You probably noticed that the title of this review is a bit odd but please try to stay with me. We all know that big brands with big marketing budgets aim to convince many people that they are offering the real thing, it is true that the Rolex Submariner or the Omega Speedmaster were created for a purpose but the vast majority of watches today are created with that tittle ''inspired in...'' before they even hit your wrist. Take for example Bell and Ross, don’t get me wrong as I love their pieces but they don’t hide the fact that there are inspired by cockpit instruments, they have a design language that really works for them and I am a big fan, I am sure they look awesome on Grumman F-14 Tomcat but at the end some of them are as simple as a 3 hand Patek Phillipe Calatrava with an army suit, that's not a bad thing but definitely far from reality. The main reason why we have this approach today is because the concept of using a mechanical wristwatch as an instrument is so outdated and replaced by today's technology that the whole industry aims to luxury and not propose, but some people like Paolo Fanton who do not want to take this approach, they want to do things right and stay true to themselves. I found A-13a by chance, I was browsing pilot watches and I was thinking that I have never seen a ''flieger'' version with a chronograph
(or at least one that looks right), a simple google search gave me thousands of images, some good and some of them ok, then suddenly a black modern interpretation (or so I thought) of a pilot watch was there, it read A-13a which I couldn't understand if that was the watch, the company or the serial number, I was intrigued, I was hoping to have a name like ''chronopilot'' or ''the sky-traveller'' know but none of that happened, it was just a very deep glossy black watch screaming ''I am the real deal''. I got in touch with Paolo and he send me the watch for review, but not the version I saw, he ask me if it was ok to send me his new baby, an automatic lefty flyback chronograph with a center minute counter! Can you believe that? I immediately said yes and here below our thoughts.
Well, how can I start this by saying other that the watch is incredible? This piece really grab my wrist with its 42mm case width, the watch has a 16.34 thickness which might sound like a bit but the watch actually feels extremely compact like a tool watch should feel.
The A-13a has all pilot basis covered, an application of BGW9 superluminova which makes the watch legible in the darkest cockpit you could be, the crown and pushers on the left side of the case so it's more comfortable when you are wearing it and a double AR coating that makes you think you can really grab those hands. The real party trick is the movement which is a Dubois Dupraz with a flyback 2079 module on top of a Sellita SW200, robust and ready to take a hit. The watch is inspired on an instrument and features a center minute counter, yes no sub dials here, just clean information which allows navigation/legibility be its primary target, that's a lot of specs and I haven't got to the price yet which is a sub 3500 Euros for retail price, if you slap an IWC badge to this watch I am sure it will go over the 8 000 Euros range.
On the wrist:
The Pilot A-13a feels at home on my small 6.25 inch wrist and part of this is the Morellato cordura strap, it's amazing to wear and at the same time it's completes the overall tool look for the watch, I don’t think I encountered this luxurious/tool feel together on a strap before. The pushers a dream to operate, I love the attention to detail that they are on the left side in order to be more comfortable and to watch the flyback mechanism with the center counter makes me wonder if I can ever go back to a bi-compax chrono, I know is harder and more expensive to make but why aren't all chronographs like this? The legibility is also one of the main benefits of the A-13a, everything is where it should be and the white indices contrasting against the rich black dial makes it one very legible watch, no surprises here as this is a pilots instrument.
As you can tell the pilot A-13a watch really hits all the boxes if you are in the market for a true tool watch, from the name, to the features and the price, it all comes together to create one of the most anticipated watches I want to see in production for 2020, I spoke to Paolo for a bit and this is a passion project not a let's sell some stuff project, meaning that I can really relate to it. On top of that this is also not a fashion watch, sure you can wear it like I would do on a casual office day but is reassuring to have a watch that can do everything weather you are on a subway or a fighter jet. The A-13a watch reminds me on how things must have been in the past, how watches were made, it was all about who had the best features and not the deepest marketing budget, this is how any watch brand should forge its reputation, if we had 40 years ago I am sure it will be winning military contracts against more expensive counter parts, this is a hidden gem so I would suggest to grab one while they are still out there. By the way there is a quartz version available of the A-13a which is as beautiful as the automatic version and yes it might not have the super movement that even the Royal oak off shore chronograph uses but, suddenly I also feel very attracted to it and might not be able to resist.
More info at www.a-13a.com
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