When you think about what defines a pilot watch, you know that the focus will be on resistance, durability, precision and of course, legibility. No need for fancy features, and I would even say that the less fanfare you have, the better the watch will be. With this in mind, Dutch brand EZA Watches has conceived a brand new watch that ticks all the boxes mentioned above, the AirFighter. And just like their previous attempt, the Sealander, this new toolish AirFighter is a pretty good value-for-money deal.
The history of EZA Watches originates from the early part of the last century. Hermann Becker started the company in Pforzheim, Germany in 1921. Over the passage of time, EZA Watches became known for building cases that were remarkably water resistant, and the company also went on to develop their own calibres, making it a so-called “manufacture”. It went bust, sadly, during the seventies, as he could not fight with the decline in sales caused by the quartz crisis. In 2016 though, two young Dutch watch enthusiasts, Adriaan and Diederik, set out to resurrect the name, keeping in mind the past production of EZA Watches, meaning mainly tool watches and timepieces made for specific purposes.
Thus, slightly over a year ago, the two young gentlemen introduced their first creation, the Sealander, a reasonably affordable dive watch (300m water resistance), with a soft vintage inspiration. Apart from the pleasant overall design – the Sealander was admittedly a very well shaped watch – what surprised us most was the quality/price ratio offered by EZA Watches. Indeed, at 849 Euro, you were able to get your hands on a sturdy dive watch, well finished, with a bit of vintage flair, sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel, and mainly, an automatic workhorse in lieu of engine – and not a bad one either, as inside the Sealander is an ETA 2824 adjusted to 6 positions, for a very precise timekeeping.
After looking at the deep blue seas, EZA Watches continues its development, helped by the success of their first watch, by introducing a watch made for the sky; the AirFighter. As said in the intro, the concept of a Pilot Watch is clearly driven by “less is more“, however, certain invisible features are key in creating such an air-oriented watch, and the EZA Watches AirFighter provides quite its dosage of pleasure and features here. It is a modern interpretation of the classic military issued pilot watches with some subtle details. Modern it is in certain angles, however, just like the previous Sealander, there are some noticeable classic/vintage inspirations, especially by looking at observer’s watches used during WWII.
The case is a solid and well-constructed piece of 316L stainless steel, with a classical toolish shape – facetted bezel, monobloc lugs and with brushed finishing in multiple angles. The AirFighter is sporty and pilot-oriented for sure, yet it keeps things relatively proportioned, as the case measures 41mm – a decent size, but one that is relatively compact when compared to some of the huge modern pilot watches. The lugs are rather short, helping the case to be balanced on the wrist. The case is complemented by a pilot-themed onion crown, which is easy to grip and to actuate. The watch is water resistant to 50m, enough considering its flight-orientation.
EZA Watches offers multiple options for straps and bracelets which are available on the AirFighter: vintage leather strap, NATO, quilted Italian leather (clearly a favourite here…), all in 3 colours (light camel/brown, dark brown and black). These straps feature quick-release spring bars (always a nice detail for those who like to switch straps regularly). Also available is a mesh bracelet, with folding buckle – here a qualitative choice, which also gives a nice visual touch to the AirFighter.
The dial of a pilot watch certainly is its most important part, as legibility in daytime, as well as in dark conditions, is crucial. The AirFighter keeps things classical here, and is clearly inspired by some of the well-known classic pilot watches. For instance, the marker at 12 uses the traditional triangle with 2 dots on each side, a hallmark of WWII military pilot watches. Same goes for the hands, with their sword shape, their blued contours and the white luminous paint in the centre. Overall, every single indication is easy to read and the dial/hand combination ensures that no mistake is possible when reading the time. Plus, rare enough nowadays, the AirFighter is a no-date watch, clearly making it even more toolish.
The dial itself is a matte black and grained plate, built in two steps – the upper one emphasizing the hour markers and the minute track. Again, nothing fancy but some serious quality and a comprehensive design. Simplicity apart, EZA Watches thought about a few nice details on this watch, the first one being the logo and text on the dial side of the watch. As you can see, these are not printed on the dial but laser-engraved on the internal side of the front sapphire crystal.
Turning to the back of the watch and you’ll see what I’d say is its coolest feature. While many brands can’t resist the siren call of marketing by showing some entry-level (and thus badly-finished and rather void of interest) movements through a sapphire caseback, the EZA Watches AirFighter plays a bit on the ironical but pleasant side here, with a plain steel caseback, engraved with a technical drawing of the movement that is inside the watch – and knowing the industrial look of the ETA 2824-2, we are happy with this nice engraving. As you might have guessed, the movement is the well-known Swiss workhorse, and here again, EZA chose accuracy first, as the movement is adjusted by the brand to 6 positions. A choice that makes sense with the vocation of this watch.
Overall, the EZA Watches AirFighter isn’t the most original watch of the year, as it largely plays on known “Pilot-Watches” codes. Yet, there are some nice details that make it stand out of the crowd, and mainly, there’s the 599 Euro (ex. taxes) or 725 Euro (inc. taxes) price tag – or 795 Euro on mesh bracelet. Clearly, we’ve experienced many watches here, at Monochrome. We can tell you that the AirFighter surpasses many sub-500-Euro Kickstarter timepieces in terms of quality. Also, when you consider some 5,000 Euro pilot watches from a certain Swiss brand, equipped with generic cases and ETA-clone movements, you can easily argue that the AirFighter brings a lot for the money… Pre-orders now on eza-watches.com – shipment will be first week of December 2017.
Technical Specifications – EZA Watches AirFighter
- Case: 41mm diameter x 13mm thickness – 22mm lug width – 316L stainless steel, brushed – sapphire crystal on the dial side – engraved steel back – 50m water resistance
- Movement: ETA 2824-2, adjusted by Eza Watches to six positions – automatic – 4Hz frequency – 40h power reserve – 25 jewels – hours, minutes, seconds
- Strap/bracelet: vintage-inspired leather (3 colours), quilted leather (3 colours), mesh bracelet – additional NATO strap included
- Availablity: first week of December 2017, pre-orders opened
- Price: 725 Euro on leather / 795 Euro on mesh bracelet