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First Look: The A-13A Pilot’s Chronograph Is Going Mechanical (with Central-Minutes and Flyback Functions!)

First Look: The A-13A Pilot’s Chronograph Is Going Mechanical (with Central-Minutes and Flyback Functions!)

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There’s something rather invigorating about the idea of a pilot watch that’s actually made by a specialist who flies. No sense here of gray gathering rooms, smooth marketing departments who “reach out” (if you’re not one of the Four Tops, just don’t) or work in “swim lanes.” The new mechanical A-13A couldn’t be more eliminated from shizzle like this on the off chance that it tried.

For example, ask Paolo Fanton, the architect (not marketer) behind the new gear-tooth fueled A-13A model watch how much it’ll sell for and he’ll say he’s as yet dealing with the numbers.  Not such an answer you get from your usual spreadsheet-jockey. He’s started this venture not because of the number of dollars he’ll make, but since he adores it.

We’ve had the model of the new A-13A on test throughout the previous fourteen days, had the option to wear it, use it, and spend far too long swapping straps around on it.  Paolo’s already flight-tried the watch and made several changes (counting eliminating the crystal color and changing to 316L stainless for the case) before it reached the UK station of Worn & Wound Towers.

When the initial A-13A saw the light of day in 2016-17 , it had a 27 gem, ETA 251.264 quartz engine. Watch individuals were really quick to see this circled back to a mechanical development. Easy to ask for, however a massive challenge for a maker to meet.  

To reflect the functionality of the quartz A-13A, you need to source a development that runs a central chrono seconds hand. That’s an exceptionally short candidate list in fact, presently the Lemania 5100 has ticked its last as a creation development. Its alleged replacement, the ETA cal. C01.211, misses the very thing that made the 5100 particular — a cam-actuated, direct-drive chronograph showing the two seconds and minutes on the main dial. 

That really leaves just a single mechanical chronograph alternative, and if it’s adequate for Richard Mille in the RM011 and RM016, Omega, and Audemars Piguet, it’ll do the work splendidly.  That’s a base development running a Dubois-Dépraz chronograph module. Watchmaker Ashton Tracy has examined the benefits of the chrono module , so there’s no compelling reason to re-hash them here. Yet, in this case, rather than the ETA-2824 being the base development, Paolo has picked the Sellita SW200.  

Sellita used to assemble the venerable 2824 for ETA as well as a ton of Secret Squirrel stuff for luxurious watch houses, yet once ETA declared from behind their drawbridge that they weren’t going to give development packs anymore, Sellita had some hard deduction to do. So they chose to assemble their own near-as-dammit 2824-style developments utilizing non-ETA parts. 

Today, you’d have to be at least something of a development geek to detect the contrast between the ETA 2824 original and the Sellita SW200, apart from an extra gem in oneself winding mechanism.  The practical distinction is that you have better compared to a cat’s chance in hellfire of getting a stock of Sellita movements. 

A chronograph module has the advantage of supply — and cost too — yet it implies a significant thick case to house the entire plot. The original quartz A-13A presses under the wire at 13mm thick. The new mechanical chrono-module watch comes in at 16.3mm. By comparison, the Damasko DC66 (not exactly the modest, resigning under-shirt-sleeves type) is barely short of 14mm thick and a Panerai Radiomir 210 is simply over 13.3mm.

Paulo says, “I battled to plan a case that doesn’t look so thick by playing with the shape of the carries and surface finishing.”  The drags are more limited than the more slender quartz model’s, with a more articulated scope to them. They’re penetrated as well, to make strap changes a great deal safer and significantly less complex. The case sides are brushed, and a portion of the development profundity gets concealed with a stage under the case side that mixes into the caseback. That’s reflected by a higher, vertical-sided cleaned bezel. All this quarrel about profundity isn’t to say a thick watch is something bad — far from it. The A-13A has a real haul to it and feels like an appropriate watch. It’s an instrument that’s intended to do a task.

Like its quartz archetype, the plan of the model watch is based immovably on the A-13A cockpit clock. Dating from the early 1960s, the original A-13A clock gives a pilot both the time and a stopwatch. Run the chrono from the catch on the highest point of the case and wind and set the development with the handle at the base. Anti-intelligent glass makes sure you can see what’s going on regardless of what the glare in your cockpit. In the event that you’re after one for your Stearman or your Luscombe, have a word with individuals at the Waltham Aircraft Clock Corporation in Ozark, Alabama who actually make them. 

The A-13A clock is about as readable as a watch can be.  Given that Paolo spends a decent extent of his time airborne, it’s perhaps to be expected this is his plan impact. Like the clock, the watch’s hands and numerals are white against the black dial, each hour is marked clearly with its number and each brief interval runs on an external track. The new watch reflects this faithfully, even down to the shape of the hands.  

The quartz A-13A had to utilize somewhat smaller hands, essentially because quartz watches put out less force (rotational power) than mechanical developments, so can battle to move larger hands.  To be fair, however, you’d need the two watches before you to see the distinction clearly.

The chrono module means the crown needs to sit very low working on this issue, so there’s sense in putting it on the 9:00 side of the case along with the pushers. It doesn’t dive into your wrist if you’re right handed and wear your watch to your left side wrist. For that matter, it’s no issue on your correct wrist by the same token. Having its edges marginally chamfered helps as well. The crown is still screwdown, yet now on a M4 thread, so it’s harder to over-fix except if you have the mechanical sympathy of a baboon. 

The pushers on the mechanical model are altogether different from those on the quartz watch. The mech’s pushers are on splined tubes, so they look somewhat more traditional. The base pusher starts and stops the chronograph with the top pusher acting as a flyback and re-set. Their action is significantly more immediate and fresh than those on the quartz model.

The dial numbers on the new watch are applied (rather than painted) which makes them stand out more, not that the originals were exactly contracting violets, and each of great importance marks is lumed. The mech’s dial drops the sparkle black “PILOT WATCH” designation, which isn’t perhaps a gigantic misfortune, instead making do with just “A-13A” and “FLYBACK”.

The hands, as referenced, are larger however they’re also lumed with Super-LumiNova BGW9. This particular shade is a clear white in daylight yet shines with a virus blue once charged.  

The mech prototype’s caseback is less stark than that of the quartz watch, with the A-13A wing logo, a real profundity of graining, and the glad declaration that it’s made in Milan.

The 20mm strap is the same as the one fitted to the quartz; there’s an internal Lorica facing featuring the A-13A “wing profile” logo and “The A-13A Pilot Watch” stamped on it. The outside of the strap is cordura/kevlar with elastic built up tang openings. The lock is as yet being developed.

So how near the completed watch is this model? Paulo says. “The mechanical plan is 95% finalized, yet I have a few reservations about the structural uprightness about the center point of the seconds hand — yet hello, I’m an architect! In the event that I can offer this watch to the market it will unquestionably be in a changed form.”  

Looking at the plan spec updates Paolo has sent through (when was the last time a “brand” was sufficiently open to do that?!), it’s clear he’s already put a tremendous amount of work into the new A-13A. There’ll be more changes to come, without a doubt, yet this resembles an excellent watch. With the correct value, it would be a compelling suggestion undoubtedly. A-13A