While it is widely acknowledged that the best watch movements come from Switzerland, watch collectors and industry insiders also know that some of the best watch cases are made in Germany. Maybe it’s due to the strong heritage of craftsmanship and steelworks or just a national appreciation for good design and impeccable manufacturing. Companies like Damasko, SUG, Fricker and Ickler are renowned for making watch cases that are built to survive the apocalypse. Fine finishing, stark designs and tight tolerances are hallmarks of German case builders. So it stands to reason then that a Swiss movement inside a German case would be a sure bet. Case in point: the Archimede Pilot Chronograph.
Archimede is a young watch brand, not even a decade old. But they have almost a century of case making experience behind them. The brand was started in 1993 by Pforzheim-based Ickler, a family-run company that’s been making watch cases since 1924. While the brand makes some handsome sport and dress watches, they are perhaps best known for their line of pilot’s watches. These watches adhere to the traditional design of the German “Flieger” watches of the 1930s and ‘40s, with bold dimensions, white-on-black dials, broad sword hands and oversized onion crowns. The standard Archimede Pilot comes in a variety of sizes, from 36mm all the way up to 45mm, which is closest to the original 55mm Fliegers used by the Luftwaffe in World War II.
The Pilot Chronograph introduces a non-traditional update to the Flieger design that manages to maintain the overall aesthetic and unsurpassed readability of its non-chrono brethren. At 42mm in diameter and 13.6mm high, the watch won’t get lost on your wrist but remains eminently wearable for most people thanks to its sloping lugs. The watch is available on a steel bracelet but a Flieger belongs on a leather strap, and the riveted brown or black straps Archimede offers are perfect.
The flat sapphire crystal has anti-reflective coating on both sides and virtually disappears when viewed at most angles. The chronograph’s pump pushers are so visually and tactilely satisfying that you’ll find yourself timing even the most mundane daily activities as an excuse to use them. The dial has a classic tri-compax 12-9-6 layout and the date display is cleverly located within the hour totalizer at six o’clock, where it doesn’t detract from the dial’s symmetry. Nighttime visibility is superb, thanks to a generous application of luminescent paint on all markers and the sword hands. The Pilot Chronograph’s case is predictably excellent, with subtle bevels and a fine brushed finish. Ickler clearly knows what it’s doing here.
…a riot of levers and cams that move on your command.
Pilots’ watches traditionally had heavy solid casebacks to protect against magnetic fields. But while purists may shake their heads, Archimede will sell you the Pilot Chronograph with a display back if you wish and we recommend it. If you’ve never observed a mechanical chronograph in action, you’re missing one of the great visual treats of horology. While the Elaboré-grade Valjoux 7750 that powers this Pilot is not rare or particularly well-finished, it is still a riot of levers and cams that move on your command. You may spend more time playing with the chronograph with the watch upside down than on your wrist. Timekeeping on our test piece was excellent, well within a chronometer specification during daily wear.
There are other pilot chronographs on the market and we’ve featured a few here, here and here. But most will run you well north of $2,000 and usually much more than that. But the Archimede Pilot Chronograph is a high flyer with a down-to-earth price, and one of the best values in a mechanical watch. So even if you’re flying economy class, you can look like you belong in the cockpit.
Buy Now: $1,395
Photos by Gishani for Gear Patrol