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PMWF Museum please! Watch or Accessory Review Ticino Vintage Pilot Chronograph review >

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Jittery Jim  
Current mood:
February 10, 2012 10:07PM
This is the same text and photos of the review as posted on watch-nerd.com, reposted here for archival in the PMWF Reviews Forum.

The past few years have seen the popularity of the Beobachtungs-Uhren - B-Uhr - style of watch skyrocket. Brands are producing homages to these oversized military watches in a variety of price points with everything from Swiss, German, Japanese and Chinese movements. They all attempt to pay tribute to those original watches worn by the German Luftwaffe during World War II.

Those watches were designed for two specific purposes: legibility and accuracy. They were large, 55mm in diameter, and had a completely uncluttered dial with only the necessary means to tell accurate time. To assist with legibility the dials were coated with radium to provide luminesence. They were meant to be worn over a flight jacket and provided on long, leather straps to fit around ones clothing. These rare watches fetch quite a premium in today's market and are very desirable to collectors. Thankfully, a number of brands have stepped in to provide us less fortunate folk more affordable options.

One such brand is Ticino, who has been producing affordable B-Uhr watches for a few years now. They have offered B-Uhr style watches in 44mm and 47mm in hand wind and automatic versions for below $200. I recently learned that they had a new offering: a 44mm hand wind chronograph in the B-Uhr style. There are two things I am a fan of: the B-Uhr style (I've owned nine watches in the style) and chronographs (I own six and have had thirty-eight others pass through my hands); put them together and it's like peanut butter and jelly. I was instantly enamored, it only took a day to consider before I ordered one.

Now that I have spent some time with the Ticino Vintage Hand Wind Pilot Chronograph, I thought I would share my thoughts and impressions on this B-Uhr style chronograph.

:: Specs ::

Make: Ticino
Model: Vintage Hand Wind Pilot Chronograph, Model BF-109
Movement: Sea-Gull TY2903 hand wind chronograph movement
Material: Stainless Steel
Crystal: Mineral
WR: 30M
Width: 44mm
Height: 13.8mm
Length: 52mm
Lugs: 20mm
Weight: 94 grams (with stock strap)
Source: sales@sizzlinwatches.com
Price Paid: $250

Looking at the watch for the first time it is clear of its origins, the DNA of the original B-Uhr watches is present in the style of the hands, markers and even case shape. Unlike the watches from the 1940's, which were 55mm, the Ticino measures in at a very reasonable (by today's standards) 44mm. Given that many of today's B-Uhr watches are 47mm or 48mm the 44mm is a very welcome size for those of us with smaller wrists. The 44mm size is probably as small as it could go as it allows for the chronograph sub-dials to fit neatly within the dial without cutting into the hour markers, which is a welcome design. The legibility of the original watches is present here as well, even with the additional dial real estate used by the chronograph there is no loss in readability of the time. The time is set by the large, fluted non-screw down crown - again typical of the B-Uhr design. Some might balk at a non-screw down crown, however given the hand wind movement a screw down crown would only hinder proper winding of the watch. From a historic perspective, a non-screw down crown is correct.

The case, as mentioned, is 44mm with a height of 13.8mm, which will still fit under the cuff of a shirt. The case length from lug tip to lug tip is 52mm. For those with smaller wrists, like me, it sits right at the upper limit for what will comfortably fit on the wrist without looking like I'm wearing a manhole cover. Rounding out the dimensions talk, the lug width is the very standard 20mm, which means that most pole will have a drawer full of straps to try on the watch. On the wrist the watch looks great and is very comfortable. The case is finished cleanly with no sharp edges or unfinished areas and caries a very lightly brushed finish which cuts down on reflections and "bling" and provides a feel between casual and tool watch.

The dial of the watch, if you are a B-Uhr fan, is a familiar one. Numeric hour markers adorn the dial with the double-dotted triangle at twelve o'clock. Hash marks indicate each minute with the markers every five minutes being thicker to distinguish that interval of time. The one missing hour marker is at six to accommodate one of the sub-dials. The sub-dials are plain and functional; they are not recessed or otherwise distinguished other than the markers that indicate the function of use. The running seconds for the time sit at the nine o'clock dial; a 24-hour time (or day/night indicator, if you like) is at six and the 30 minute chronograph register is at three o'clock. Naturally the chronograph seconds hand is at the center of the watch with the hour and minute hands. The hour and minute hands are lightly outlined with black, which can sometimes get lost in the dial. I was wondering why not blued hands but after looking at the dial for a while and the black and white contrast there I feel the blue would have been too distracting. Also adding to any distraction would have been a brand label or other text on the dial keeping with the original B-Uhr design there is no brand indication, or other text, on the dial.

Legibility is aided by Swiss C1 Super Luminova on the hands, hour markers and minute track. The dial picks up luminescence quite easily and provides good legibility in low light conditions. After a good charge I found the lume to last several hours in the dark providing legibility into the night for those who may need it. Given the expectation of high visibility I would expect nothing less than what is provided by the Ticino.

Protecting the dial is a slightly domed, hardened mineral crystal, which for some will prove the only disappointment of the watch. Many would expect a sapphire crystal at this price point, which would provide a extra level of security around damage to the crystal, which can happen a bit more often with these oversized watches. Nevertheless, the crystal of the Ticino is an improvement over the plexiglass crystals often used in the original B-Uhr watches and should prove sufficient for most wearers.

Turning the watch over to it's back provides another, more complex view over the sterile dial. Behind a mineral crystal on the back one can see the Sea-Gull TY2903 chronograph movement. It is a very, very pretty movement to view and I am pleased that Ticino opted for a display back. It is this kind of movement that I enjoy showing non-watch nerds when explaining mechanical movements. The Sea-Gull provides the chronograph functions and 48 hours of power reserve when fully wound. My watch is presently running a reasonable +10 seconds a day which will probably fall within most users tolerance. I suspect with some tweaking this could easily be brought down closer to +4 or +5 seconds a day. The chronograph is started with a solid snap with the two o'clock pusher, as one would expect, and the same stops the function. Resetting via the four o'clock pusher resets all chronograph hands back to zero. Unlike the start/stop pusher the reset pusher feels a bit soft and there is no "solid" feeling click. Despite this, it does function as one would expect. I do notice that the hour hand wiggles a bit when engaging the chronograph and during reset as well. I am not sure if this is common in this movement or a flaw in my watch. In any case it does not appear to affect proper time keeping as the hand moves about 1mm forward then back again. It is something, however, that I am going to keep my eye on as time goes by.

Provided with the watch is a 4mm thick padded leather strap. It is a matte black finish with contrasting white stitching and a rivet at the lug end of each part of the strap. As mentioned it is 20mm with a taper to 18mm. The strap is a nice compliment to the watch and what one would expect to find on a modern B-Uhr. Wearing the strap I have found it to be a bit stiff and am hoping it will continue to soften with wear. I have tried the watch on a handful of straps and have found it looks great on a number of options. A brown leather NATO provided a nice, vintage look; a double riveted black pilot strap with no taper was another favorite choice. A distressed brown strap would be an excellent compliment and is something I am currently looking for. The vintage feel of the watch combined with any pilot style strap is going to be a killer combination.

All in all I have to say that Ticino hit one out of the park with the Vintage Hand Wind Pilot Chronograph. For those that are lusting after one of the more expensive B-Uhr chronographs the Ticino would fill that itch nicely at an attractive price point. The 20mm lugs will provide no end to the strap combinations available for the watch, letting it be dressed up for the boardroom or more casual for a back yard BBQ. The watch is well finished and solidly built and would make a handsome addition to any collection.

+ Pros
Classic B-Uhr design
Strong lume
Value for the price

- Cons
Strap a little stiff
Mineral crystal might be a disappointment to some

(The hand-made wood airplane in the photos above was built by my cousin, Scott, who owns and operates Scott's Boat Works where he builds hand made, wood canoes.)

Jittery Jim :: James :: PMWF Admin
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PMWF Museum please! Watch or Accessory Review Ticino Vintage Pilot Chronograph review > Image Attachments URL

Jittery Jim5355February 10, 2012 10:07PM

Nicely written review Jim! Thumbs up! (n/t)

BobbyMike301February 11, 2012 03:12PM

As stated earlier, a great review...even better the second time! Laughing

Timemiser127February 11, 2012 01:43PM

Thanks for reposting. A very well designed and great review, congrats Thumbs Up (n/t)

Reto122February 11, 2012 11:55AM

A lovely watch in a Great review!Cheers!Thumbs up! (n/t)

IF114February 11, 2012 07:44AM

Excellent Watch or Accessory Review Jim! Thumbs Up Cool watchCool (n/t)

Nuvolari120February 11, 2012 04:53AM

Excellent review Thumbs Up Thumbs Up Sounds like Ticino has a winner there smile (n/t)

Ed Brandwein157February 10, 2012 11:08PM

A few nitpicks and general comments... Image Attachments URL

Anonymous User507February 10, 2012 10:31PM

Thanks, Ricky. And, thanks for your thoughtful >>

Jittery Jim145February 10, 2012 10:36PM

Re: ..comments that you posted below.

Anonymous User177February 11, 2012 12:08AM

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