Aero Observer

Down to earth today – I feature a watch that has always interested me simply because of the way it looks.  It’s just one of those designs that appeals to me on all sorts of levels.  And it’s by no means what you’d call a high end watch, but the Brand in my experience, having owned 4 of them since 2008, has never yet disappointed me.  Each model has been totally reliable, surprisingly accurate and a pleasure to wear.

The attraction of this particular model to me is that it appears to conjure up visions of vintage aviation, Bomber Command and World Wars, or Boys Own magazine, Captain Jim “Red” Albright or even Biggles.  It has a large clear dial in that sepia coloured “vintage” look – all very subjective I know, but marketing by design has that trick – of influencing you without you realizing it.  And OK I have fallen for it, but I was already hooked when I first saw it some years ago and in saying that it doesn’t mean I’ve been conned – far from it.

Close up of the Observer Flier model A1408

Close up of the Observer Flier model A1408

Aeromatic is also one of those brands sometimes and unfairly in my opinion, called “Germasian”, and I have a few already, all of which have kept great time over the past 5 years, without problems.
Offices in Frankfurt and marketed in Germany, though whether assembled there I wouldn’t know.  The cases I would imagine come from Asia, perhaps using model “blanks” and they may have had a hand in the design, but whatever their sources,  they then badge them Aeromatic 1912.  Depending on function the mechanical movements will be likely sourced from Asia.  Quartz movements are probably from Miyota (Citizen) in Japan or Ronda from Switzerland.

Note the large "flat top" Onion Crown) - stiff but works OK

Note the large “flat top” Onion Crown) – stiff but works OK

As I say I find the term “Germasian” somewhat derogatory, as there are literally hundreds of Brands who use exactly the same sourcing policy these days, including Swiss – in fact finding a brand that makes every part of their watch is not easy and you might count them on two hands – maybe.

Anyway we’re not talking high end here, we’re talking practical and now that’s settled –

Note luminous dot markers include hour markers

Note luminous quality (stock photo)  – however in practice lume fades quickly in dark.

This is the Aeromatic 1912, Military Flier Observer Big Date Swiss Ronda Gents watch.

The movement in this model is the quartz Swiss Ronda Powertech 519.  What I like about the Powertech series is that they are extremely reliable and used by many watch Brands for that very reason.  I know that any watch I have with Ronda movements (and I have a few) – have never ever had a problem.

Military Flier, BIG Date from Aeromatic (A1408) in Nato strap

Military Flier, BIG Date from Aeromatic (A1408) in Nato strap

Anyway the A1408 features a big date double window @3 and the overall size of the etched stainless steel case measures 43 x 15mm.  The large beige coloured dial, which looks larger owing to the narrow bezel has  luminous hands and dot markers (both hours and minutes), domed hardened mineral crystal and comes with a good quality brown leather strap.

The Big Date has a quick change function, though as most normal Day/Date functions it will have to be adjusted forward on the short months – no big deal.  The clock will continue when adjusting.  When pulling out the crown to position 2, the seconds hand stops (hacking) and you can adjust the time as normal.

The dial itself is a rather pleasing design, big and VERY easy to read.  The large hour and minute hands are white filled with luminous material, though the luminous effectiveness is a little disappointing.   I note that the dot markers on the outer minute track are luminous, as are the inner hour track dot markers – a little unusual perhaps, but the inner track lines up nicely with the tip of the shorter hour hand, so the idea would be good if the lume was up to par.

Aeromatic, Nato strap and wrist. Looks quite big.

Aeromatic, Nato strap and wrist. Looks bigger than it is.

The watch back is absolutely flat, so although the watch case is 15mm depth, it sits very flat to the wrist, except when the Nato strap is fitted, as it tends to hold the watch off the wrist slightly.  The A1408 also “looks” big though is in fact just about 43mm wide (45 incl large crown), due to the narrow bezel and large face.  On the back are the model name, design, model numbers and so on plus the 5o meters depth rating.
Battery wise – it uses a 1.5v Renata 371 or equivalent which is easy to obtain.  Battery life according to Ronda is approximately 45 months and note if not using the watch for a while, pulling the crown out to position 2, allows the battery life to be extended.

Case back info: Observer Hawk design - 50m Depth Rated.

Case back info: Observer Hawk design – 50m Depth Rated.

So overall how do I rate this model?  First point is that I do like it, it has that solid etched case which is  built like a tank and is quite well made.  The dial is well figured and the painted numerals and luminous dot markers are well defined with no rough edges to them and the hands are excellent.  The large double windows for the date are well cut, defined and the date numbers are also large, clear and with good contrast. I note the second hand tick produces a slight over travel, but hardly noticeable and each tick seems even.  The back is a press fit and though I would have preferred a screw back, being very rigid steel construction it’s a nice tight fit.

The most disappointing aspect of this model is in regards to the luminous quality of both dial and hands – the stock image I used above shows the dial immediately after charging, for example under a bed side lamp.  However once the light source is removed the luminous effect fades quite quickly.  I would estimate perhaps 3 hours effective illumination is about as good as you’ll get depending on how well it charged.

I do note that although the watch is only 43mm wide, lug to lug is 50mm, so small wrists will notice this unless fitted snug.  I say this as the leather strap included (as shown above) is quite thick and stiff so doesn’t actually pull the watch in tight as I personally prefer (though for large wrists this will be perfect).  Hence my Nato, which although more comfortable may be a temporary affair and doesn’t resolve the snug fit bit.  I’m looking around for an alternative silicon or webbing style, which I’m sure will solve the problem and I will update the Post once I get something suitable.

Interestingly whilst the case height is 15mm, this is deceptive, as the hardened domed crystal is nearly 4mm thick to the centre, so effectively the watch wears like a 12mm thick watch.  Possibly the reason that with only a 170mm wrist, it actually sits OK and doesn’t look like a wall clock!

Am I happy with it?  Well yes – I do like the “vintage and flying helmet retro stone washed jeans look”, which looks more authentic than the first images I saw all those years ago.  But in the dark at 3am in the morning?  A diet of carrots or a torch might be handy.

Note – I’ll update as and when I get my new strap…….Done –

Well I removed the Nato strap as it caused the watch to sit off the wrist a little, which meant the Nato had to be tight to stop it moving – so – decided to use a conventional leather strap.  The difference here from the supplied strap is that it is much thinner and much more flexible.  The supplied strap was much to think and inflexible for me and was actually too long for my smallish wrist.  Now I think we’re getting somewhar and the watch now feels so much better on the wrist and is becoming a pleasure to wear – and for me that is very, very important.  After all you wouldn’t wear a pair of shoes that didn’t feel right – would you?

Here’s an imags with the new strap –

Another angle on a neat case/strap combination

Conventional leather – note the thick dome crystal!

Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the right strap and bracelet is so important to a watch, it can make all the difference.  Another reason why I always prefer standard lug/strap pins to any custom supplied one.
However I also tried and stuck with a FastWrap webbing strap as the perfect accompaniment – as here –

Aeromatic on modified FastWrap

Aeromatic on modified FastWrap

This FastWrap webbing strap like may others features a double strap, one part slips under the lug pins and the other bypasses these, and BOTH go under the back of the watch case.  I always find that on watches that are quite thick already (this one is 15mm) this can make the watch too thick to sit neatly on the wrist.  So I sometimes cut off the short part of the strap that would normally bypass the lug pins and rest against the wrist.  This means that one piece of webbing only goes under the lug pins and under the watch back – and that’s it.

Footnote –

Coincidentally the watch model that the Aeromatic basically is a homage to, comes up at an auction soon here in the UK.  With the appearance of a rare A. Lange & Sohne German observer aviators watch, Circa 1940`s.  In an anti-magnetic silver nickel case, but with a black dial with luminous hands and hour markers. 

Lange & Sohne German observer aviators watch Estimated £3000+

Lange & Sohne German observer aviators watch
Estimated £3000+

Note the case numbering is prefixed by the letters FL, denoting Fliegnummer or Flying Number FL”.  The Lanage & Sohne model is somewhat larger at some 56mm wide excluding the crown.  Note if you want to own this you’ll have to fork out at least £3000 which is the lower estimate.

Categories: Watch reviews

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