of the 1930’s and 40’s, you have several options. Laco and Stowa, both manufacturers of the original timepieces, each have available today watches that are very similar to the B-Type, but at nearly 2x’s the price. I would love to get my hands on one of each to do a side-by-side comparison. How do they stack up? Are you paying for the name, or do the Laco and Stowa models have more to offer. These are questions that will have to be left unanswered for the time being. For now however, what I do know is that the Steinhart Nav B-Uhr II B-Type, with its ETA 2824-2 movement, sapphire crystal, outstanding design implementation and superb build quality can be yours for less than $400. So if you’re a collector of pilot watches, or just like the look of the observation style, take a serious look at the Steinhart B-type, you can’t really afford not to.