Review: The Ollech & Wajs P-101

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Ollech and Wajs is probably not the first brand that comes to mind when you think of high-performance tool watches. After doing some research into the brand, they deserve more credit than they get, especially for their technical achievements and impressive sales numbers back in the 1960s. During a booming high point right around the Vietnam War, O&W sold thousands of watches to soldiers, becoming a popular option for American troops. They even beat Rolex and Omega out by creating the first 1000m dive watch. The brand was also responsible for picking up parts and equipment from the freshly-defunct Breitling and continued to make the Navitimer (they called it the “Aviation”) chronograph for nearly 20 years. Even though Ollech and Wajs might not be a household name today, they’re making a comeback. O&W’s focus has always been on obtainable, military-inspired tool watches and their new offerings from a recent reboot of the brand hold true to the brand’s DNA.

Today, we’re looking at the O&W P-101, a 39.5mm pilot-inspired watch with a bi-directional 12-hour bezel. The P-101 draws inspiration from the McDonell F-101, a supersonic jet fighter that was the first to break the 1000mph speed record back in 1956. Let’s take a closer look at this bold, yet wearable pilot’s watch from O&W.

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$965

Review: The Ollech & Wajs P-101

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
ETA 2824-2
Dial
Matte Black
Lume
Super-LumiNova
Lens
Sapphire with AR
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
300m
Dimensions
39.5 x 49.5mm
Thickness
12.5mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw-down
Warranty
3 Years
Price
$965

Case

Crafted from 316L stainless steel, the 39.5mm case features brushed surfaces throughout. In true tool watch fashion, the machining on the case is clean and exact with crisp edges. I like a brushed finish on a watch that’s built to be knocked around a little, as it does a better job hiding those little bumps and nicks that can and will happen during daily wear. The case has a water resistance rating to 300m, which is enough for diving.

On the right side of the case, you’ll find the generously-sized screw-down crown. Deep grooves paired with the large size of the crown make it very easy to operate, even when the watch is on your wrist. Looking at the watch from the side, you’ll see a pronounced yet slim mid-case. The P-101 appears to wear slim on the wrist, even though it’s 12.5mm tall. The case back hangs under the watch quite a bit. The case back doesn’t nestle into your wrist as well as some others do because of the ~2mm vertical section of case that bridges the gap between mid-case and back.

One thing about the P-101 that may not sit well with everyone is the proportionally long lug-to-lug distance. On a 39.5mm case, a lug-to-lug of 49.5mm is on the longer side. The result is two sets of large lugs that remind me of a set of vampire fangs every time I look at them. Personally, I like the aesthetic and it works better on a mil-strap than on the included leather strap. If you have smaller wrists (mine are 6.75” for reference), the lug-to-lug distance affects how a watch will wear more so than the diameter in most cases. I appreciate the addition of drilled lugs since it makes strap changes a quick and easy affair.

Sitting atop the case is a blacked-out 12-hour bezel that rotates in both directions. This type of bezel is great for tracking a second timezone and hours elapsed. The action is smooth and free of clicks with just enough resistance to stay in place without being too hard to turn. Each hour is denoted by a pale yellow numeral (to match the hour markers on the dial) with a white hash mark in between. Coin edge style texturing runs around the outside of the bezel, which makes it easy to operate with gloves on or in damp conditions.

Dial + Hands

Sitting below the domed sapphire crystal is a matte black dial with pale yellow hour markers and a set of blocky brushed steel hands. Overall, the dial is large, legible, and uncluttered — just like how a tool watch should be. The most unique feature on the dial has to be the handset. The hour hand is a rectangular strip of brushed steel that’s filled with pale yellow Super LumiNova paint.

The minutes hand is similar in shape, but has a really cool ladder pattern running the length of the hand. Both hands end in a blunt flat surface that makes them easy to read at a glance. For the seconds hand, O&W went with a thin brushed metal hand that’s tipped with a pointed arrow that is also filled with luminous paint.

To denote the time, there are four applied hour markers at 12, 3, 6, and 9, printed rectangular blocks for the hours in between, and long hash marks in between those for the minutes. It’s an interesting look overall, but I would have preferred if each of the hour markers were treated with lume. In the dark, the P-101 is less impressive than it could be. There are no luminous areas on the bezel either, so if you do happen to be in near-total darkness, the time is the only thing that’s going to stand out.

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There’s minimal decoration elsewhere on the dial. The O&W logo stands proud at 12 o’clock, the model name (“P-101”) at 3, and the words “AUTOMATIC” and “300M” at 6. Intersecting the 6 o’clock index is a date window that’s bordered by the same brushed steel seen on the hands. I like the date at six, and don’t mind that it’s cutting into the index since it provides some nice balance to the dial.

Movement

Inside the P-101, there’s a modified ETA 2824-2 keeping time. O&W added a custom engraved main plate and rotor, but unfortunately, both are hidden away behind the solid steel case back. The ETA 2824-2 is a reliable movement that’s used by tons of different brands across the industry. Praised for it’s reliability, good timekeeping, and ease of servicing, the Swiss movement makes a lot of sense inside of a reliable tool watch like the P-101. It beats at 28,800 bph, which results in a nice, smooth sweep of the seconds hand around the dial. It’s capable of automatic and hand winding, hacking seconds for accurate setting, and has a white on black date display at the 6 o’clock position.

Strap + Wearability

The P-101 ships with a chocolate brown, “genuine leather” strap with stitched details near the lugs. To keep everything closed, there’s a signed clasp in brushed steel that matches the finishing on the rest of the watch. While I don’t mind the strap that comes with the watch, I wish it was a little higher quality given the price of the watch. Fortunately, the P-101 looks excellent on a nylon strap. While wearing the watch around, I really enjoyed it on a sandy straw yellow seatbelt nylon strap. The yellow in the strap picked up on the pale yellow on the bezel and dial giving it a distinct tonal military vibe. I also like it on a nice deep navy blue strap. The dark blue makes the yellow accents pop, even though they’re on the subtle end of the color spectrum.

On the wrist, the watch wears a little larger than its 38.5mm case implies and that’s because of the 49.5mm lug-to-lug distance. The lugs do stick out a fair amount, but when on a mil-strap, the nylon does a good job of filling in the distance between the case and end of the lug. On the strap, it’s not my favorite watch in the world, but on a mil-strap it really shines.

Conclusion

When first seeing the press announcement that O&W was coming back, I was very curious about how the first set of renders would translate in the metal. After some time with the watch, I can say that they did a great job reviving the brand. The P-101 holds true to the brand’s tool watch roots. The solid set of specs, reasonable asking price for the construction and movement, and versatility on a wide range of straps make it an excellent option for those in the market for a pilot-inspired watch. I’m looking forward to see what else the brand has in store for its second shot at life. The P-101 is a solid welcome back, and it proves that Ollech and Wajs is on the right track. Ollech & Wajs

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.
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