During World War II a handful of watch manufactures (most well known among them IWC) designed and built watches specifically for the German Luftwaffe. Called Beobachtungs-Uhren (more commonly as B-Urh or translated as observers watch), these watches were all designed with some common traits: large in size - not for fashion, like today's watches, but for practicality and legibility with sizes up to 55mm, large crowns so they could be set and used with gloves, they were fitted with hand wind pocket watch movements with indirect center seconds hand and stop seconds (hacking seconds hand), clean and legible dials with good luminescence, and were often attached to long straps to be worn over flight jackets. Although only a limited number of these watches were produced, the style remains popular with watch enthusiasts and a number of brands have made homages to these B-Uhr watches. (*1-3)
Debaufre currently makes three different versions of the B-Uhr watch with one hand wind model and two automatics and now has available a limited edition as well. The Limited Edition is a very faithful reproduction of the IWC 52 S.C. Calibre pilot's watch, considered by many to be the example of the B-Uhr watch. Debaufre has done an excellent job of capturing the spirit of those pilot's watches.
- Make: Debaufre</li>
- Model: Nav-B Limited Edition (200); Product Code: F-DW.03.08LE</li>
- Movement: ETA 2824-2</li>
- Material: 316L Surgical Stainless Steel</li>
- Crystal: Curved AR Sapphire</li>
- WR: No data available</li>
- Width: 48mm</li>
- Height: 13.8mm</li>
- Lugs: 22mm</li>
- Length (lug to lug): 57mm</li>
- Weight: 137 grams (w/ stock strap)</li>
- Source: Debaufre</li>
- $686 (+ shipping)</li>
With the watch being a limited edition of 200 one would expect that the packaging of the watch reflect the limited status. The Nav-B Limited Edition does not fall short when it comes to upgraded packaging, it reflects the limited status of the watch.
After opening the package the owner is first greeted with a large box inside a plastic protective bag. Once removed from the bag you are presented with the outer box: a black, standard-style cardboard box with Debaufre in white text across the top of the lid, which slides up and off. The outer box is 8 3/4" X 9 1/4" by 3 1/2", a substantial size for a watch box.
Removing the lid reveals a sheet of protective foam padding, underneath is an image of the Limited Edition showing through the slightly transparent material. The image of the watch is on the outside of the Nav-B Limited Edition certificate, which shows the watch number, owner's name and the date of purchase. A nice touch for owners of the limited watch.
The next piece is the actual polished wood display box. The dimensions are just slightly smaller than the outer box: 8 1/8" X 8 7/8" X 3 1/4". Opening the hinged lid reveals the contents: in the center of the box is the watch, to the left is a strap changing tool, and to the right is an additional strap. Inside of the lid is a pocket containing the International Guarantee card, generic operating instructions, a Debaufre flier and a couple of business cards. The Debaufre coat of arms is labeled on the outside of the pocket in the lid.
Overall, it is a very impressive package, fitting of a watch of limited edition status.
L: The outer box; C: Opening the lid of the outer box; R: The Limited Ed. Certificate
L: The certificate; C: The display box still in the outer box; R: The wooden display box on its own
The contents of the display box
One of the defining factors of the WWII B-Uhr watches is their large size, frequently 55mm. As mentioned this was done not for fashion, but designed for use. The watches needed to be easily read and the large size helped facilitate this need. Today's watches have been increasing in size, but have not quite reached the point where 55mm is considered a "standard" size. Debaufre opted to make the Nav-B Limited Edition at 48mm, although not as large as the originals it is still quite a substantial piece, even by today's standards. As many of us with smaller wrists know, the deciding factor is not so much the diameter of the watch, but the lug to lug distance and on the Limited Edition it is a very large 57mm. By way of comparison the Seiko Black Monster and Omega Seamaster Professional are bot 48mm from lug tip to lug tip. The lugs do have a curvature toward the wrist, but they do not curve beyond the level of the case back, so the watch does not quite "wrap" around the wrist, but the curve downward from the top of the lugs gives an illusion that it does more so than reality. Height-wise the watch fits its large profile coming in just under 14mm. Clearly the Limited Ed. is a large watch, making it possibly a questionable prospect for those slight of wrist.
The case is stainless steel, with the bezel being polished and the rest of the case brushed. This difference in finish is a nice look, rather than all polished or all brushed. It lets the bezel stand apart from the rest of the watch but not in an overly "blingy" fashion. The polished bezel may attract scratches, especially given the size it might be a bit easier to knock it than a smaller watch. The bezel is thin, though (approx. 3mm) and unadorned, like the original watch the Limited Edition is patterned after, leaving the watch mostly all dial. The lug size is 22mm providing a pleathora of strap options (more on the stock straps later). Between the lugs at the 6 o'clock position is the number of the watch from the run of 200, listed in the format XXX/200. This is a nice touch as the limited number is visible while the watch is on the owner's wrist.
The number of the limited edition is also contained on the case back, which, in all honesty, is a little plain. The center of the screw down, solid case back lists the watch information: Debaufre - Nav. B-Uhr Limited Edition - xxx/200. Around the outside of the case back are the specifics: stainless steel, sapphire crystal, swiss automatic movement & swiss made. The case back is about what one would expect from a basic back. For a limited edition one might want to see a bit more.
The crown is a very distinguishing feature of the watch. As mentioned, the design originally was to allow for ease of use while wearing gloves. The size of the crown certainly would lend to that task. The outsize diameter (furthest from the case) is 9.5mm, while it is approx. 6.5mm at the base and is 6mm tall. the crown is fluted as well to allow for better grip than one would get on a smooth crown. The crown on this watch does not screw down, which is logical for a watch designed for pilots - they would want a crown that they could quickly use and a screw down crown would interfere with that operation. All in all it is a both stylish and functional crown. Large as it is those wearing their watches on their left wrist could potentially have the crown in the back of their hand, depending on how far toward the hand one wears the watch. Most likely if you wear your watch above your wrist bone, I suspect one would be ok (based on trying this on my own wrist and based on reports from Limited Edition owners). If you wear your watch on the right wrist, as I do, you will not have any chance of this issue.
The crystal is a slightly-domed sapphire with an anti-reflective coating on the inside. It's about what one would expect from a watch in the price point.
L: Side by side with a 33mm Caravalle; C: Side by side with the 42mm Black Monster; R: Side by side with the 45mm Debaufre Triton
L: Side view of the large crown; C: The end of the crown; R: Side view of the case and slightly domed crystal
L: The LE case back; R: The LE number between the lugs
Given the size of the watch and with the thin bezel this watch is almost all dial. In fact, the dial portion of the watch is approx. 41mm on it's own. No doubt that this makes the watch very legible. The dial is a glossy black with the dial markings contrasting with white. All the markers are coated with super-luminova for luminescence. An important note on dial markings is aside from the minute track, numbers and dotted triangle at 12 there are no other markings as the dial. This reflects the original watches that were done in the same fashion: no denotations of manufacture, no watch names, no swiss made, etc., just a plain, very easy to read dial.
The long, sword-style hands are blued via electroplating (*4) and then filled with super-luminova. The long seconds hand is coated with this material as well, from the center of the watch to the tip. The end of the seconds hand stretches to about 3/4 the length of the hour hand and is blued as well. The length and thickness of the hands lends very well to the legibility of the watch. One other point on the hands is that the points of the minute and seconds hand reach into the markers on the dial, rather than falling short. I know this is a pet peeve of many a WIS and am glad to see these reach to a proper length.
As mentioned, the dial and hands are coated with super-luminova to allow for nighttime reading of the time. My lume test is very simple: I charge the watch with an LED flashlight and place it in a totally dark environment. After a period of time, I check the legibility of the watch in the darkness, based Sile on the lume. I also charge the lume of the Seiko Black Monster to use as a comparison, since it has one of the brightest and longest lumes of any watch currently available. As usual, I chose my sock drawer in our closet. After charging the watches and placing them in the drawer I did an initial check after an hour. I was pleased to see both watches glowing with the same intensity; the time was clearly readable on both watches. I let the watches sit in the dark over night. My next check came a full 9 hours later: both watches were still holding their lume, although the Black Monster was a degree brighter than the Nav-B. Even with the Monster being brighter, the time was still legible on the Nav-B LE after a full 9 hours in darkness. A fine job was done here with the lume on this watch. Even without being charged as it was the Nav-B LE should hold it's lume throughout the night.
The watch does ship with two leather straps. The watch comes on a black leather strap and in the box is a canvas-colored additional strap. As mentioned above, both straps are 22mm at the lugs.
The black strap is stitched in white and has rivets at the lugs on each end of the strap. The strap is thick, 5mm, but is pliable and comfortable. It measures 80mm x 110mm, which means that it will fit wrists as small as 6.5" - I am able to wear the watch using the last hole for the tang buckle and it fits comfortably. Having bought two other Debaufre watches and then not be able to wear the stock straps I was very, very pleased to see that this strap fit my wrist fine. I was concerned that it would be too long and I would have to buy another strap that would fit. The thickness and style of the strap is a great compliment to the watch; a perfect match.
The second strap is a tan or khaki colored strap (different than the chestnut brown strap pictured on Debaufre's web site) and nearly as thick as the first, 4.5mm, but differs in size. It measures 80mm X 150mm, making it a good option for the larger wristed population. The strap was designed longer so as to be worn over the top of the sleve of a flight jacket, for example, as was done with the original watches (6). Although I have not worn the strap it feels as pliable as the black one, so I suspect it will be just as comfortable. It has the same rivets at each end of the lug end as well as one at the end of the long side. It has two leather strap keepers as well as one metal one. The strap does not come with a buckle, meaning that you will have to swap off the signed buckle from the black strap and place it on the other. This is an easy task, however, as the buckle is held in place by a screw; just give it a few turns and the buckle will dissemble from one to be placed on the other. Overall it is a fine looking strap that would be a nice contrast to the dark dial. More than likely there will not be a circumstance where I will use this extra strap for this purpose. Nice as it is to have for historical accuracy, it would have been nice to have a second strap that could be used normally as well.
Also included in the box is a strap changing tool that will allow you to easily swap out straps. One end is notched in a "V" which can be used to slide in between the lug and the strap to catch on the spring bar to pop it out of the lug. The other end is a sharp point which could be used for pushing the spring bar out of the strap, or any other number of strap uses.
L: The black stock strap; C: Showing the 5mm thickness; R: The strap on my 6.5" wrist
L: The other provide strap; C: Size difference between the two; R: The strap tool
The signed Debaufre buckle
Contained inside the Nav-B Limited Edition is the industry workhorse ETA 2824-2 25 jewel automatic movement (5). The movement can be hand wound and has a "hack" (stop) seconds hand. The movement is well known and well used in the watch world, with dozens of brands of watches sporting this movement. The 2824-2 is housed behind the screw down case back and held in place by a large, metal spacer. Debaufre wisely uses metal rather than plastic, as one would expect from a watch at this price point.
After some timing of my watch I found the movement to be running an average of 9 seconds slow a day. Just as an observation, this is one of only two watches I have that runs slow rather than fast. The performance to date will be acceptable for most individuals. Those wanting close to COSC specs will have to do some individual tweaking. I am satisfied with how the movement runs, however, and feel that it is well within tolerable levels.
Dealing with Debaufre again proved to be a joy. They are friendly, helpful and very willing to work with their customers. Jon (the CEO) was happy to answer all of my questions regarding preordering and those I had about the watch itself. As far as customer service goes, Debaufre continues to be top notch.
- The movement has been proven again and again and should give owners many, many years of faithful use.
- The packaging is worthy of the limited edition and makes a nice presentation piece.
- Classic, well executed design.
- Comfortable strap.
- Easy to read dial.
- Great lume.
- Even though the case back does hold the limited number from the run of 200, it is otherwise rather plain.
- The 48mm size might be a turn off for some smaller wristed people.
- It would be nice to have the option to choose a second strap that fits better, for those, again, with smaller wrists.
At the end of the day the watch is well built and feels and looks like it cost far more than it does. Although the size might be a turn off for some with smaller wrists, with the straps provided wearers with wrist from 6.5" to over 9" can wear the watch. For those with smaller wrists it becomes a matter of personal preference and how you view the watch on your wrist. The style is popular and easily recognizable by the WIS community as it pays tribute to a classic design. Overall I have to say that Debaufre has another winner on its hands.
(2) The IWC Large 52 S.C. Calibre Pilot's Watch
(3) Military Timepieces
(5) ETA SA
(6) Confirmed by Jon Knewitz, Debaufre CEO
Note: I am not affiliated with Debaufre in any way. I am just an independent fan of their watches who very much enjoys their products.