A Moment in Time: Junghans Meister Pilot 2015 Event Edition
How I got this watch: After returning the Meister Calendar to the Junghans USA distributor, Junghans Watches USA, I was sent the Junghans Meister Calendar and spent just under two weeks with it.
The Junghans Meister Pilot is an excellent re-interpretation of a classic chronograph. It's bigger, it's bolder, it's German.
Just like how the Meister Calendar was a testament to the virtues of German minimalism, the Meister Pilot is the perfect example of timeless design. Certain aspects of the watch have been changed for a modern audience but the overall look is that of the original Bundeswehr chronograph. Germany was still cleaved in two following the end of the Second World War and in 1955 formed the unified armed forces (Bundeswehr) with three service branches: Heer (Army), Marine (Navy) and Luftwaffe (Air Force). The Luftwaffe put out a request for German watchmakers to provide them with pilot's chronographs with Hanhart being the first. Demand outstripped supply so in 1957 Junghans starting producing the Bundeswehr chronograph and the rest, as they say, is history.
Similarities between that vintage chronograph and the Meister Pilot are noticeable from the off. The matte dial with high contrast numbers still remain however the nickel-plated brass case is now thankfully stainless steel. The large Arabic numerals are easily visible at a glance and are almost phosphorescent when in the dark with the amount of lume used. The 2,4,8 and 10 are ever-so-slightly cropped to give the two registers at 3 & 9 priority, I'm not usually a fan of markers being cut away but the effect here is so slight that it never bothered me.
The sword hands are just as luminescent as the hour markers with a surprising addition of a small lume dot at the tip of the chronograph seconds hand. Whilst this placement is nice and very hypnotically pleasing to watch at night, there is no lume on the chronograph minute register so tracking elapsed time over the sixty seconds at night is near impossible. The concave sub-dials add to the depth of the watch and works nicely with the slightly sloping dial. the register at 3 o'clock is the running seconds whilst the register at 9 o'clock records up to thirty minutes for the chronograph.
The requirement for a chronograph is that it should be easy to use at a moment's notice and I'm pleased to say that the Junghans Meister Pilot was a joy to use. The two oval pushers are large enough so your fingers fit over them nicely but the response is still quick and sharp. The central chronograph second itself wasn't as buttery smooth as I would have liked with occasional small stutters as it passed around the dial but I only noticed this after staring at the dial during photography. Turning the watch over reveals the length of the pushers and the sturdy tube connecting to the movement which look like concrete support beams for a autobahn overpass.
Rather than chronograph the dial reads chronoscope which is technically the correct word for a device that displays elapsed time. Early chronographs, Ancient Greek root being knronograhpos for chronicler, would actually record time with paper and ink whilst a chronoscope (khronos, Time, Skopos, Watcher) would only display it. It is pointless to complain about the fluidity and ever-changing nature of language but it is nice to see the correct parlance being used.
Along with the high contrast dial, the eye-catching scalloped bezel is the most recognizable hallmark of the original Bundeswehr chronograph. This bezel is thinner and with less of an inwards tilt than the original with the designers making great use of the undulations to fit in the text nicely. I wasn't quite sure of what to expect when I turned the bi-directional bezel, part of me expected a ratcheted click-click-click similar to the Christopher Ward C60 Trident Chronograph or a smooth glide like the Breitling Navitimer World. Despite multiple attempts contorting my hand in different directions I could never get a good grip on the bezel, my fingers would knock against the watch lugs and pushers. The scalloped edges were originally designed so that pilots wearing gloves could use the watch but even in a pair of winter gloves I couldn't get the bezel to turn right. From an aesthetic viewpoint it's gorgeous and certainly unique so it's a shame that I was never able to get it to work! Maybe over time I would find the knack of how to do it correctly like adjusting the calendar functions on the Meister Calendar.
Inside the watch is the Junghans Caliber J880.4 movement which is a combination of either the ETA2824 or Sellita SW200 with an additional Dubois Depraz 2030 chronograph module. This automatic movement means that the watch is thicker and wider (43.3mm to 38mm) than the original but it's still a wearable size that I didn't have any problems with. What I did find odd is that despite the increase dial size the on-dial tachometer has been removed in favor of a sixty minute track. It's nothing life-threatening but seeing as there is ample space left I don't think it would have cluttered the dial if done correctly (a feat I'm confident Junghans would have been capable of).
The popularity of military watches is higher than ever because of their versatility when it comes to straps. A dark gray NATO, a canvas pull through or even, if you're feeling adventurous, a leather bund would all look great on this watch. The stock leather strap managed to win me over despite my usual dislike of riveted straps. There are two different versions of this watch available, one with white numerals and black strap and the brown strapped, 'fauxtina' numerals that I spent time with. The rivets are nice and small so don't overwhelm the strap with the fold of black leather providing good contrasting with the light tan stitching
This is the Pilot's Event 2015 Edition of the Meister Pilot, a limited edition of 150 watches for each color and has some small differences with the general release. The case back has an engraving of the Junghans factory in Schamberg whilst the standard edition has a large compass rose. Not to indulge the stereotype of German efficiency but the factory was decades ahead of it's time in terms of ergonomic design. Rather than have the dozens of clock and watchmakers hunch over, squinting in poor light, Arthur Junghans built nine long and narrow corridors onto the side of the steepest hill in the valley. Huge floor to ceiling windows allowed large amounts of natural light to flood through to every inch of the workshop. The idea of natural light being beneficial to workers might seem obvious now but in 1918 it was a revolutionary idea.
I really liked the Junghans Meister Pilot. It manages to walk the fine line between being faithful to the original and convenient for a modern audience. The increased size from the original might put off a few pedants and despite a few minor issues with the bezel, it is a great modern interpretation of a classic chronograph.