Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic - Bang-for-the-Buck Pilot's Watch

A couple of month's back I bought a Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic watch. After about a month of wrist time, I would like to share with you my experiences with and views of this watch, from the moment I ordered it, up to the time of this review's writing.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Forgive the long read as I wanted the article to come as close to my experience with the watch and in dealing with Steinhart. I hope though, that you will still find it informative and enjoyable!

Note: Just after writing the draft for this review, I went out for dinner and a guy in a rush hit his watch against mine. You can read how it happened here. The pictures in this review were taken after this incident thus you see the battle scars.

Ordering

When I got the news of my temporary work assignment in Doha, I was a bit worried since my fiancee and I were right smack in the middle of our wedding preparations. My transfer also meant that I would be leaving during the month of July, which is my and my fiancee's birth month. On the bright side though, this assignment meant additional cash flow. Thus I decided to celebrate my transfer and my going-to-be-lonely-birthday by getting a watch that I have been looking at for some time already: the Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic.

Before placing the order,  I left a message at the Steinhart website if I could have the regular Russian leather strap replaced with a different strap upon  ordering. To my pleasant surprise it was Günter himself, Steinhart's president, who replied back and said I could choose any of the 22mm straps available at the website. I chose the old vintage torf strap with a polished pre-V buckle (to match the polished rivets and the steel retainer of the strap) to replace the regular strap. The order with the strap instructions were placed at the website together with an order for additional straps and buckles. Since I don't like paying customs taxes if it can be avoided, I had the watch shipped to a friend in Dublin whom I know will be going home to the Philippines this past August.

Upon check out, I was pleasantly surprised that ordering from the Philippines, meant exemption from the Euro VAT! And since it was  shipping to Ireland, there were no customs fees and shipment fee was marginal. In total I only payed Euro350 for the watch. Sweet!

After paying through PayPal, I dropped a quick email to Günter about the completed transaction, which he promptly confirmed, and another one to my friend to tell him to expect the watch in a couple of days.

Delivery

After only a couple of days, my friend informed me that he package had been received in Dublin. I immediately told him to open it up to inspect the contents of the package.

He also sent me some pictures from his iPhone to show me what was received and what he felt was missing. Here are the pictures he sent.

Steinhart Nav-B Uhr Automatik IMG_0253

After going through the packing list, I noted that one strap was missing and that one of the pre-V buckles shipped was the wrong type (w/ logo isntead of w/o logo). I sent an email to Günter and I received a prompt reply from his secretary, Sabine, that they knew of these deficiencies. According to her, the missing strap and the buckle at the time of shipment were not available. They sent me an extra buckle just in case I needed it, and said that the correct buckle and missing strap would be delivered when it becomes available. With a free extra buckle, and no immediate need for the strap and the correct buckle, I said it was OK and that I would just wait for the missing/correct items.

About 2 months after ordering, I took my two week break from work in Doha and attended a wedding in Bohol which my friend from Dublin would also be attending. There he made the drop off.

I would like to share with you how the packaging looked like and how it felt like opening it.

Opening of the box


After more than a month of wearing the watch, here are my views and impressions of the Nav. B-Uhr II.

Movement

The Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic comes with an ETA 2824-2 movement with hour, minute and centrally located second hands. Obviously the date function of the movement is not being used as the watch was designed to be as historically close to the original Beobachtungs-Uhrens as possible, which did not have any date function. The movement has 25 jewels and beats at 28,800BPH. My personal tests of the watch show that it has a gain of 5 sec/day.

According to the website, the power reserve of the watch is at 42 hours. Since I don't get to wear this watch on a continuous basis here in Qatar, as I usually only use it during the evening, I dropped an email to Günter to ask him what would be the best practice to keep the watch running. Within a couple of minutes, I received a reply saying that I could give the watch a manual winding, about 20 half-turns in both directions, every other day. This was indeed sufficient enough for the Nav. B-Uhr II to keep accurate and continuous time.

Movement type: ETA 2824-2 made in Switzerland
Jewels: 25 jewels, 28,800 BPH
Power Reserve: 42 hours
Complications: Hour, Minutes, Seconds 

Case 

The case of the Nav. B-Uhr II is made up of a solid piece of brushed stainless steel with a screw-in caseback. The bezel and the lugs seamlessly integrate to the rest of the case. The case of the original B-Uhrens is 55mm which the pilots wear over their thighs or arms. The diameter of this watch is  down to a manageable 44mm and a height of 14.2mm, small enough to wear on the wrist but still lending some wrist presence to the wearer of the watch. IMO the 22mm lug width is perfectly proportioned to the rest of the watch and the size allows for a lot of strap options for the Nav, B-Uhr II. The length of the watch is about 52.1mm, but since the lugs curve downwards and the caseback is flat and huge, the watch is able to sit comfortably on my 6.5" wrists with almost no lug overhang.

The watch weighs in at 107g, and I can consciously feel the presence of the watch on my wrist. But even so its not uncomfortable and because it sits flat on my wrist it doesn't move or swing about.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

What I particularly like about the case is how the lugs  elegantly protrude and arc from the case. I sometime notice myself thumbing this part of the case, running my thumb from the circular case following the outline as it curves seamlessly to the lugs. I've read other reviews that don't think too much of  the lug shape but I personally like it and I am amazed at the workmanship that was put into making the case!
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

The caseback is also made up of stainless steel and is of the screw-in type. Given that the movement of the watch is an ETA 2824, probably without too much customization and decoration, I don't mind that the watch has a solid caseback.  It is actually a nice piece of work, as there is a sharp engraved image of a 1940s pilot with the Steinhart logo and the text "STEINHART Nav. B B-Uhr II" on top. Along the circumference of the caseback the text "SWISS MADE • STAINLESS STEEL • SAPPHIRE CRYSTAL • SWISS AUTOMATIC MOVT." is also engraved.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Apart from the text on the caseback, the only other marking on the watch is the production number, which can be found on the side of the case at the 6 o'clock position. Mine is in the 500 series.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

The watch has a push-in grooved onion-shaped crown with a rather long stem. I would have preferred a screw-in type crown, more so a screw-in diamond shaped crown. That said, it turns smoothly and because of the long stem, it is quite easy to pull. The crown is engraved with the Steinhart logo which I personally think is a great touch. I'm not sure if I can replace this crown with the diamond crown used in other Steinharts, or if that crown is even available for individual sale. If it's possible, I'd probably give that a try.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

The Nav. B-Uhr II's "glass" is made up of sapphire crystal with double AR coatings on the inside of the watch. It's good that Steinhart didn't go cheap with the glass, as the slightly domed shape can be a magnet for scratches, but at least with sapphire, it won't get scratched easily. I'm also glad that Steinhart went for a domed glass since there is something about this detail that sets the Nav. B-Uhr II apart from other pilot watches available at the same price point.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

According to their website the Nav. B-Uhr II has limited water resistance, thus no swimming and showering is allowed. This isn't too much of a let down for me since I don't intend on swimming or showering with this watch on a leather strap, though I hope it can take an accidental splash or two. But based on the sweat stain marks the bracelet has already endured, its best to keep this watch dry.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Case: Burshed Stainless Steel
Diameter: 44mm
Weight: 107 g
Length: 52.1mm
Height: 14.2mm
Lug width: 22mm
Crown: Push-In, Grooved Onion, with Steinhart logo
Caseback: Engraved Stainless Steel, Screwed
Crystal: Domed Sapphire, with Double Anti-Reflecting Coatings on the Interior Side
Water Resistance: Limited Water Resistant, No Swimming or Shower

Dial

Ahhh my favorite part of this watch, the dial! The dial is as sterile as a pilot watch can be. As you look into the face of the watch, it's dominated by the matte black color of the dial. My eyes are first drawn to the propeller shaped blued hands. I personally think that the hands are perfectly proportioned to the watch, not too thick, not too thin. The length of the minute hand almost allows it to brush against the chapter ring. The hour hand's length is also long enough that it doesn't look like a dwarf beside the minute hand, but short enough that it is very easy to distinguish which hand is for hours and which hand is for minutes.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

As I twist and angle the watch, a beam of light falls on the blued hands and it transforms from a dark blue, almost black, color to a bright striking chrome blue color. I really enjoy looking at these blued hands as they transform from one color to another.

Steinhart 44mm Nav. B-Uhr II Automatic
From a dull dark blue
Steinhart 44mm Nav. B-Uhr II Automatic
To a stunning chrome blue
My only critique of the hands is that some uneven blue edges on some parts of the hands can be seen. through a loupe or macro shot. If this was heated steel (blue steel can be produced by heating steel to 280-300degC), I would not have expected  uneven edges on the hands. This leads me somehow to believe that the blued hands are in fact blue coated hands or maybe blued by some sort of chemical oxidizer. Not sure though as I haven't seen any literature about Steinhart's blued hands - so I might be wrong. Also this is something that wouldn't be noticed without a loupe or macro lens- so its no big deal really to the over-all look of the watch.

My eyes then fall on the indices and the chapter ring which are all white and slighlty embossed. The indices are Arabic numerals from 1-11, with 12 replaced by the familiar triangle with two dots at the top. The chapter ring is made up of a thin white ring from where white straight lines protrude towards the center. Thicker and longer white lines mark the hours and the thinner white lines mark the minutes.

It's ironic though that my favorite part of the watch is also where I see some manufacturing imperfections. I see a very small black speck at the upper right corner of the number 4 and I also see a stray white fleck outside the outline of the number 11 (on the first number 1). This being said, I don't really care as only I can see it, and in fact it's acted as my "totem", imperfections only I know that uniquely identifies my watch.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

As mentioned earlier, Superluminova C1 is applied to the middle diamond part of the hour and minute hands. The second hand is lumed too, from just past the axis of rotation up to its tip. The Arabic numbers are also lumed. and the only white detail on the dial that is not lumed is the thin white ring where the indices protrude from. Even without it, this watch compared to the IWC BP, has got a little bit more detail that glows in the dark.

After turning off the lights, I immediately notice that the hour and minute hands glow brighter than the indices/chapter ring. This doesn't mean that the indices and chapter ring are pushovers though, as my tests show that all the lumes can last throughout the night.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

If I can sum up the dial, I would say it's imperfectly perfect! The no-text-on-the-dial approach, the contrast provided by the embossed white lines and text on black and the splash of color provided by the blued hands make this one of the most readable watch face around. The lume is easy to read and lasts the whole night. Over-all, IMHO, the dial of this watch is such a beauty that even with the imperfections I've mentioned, it doesn't in any way take anything away from the dial. That said, if the flaws can be addressed, then so much more the better.

Dial: Black
Indices: Arabic Numeral except 12 o'clock which is a Triangle with Two Dots
Chapter ring: Seconds
Lume: Superluminova C1, White
Hands: Blued Hour and Minute Hands with Superluminova C1, White. Central Second Hand, also with Superluminova C1.

Strap

Originally this watch comes with a brown Russian leather strap with rivets (but not through the strap, but for decoration only). As described above, I went with a brown torf vintage leather strap with contrasting stitches and decorative rivets. The thing I enjoy most about this strap is that it's quite long thus giving me a significant tail. But because it's got 3 loops (1 fixed leather loop, 1 fix steel loop and 1 adjustable leather loop), the tail doesn't flip flop and I personally think it adds a more vintage pilot look to the Nav. B-Uhr II.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic
I've also got the big pilot style strap with deployant buckle which I intend to use if I'm going for a weekend out in Doha. The humidity and heat induced sweat definitely won't go well with the leather strap, so I got this strap specifically for this purpose. Here are some wrist shots of the watch with that strap.

Finally here are some wrist shots.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Verdict

I am giving one thumbs up for the Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic and another thumbs up for my experience with Steinhart. So that's two thumbs up!

The watch is excellently designed and built, with only minor flaws on the dial and hand edges that only a macro lens or a loupe will reveal, but still an area for improvement nonetheless. The case feels solid without being too big, and the domed sapphire crystal is something you could probably expect from a more expensive watch. When worn, the watch definitely attracts attention with it's size, but never at the expense of comfort to the wearer. At Euros 350.00, I think it's one of the best watches out there, a definite keeper IMHO. I know I'm keeping this one.

Apart from the watch itself, the experience of dealing with Günter and his team was excellent. Apart from always getting prompt replies, the fact that Günter personally replies to customer emails is a great way to show commitment to the customers. It was also great dealing with them with regards to special requests and when issues were discovered in the shipment (I have since chose a different strap and buckle and has now been safely delivered to me). My experience with them makes me wish that all watch sellers were like Steinhart.


Please feel free to share your comments or if you have the same watch, your own reviews and pictures! I'd love to see other Steinharts.

Hope you enjoyed reading!

20 comments:

  1. thanks for this excellent review !
    i want one now :-))

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very interesting review, indeed.
    I was hesitating between the auto and the
    rewinding version and you convinced me, defenitely ! Very good and accurate pictures too.
    Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Olivier, it is a solid watch. Truly a great buy.

    James, I personally like the auto because it offers the very sterile dial I was looking for in a pilot watch. Hope you enjoy your watch soon!

    Thanks for visiting guys.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is now within grasp here in the Philippines at Ichronoclast in Greenbelt, Makati. Can't wait to go there and get a hold of this prestige but less expensive watch. BTW, great review man. MABUHAY!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, anakngfoo

    Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read my blog. Yes, it is a great watch and a real bang for the buck piece. Please also feel free to join the Philippine Watch Club where Filipino WISs share their passion for watches!

    PinoyWatchIdiot

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bought the Nav B II B-Type yesterday. 44 mm case diameter soothes my 7.5" wrist very well..

    ReplyDelete
  7. I bought mine 2 days ago after contemplating for months. I was Singapore and got it from Gnomon's shop so I had the opportunity to see it in real before deciding (it didn't take long) on the auto 47mm. Tried the Archimede as well but in the end the free extra leather strap and 47mm did it for me. One thing though, the strap's spring hinges could be better made. Other than that I love the watch.

    ReplyDelete
  8. great job was done, more information obtained than I expected. I am just to buy my steinhart pilot Nav B-Uhr II 44 mm hand driven, thanks god option of crown choice is available when placing the order, so I intend to take diamond style and additional mesh bracelet. Your deep review made me sure the choice is proper.

    Thank, Michal Poland, Lodz.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I just bought my 44 mm nav-b from steinhart, and i noticed that the power reserve doesnt last as long as my other auto's. how do you manually wind it? Same as rolex?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mine lasts about 40hours give or take. You can handwind it by turning the crown while in the "normal" position (meaning the position you normally have the crown). I give mine about 20 half turns.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Excellent review, thanks.
    My "Nav B II B-Type" should be arriving in the next couple of days! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I`ve just made a decision based on your review that I`m going to buy these watches. Thx a lot for this great review.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great review ! Many thanks ! It helped me to decide between Steinhart Pilot and Steinhart Aviation watches. Im going to order theese 44 Nav B´s, but hand driven version and with diamond crown.
    I have 7,5inch wrist, so I hope it will not be small for me... :)
    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  14. A superb review. I now own this very same watch, with the brown leather double rivetted strap it came with.
    I'm very happy.

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  15. what can you say about apollon chronograph?

    ReplyDelete
  16. One of the best reviews I ever seen.
    I will order my NAV-B next days - after long search.

    Thanks a lot
    Uwe

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank you for your excellent and thorough review. You have helped me to decide on purchasing this watch, but I have a question about the strap. According to the Steinhart website, it is 150x82mm long, quite long as you indicated. Did you find it too long for your wrist size? Other staps they offer are sized at L - 124x92mm; M - 124x82mm; or
    S - 114x82mm. I have a 7 inch wrist and wonder which size strap to choose among those offered. I like my watches to fit snug, not loose with a strap. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Excellent review. I own both Flieger Nav.B Muster A and B, one hand winding the other one automatic. Fantastic watches. I had the same very good experience with Mr. Steinhart!

    ReplyDelete
  19. LuxerWatches sells authentic luxury brand name watches, with some watches selling at a BIG discount.

    ReplyDelete
  20. There is a chance you're eligible to receive a Apple iPhone 7.

    ReplyDelete

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