Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46 pilot’s watch review

The Panzera Flieger 46 pilot’s watch (described in an earlier post here) met all my expectations. Experiencing a watch first-hand over a few days always adds much more with respect to the photos and descriptions provided by a brand. The Panzera Flieger 46 arrived in an attractive long, narrow black leather box. The watch has a sort of rich sparkle, created by the high gloss of the steel bezel against the brushed finish of the case, the applied steel indices and reference triangle filled with luminescent paint, the intricacies of the crown, and the touches of red, on the seconds hand, the triangle indicating the date, and the lettering with the name of the watch at 9 o’clock. The details add an effect of prestige to the intrinsic simplicity of the pilot’s watch genre.

Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46 pilot’s watch review
Comfort on the wrist, easy strap-changing

On the wrist the watch is comfortable and easily wearable. Winding the Panzera Flieger 46 for the first time, setting the time and date, and screwing down the crown are easy and facilitated by the crown’s size. The leather strap looks to be of good quality and it is certainly very comfortable. Changing the strap is made easy by the quick-release spring bars. I had ordered a NATO-type canvas strap as well, with which some spare spring bars are provided, and it was quick and easy to snap them in and slide the canvas strap through them.

Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46 pilot’s watch on NATO strap
Great design combining tradition and originality

The dial of the Flieger 46 shows just how much room there is for originality and good design even in a category with standardized features such as the pilot’s watch. The long indices and the giant 12 and 6 numerals are distinctive and nicely balanced. I love the legibility of the altimeter-type date window. The hour and minute hands are wide and skeletonized, making them particularly eye-catching. One feature that you appreciate when wearing the watch day to day is that the centre, black, parts of the hour and minute hand blend in with the black dial, giving the impression that the white-edged shapes of the hands are floating in mid-air.

Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46 pilot’s watch review
Good night-time visibility

The decision to skeletonize the hour and minute hands reduces the area available for the luminescent paint, but the hands are still easily visible in conditions of low ambient light. The seconds hand is also lume-coated and so you can see that the watch is working in the dark.

Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46 pilot’s watch lume
Display caseback

The display caseback reveals the NH35 movement made in Japan by Seiko. The movement is not personalized in any way, and the components have an industrial finish. I guess that the logic of a display caseback for an affordable watch is to introduce the user to the fascination of a mechanical movement and underlining the difference with respect to a quartz watch. As the watch has a 5 atm, 50 metre water resistance, there’s no disadvantage of having a sapphire caseback.

Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46 pilot’s watch caseback
Wearing a watch over a coat sleeve

IWC Big Pilots Watch, 1942

IWC Big Pilots Watch, 1940, with its 55 mm case size. (photo from the book Engineering Time Since 1868, courtesy IWC)

I was particularly interested in trying out the 46 mm Panzera Hornet Special Flieger because I wanted to try wearing the watch outside the sleeve of my flying jacket. I fly a hang glider, and it’s a bit awkward taking one hand off the control bar to pull up the jacket sleeve in order to check the time on the watch underneath. This style of wearing a watch echoes some military experiences in previous epochs of aviation. While many World War Two pilot’s watches were relatively small, in compliance with the style of the times, when men’s watches were typically about 36-38 mm in diameter, a few – such as the 55 mm piece by IWC shown here – were very large, with long straps, so that they could be worn over a leather flying jacket and could be seen easily even in a dark cockpit. The Panzera Hornet Special Flieger is a good compromise at 46 mm: it works well both worn conventionally on the wrist and over the sleeve of a lightweight jacket, and in this case, the standard leather strap and the longer NATO strap worked fine. But both were too short for the leather jacket. I’ll be looking into the feasibility of this method of wearing a watch, and the options available in terms of big watches, and long straps, in an upcoming article.

Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46 pilot’s watch worn on sleeve
Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46

In conclusion, I am very happy with the Panzera Hornet Special Flieger 46, at a price that worked out at a total of €233 + tax/duty €69, so a total of €302. See more at the Panzera website.

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