Auch verfügbar auf Deutsch
A special Junkers Flieger model aims to bring the F 13 back to life for watch enthusiasts . Whether the German watchmaker owned by the Junkers family could transfer the charm of the world’s first civilian airliner to a watch, I found out in this review…
The F 13 makes history
The name Junkers is familiar to anyone interested in aircraft and/or pilot watches. In general, the legacy of Hugo Junkers and the Dessau-based company named after him is still within reach today, almost 90 years after the founder’s death. For one thing, that’s because of the aircrafts. The F 13, perhaps his most important aircraft, continues to captivate enthusiasts. When it appeared, the world’s first all-metal commercial aircraft was revolutionary. Its distinctive trademark: the corrugated sheet metal envelope. This had a very pragmatic background at first. In this form, particularly thinly rolled aluminum sheet guaranteed maximum stability with the lowest possible weight. It was only then that aircraft made of metal could be technically realized. They heralded the end of the era of wooden and fabric aircraft.
Lufthansa also began flight operations in 1926 with 46 examples of the model. At the sight of the open cockpit of the surviving examples, at the smell of oil and leather, adults become children again.
The rebirth of the F 13 was initiated a few years ago by Dieter Morszeck, the former CEO of the travel case manufacturer RIMOWA. Morszeck, himself a self-confessed fan of the legendary commercial and cargo aircraft and a passionate hobby pilot, launched an initiative to create replicas of the F 13. In early 2018, JUNKERS Flugzeuge AG was finally founded in Switzerland. In the meantime, there are two completed replicas that can be booked for sightseeing flights. Why do I explain the history of the F 13 to you in such detail?
The myth lives
Well, on the one hand we have Junkers aircraft like the F 13, but then there is the Junkers watch brand, which is significantly younger, but captures the spirit of the traditional brand and combines it with the characteristics of the Bauhaus. Founded as a university, the cradle of the Bauhaus also lies in Dessau. With its founding year in 1919, it is even as old as the F 13.
As a German watch brand, Junkers should be familiar to almost every pilot watch fan. In the future, the brand, which is still in the hands of Hugo Junkers’ descendants, is to be further expanded and become better known. The new face of the brand is Charlotte Junkers, also a descendant of the founder.
In my watch blog, Junkers has so far only appeared in the 20 Best Pilot’s Watches 2023. In my ranking, I brought to your attention the Junkers J1 in a special edition. It is modeled after the J1, another legendary Junkers aircraft from 1915. And you can certainly guess it already: the tradition-conscious watch manufacturer has also dedicated its own model to the F 13 , the “mother of all today’s commercial aircraft”, which comes from the popular Flieger series. Whether the timepiece with the reference 9.58.01.03 lives up to the legacy of the F 13, you will find out in this watch review.
The Junkers Flieger on the wrist
Even at a cursory glance, you can immediately tell that the Flieger series was inspired by the spirit of the Bauhaus. The reference 9.58.01.03 is probably the most typical example. A simple, functional case, black, easy-to-read Arabic numerals on a white background, and a black leather strap that allows the Pilot’s Watch to be worn comfortably on the wrist. Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus would have been proud. Would have been – because firstly, the man has been dead for over 50 years, and secondly, the dial bears a corrugated, horizontal structure that would probably not have existed in the Bauhaus.
100 years later, this is very much possible. As a designer, you just take the typical elements of the Bauhaus and combine them with others – for example, the metal fuselage of a historic airplane. I really like the way Junkers has taken its own roots, in this case the distinctive design of the F 13, and integrated it into the dial. Not too obtrusive and in a way that makes the homage make sense.
Bauhaus watches have some merits in everyday life, and this is also true for the Junkers Pilot. This Pilot watch is simple, absolutely timeless and stylish at the same time. The moderate black, silver and gray tones stay pleasantly in the background. The red accent of the second hand improves readability and at the same time emphasizes the sportiness of the pilot’s watch. You can wear the timepiece at any time and any occasion. Vacation, everyday work or a festive occasion will not pose any challenges for this watch.
Details of the case
Practicality is also the top priority when it comes to the case. With a diameter of 42 millimeters, this watch fits on every wrist and should only be too small or too large in the rarest of cases. With a height of 12.50 millimeters, it lies pleasantly flat. Another plus point: the low weight of only 88 grams, which makes you hardly feel the Junkers Pilot.
The quality of the case is outstanding. The processed stainless steel makes a great impression. Generally speaking, all watches are made in Germany. Thanks to the brushed surfaces, the Flieger is not as prone to scratches as it would be with a polished finish.
The watch glass, which protects the “corrugated metal” dial, is made of sapphire. As a watch in the Bauhaus style, this is not a given. The style is often used to justify a cheaper mineral crystal. Sapphire is significantly more scratch-resistant, but less common in the mid-three-digit price segment. With a screw-down caseback, the Junkers Flieger comes in at a water resistance of 10 bar/ATM – splash-proof. For a non-diver’s watch, this is perfectly sufficient for everyday use.
Seiko’s NH35 – the engine of the Junkers Flieger
My secret design highlight is probably the screw-down crown, which was designed with extreme attention to detail. Even its tapered shape is extravagant. Thanks to the fluting on the sides, it is particularly easy to operate. A nice detail: the engraved Junkers logo on the top, which is also found on the dial.
The crown is used to wind the automatic movement inside the case. This is a NH35 from Seiko, which is the undisputed top dog in this price range. No wonder, because the caliber convinces with reliability and robustness. Its affordable purchase price is also of great importance, as it gives the brand better options in pricing. Officially, Seiko specifies the accuracy with the two extreme values -20 to + 40 seconds. However, Junkers has made improvements here and regulated the built-in movements at +12 seconds per day – a good value.
A dream in silver corrugated metal
How Junkers integrated the famous corrugated metal design of the F 13 into the pilot’s watch, I find simply great! The horizontally running pattern is not too obtrusive. And if you’ve never seen the F 13 before, you’ll find it to be a nice touch that breaks the anonymity of a typical Bauhaus watch and makes it more interesting. As usual for a pilot watch, the Flieger 9.58.01.03 has sufficiently large and easy to read Arabic numerals. Finding your way around quickly was essential for pilots of that time. Beautiful: the red second hand, which makes the dial look like a historical circular gauge.
At 3 o’clock, there is a rectangular date window. The silhouette of the airplane was stylized and integrated in black above 6 o’clock.
What does every good pilot’s watch need? That’s right, a matching leather strap. The one of the Junkers Pilot is black, quite sturdy and contrasted by bright stitching. The width between the lugs is 22 millimeters. In everyday wear, I noticed the wearing comfort to be consistently positive. Junkers’ bracelet can take a lot, is durable and yet incredibly comfortable on the skin.
My conclusion about the Junkers Flieger
In conclusion, the only question that remains is: who is the Junkers Flieger actually made for? Among the targeted clientele are of course fans of the F 13. Since the aircraft can now look back on a history of more than 100 years, these should already have come to know the F 13 as a historic old-timer. Such enthusiasts often have the reputation of being particularly quick victims of bad homage products. This is obvious, after all, you buy a watch like the Junkers Flieger driven by emotion, not because you need a new wristwatch to tell time. The Flieger, on the other hand, is really good. It treats the subject with dignity, but also makes an excellent impression in terms of craftsmanship.
This brings us to the second major target group, watch lovers. Those who appreciate a reduced, timelessly beautiful aviator design with Bauhaus references should take a closer look at the Pilot’s Watch. The Bauhaus theme is not omnipresent, which I like. This leaves enough room to pay respect to the F 13 in terms of design.
As of spring 2023, the Flieger series is represented on the market with three other references that are identical in construction to the test watch. The differences concern color variants and the surface structure. Only the reference 9.58.01.03 presented here has the “corrugated sheet metal,” while the references with black and blue dials are visually similar classics. You’ll be a bit more daring with reference 9.58.01.06, whose dial features a convincing green gradient. Each model costs 485.00 euros. Considering the good quality and the classic design, this is a fair price.
All further links to the watch and to the topic of pilot watches can be found below.