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History, provenance, and heritage are all very important factors to watch collectors. We care deeply about where our timepieces came from, what they have historically done, and what elements of those two things are carried on today in their modern offerings.
Stowa is a German watch making company that has been in operation since 1927. They released their first pilot’s watch, or Flieger watch, back in 1939 and have, in one way or another, maintained that offering ever since. Stowa draws heavily from the Bauhaus school of design, particularly in their Antea model, but all of their watches in one way or another draw from the Bauhaus movement in their simplicity.
There are a lot of brands that manufacture “flieger” style watches both expensive and cheap. From the IWC and A. Lange & Söhne to Laco and Wempe. There is a reason that the Flieger is basically synonymous with the German Watchmaking industry. “Flieger,” watches were originally designed in 1935 by the Reichs-Luftfahrtministerium for the German Luftwaffe to be used by their bomber navigators to coordinate attacks. These watches were distinctive in their simplicity as well as their purpose orientation. They were set apart by a large triangle at the 12 o’clock hour that would quickly show the correct orientation of the watch, and their large luminous arabic numerals that could be easily and quickly read.
The original Flieger style watches were very, very large at around 55mm in case size, in this regard they functioned much more like a piece of avionic instrumentation than they did a piece of horological hardware. The method by which these watches were used was also particularly important to their application. They had a “hacking,” movement, meaning that when the crown was pulled out, the second hand stopped. This allowed the users to synchronize their watches all at the same time. The crowns were also large “onion,” style crowns that could be operated with ease by a gloved hand.
From this foundation the Flieger watches evolved and were modernized over time into pieces that we can and do wear today. Stowa has done a great job of taking a design they worked on nearly 80 years ago and keeping relevant but also useable by modern wearers.
But first, some specs:
- Case Width: 40mm
- Case Thickness: 9.16mm
- Lug Width: 20mm
- Lug to Lug: 48.6mm (factory spec) 46.7 (measured)
- Weight: 4.2oz on the leather strap.
Stowa did something brilliant with the 40mm manual winding Flieger model, they made it super wearable. It’s case measures in at under 10mm thick, which compared to almost anything I’ve written about thus far is ridiculously thin. The thickness paired with a less than 5oz weight while on the strap makes this watch almost disappear while you wear it. My only real comfort-gripe would be that the oversized crown can cause some “back of hand stabbing issues,” but that’s to be expected in a Flieger style watch, oversized crowns were the norm.
Stowa basically builds their watches a la carte, so you can order a 40mm Flieger, with or without logo, date, numerals, etc. You also have the options to pick an automatic ETA movement or a hand wound movement. The particular watch I have has the Sellita SW-215 hand wound movement. Stowa also offers a larger Unitas movement in a slightly larger case that is also manual winding.
All of these movements are proven, reliable, and movements I’d happily have in a watch. My example is running at -1.2-2s/day, I’ll take that. One of the coolest things that Stowa does on their watches is putting display backs on nearly all them. In my example there is a beautifully decorated Sellita, you can watch the balance move back and forth, even see the gears move as you wind the watch. Display backs add a lot to a watch in my opinion. I love being able to see how it works.
The case is a simple brushed steel case, it’s minimal in every way but the proportions lend themselves well to being worn. It’s a nearly 49mm lug to lug width, so the case doesn’t feel small on the wrist, but it remains comfortable largely due to the flat case back. The crown as stated above is an oversized “onion,” style crown. This makes it very easy to get a hold of when you need to wind the watch.
Dial, Crystal, & Bezel
The dial of the Stowa is extremely simple, it’s painted numerals at the hour markers with large minute markers all the way around the dial. At noon there is a triangle capped by two dots, this is meant to allow you to quickly recognize which way is up when you’re first glancing at the watch. Flieger watches are all about quick time acquisitions and you can tell by how the dial is laid out and what elements are emphasized. Another thing Stowa has done is lumed everything on the face of the watch, at night all the hours markers, minute markers, and hands glow brightly with C3 Superluminova Paint.
The crystal is a slightly domed, anti-reflection coated, sapphire crystal. Paired with the thin and steep steel bezel it makes the dial look huge. This helps the watch to look and wear like a larger piece. Stowa does their AR coatings very well, the crystal looks as if there is nothing but air between you and the dial. All of this works to emphasize the legibility of the Flieger style watches.
Playing into their a la carte nature Stowa offers the Flieger on a variety of straps, from riveted leather strap to a steel Milanese mesh bracelet. My example is on the simple leather strap, it’s very soft and supple, and wears extremely comfortably. The Flieger is a watch that will wear well on a variety of strap styles, I could see it being worn on anything from a NATO to a vintage styled Tropic Rubber strap.
Stowa Flieger Review – Final Thoughts
Stowa is an interesting company that offers a wide array of quality time pieces that you can choose from. They make their interpretation of a diver, dress watch, marine chronometer, and many others…
The Flieger in particular is something Stowa is well known for. They’ve been making this this style of pilot watch with minor changes for almost 80 years. The nice thing about a Flieger is that it can double as a casual and dress watch, mostly by just changing your strap option. It would be a worthwhile addition to any watch fan’s collection.
The Stowa Flieger is available directly from Stowa. However, Amazon has a wide range of Flieger style watches. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
I’m not a watch aficionado and most of the watch reviews here fly over my head, but the Stowa watches (Marine and Flieger) seize me with an elemental case of the wants. 40mm seems the perfect size.
Something about Stowa; this may be my favorite rendition of the pilot watch. That elegantly plain precise utilitarian Teutonic LEGIBILITY, man oh man.
I appreciate the detail of how it wears and works; I’m glad this is as functional a watch as I’d hoped.
Someday it will be mine.
I dig the Flieger as well, and I think Aaron’s version is especially cool (although I really like having a date on all my watches).
I also think this watch is a great value for the money. Sure there are cheaper pilot’s watches, but none as cool as this one.
Beautiful watch, so much of history it carries adds weight to this simple but elegant piece. Full of panache !
Thanks for checking out the review! I agree – this watch is timeless! Can’t go wrong with a nice Pilot’s watch and Stowa is among the best.
It’s a stunning watch that I am also considering for a while. Could you please confirm the lug to lug size, as Stowa’s websites indicates 48,6mm for the 40 automatic version?
Matt, I am pretty sure 48.6 is the correct measurement. I have updated the review.
Aaron Shapiro says
I measure all the watches I review with calipers for the specs. I suppose I could have made a mistake. I don’t have the Stowa on hand anymore to double check.
My two watches are the Sinn 857 and the Stowa 41mm Unitas 6498 manual wind. I really love having the date on my watches as well but those Stowa Flieger’s are just so cool to wear. This is a great review of the thinner Sellita movement. Give that Unitas movement a try sometime if you every run across one.
Dan Jackson says
Thanks for checking out the review. I agree, the Stowa Flieger is a unique value proposition. I like having a date as well but can see the charm.