I've never seen a watch like the SaStek Watches Time Speed Indicator. Sure, I've had a few pilot's watches through these pages. I've seen fliegers, chronographs, instrument watches, and flight computers in all manner of cases and materials, but I've not seen one quite like this. I didn't know what to make of it in pictures, but once I had a prototype on my wrist for review, I knew SaStek has done something clever. You need to check it out.
The Time Speed Indicator is a disk watch, which is to say it uses rotating disks to indicate time instead of conventional hands. This is nothing new in and of itself as there have been many over the years. The disks either have markers to show position or they are printed with an index that acts as a mechanical digital readout (this latter kind enjoyed its heyday in the early 1970's). SaStek combines various hand and disk methods. The hour hand is all but hidden by an opaque roundel behind the flat sapphire crystal so just the triangular tip protrudes. The minutes are marked with a printed disk displayed through a window in the roundel. The second hand, if you can call it that, is a disk in the very center bearing a spiral, which does not allow precise timing so much as an indication of movement.
This offbeat layout achieves a utilitarian look that evokes aircraft instruments without being too literal. There are no faux fasteners, airplane silhouettes, or false horizons here. Everything functions to tell time. But still, that minute window certainly looks like an air speed indicator. The radial arrangement of the hour markers lends an instrument feel, even though I can't say I've ever seen one with a readout that cool. The seconds disk is a particularly nifty touch, as only a true aviation geek would recognize it as the symbol used on jet engines to indicate rotation.
It all seems counterintuitive at first but makes perfect sense once you've worn it a bit. Granted, you cannot measure time to the second, but in daily life, few of us do. Minutes are easy enough to rattle off by reading the disk, and you can get an at-a-glance estimate by reading the hour hand alone. The hash marks between the hours are in 15-minute intervals allowing quick "it's a quarter past" readings. You have to retrain your eye not to look for the familiar "big hand, little hand" display, but you adapt quickly. At night, one-handed timekeeping becomes essential as only the hour hand tip, numerals, and quarter-hour markers are illuminated.
Aircraft allusions aside, it is a fetching look. The center roundel is gloss black and accented in orange on this "Arancio" model. The color is repeated in the minute display, hour markers, and hour hand. The minute and hour tracks are printed in white, as are the seconds display and brand name. The dial below lacks the shine of the roundel, but compensates with a concentric ring texture. My only quibble is that the orange minute display is difficult to read in low light. I suspect the Rosso (red) and Azzuro (blue) models would not be much better, but the bright Giallo (yellow) and pale Verde (green) might have sufficient contrast.
Like most pilot's watches, the Time Speed Indicator is big, measuring 44mm across and 52mm long, but it does not appear large. Dropped and faceted lugs, and a slimming black-on-PVD-black color scheme help, but I ascribe most of the credit to its positively svelte 9.5mm thickness. A bulky strap would undo this, so SaStek wisely chose a soft, lightly padded, two-piece calfskin that tapers from 24mm to a 22mm Pre-V style buckle (plain on the prototype, but signed on the final). As a result, it is a close and comfortable fit, even on my skinny 6.5"wrist.
The 4 o'clock crown is knurled and signed. It is a push-pull affair and only sealed for 50m water resistance. This is par for the course for pilot's watches. I know airplanes and water don't generally mix but I do appreciate a bit more protection is what is essentially a tool watch. After all, what if I'm flying a seaplane? Well, more likely someone else would be flying the seaplane. I'd be in the back, and... Ok, ok, I've never been anywhere near a seaplane. The most likely scenario is that I'd drop my watch into the horrible blue water of an airplane lavatory. Still, a stronger seal would be welcome, perhaps in that last case most of all.
The case back is etched with a line drawing of a jet pilot in flight helmet and breathing mask. Behind it beats a familiar Miyota 9015 automatic. As faithful readers know, this 24-jewel, hand winding mechanical has become a favorite among affordable microbrands, but its hacking capability and 28.6k sweep are impossible to appreciate without a second hand. Now this is hardly a big deal, but as 9015 prices are on the rise, it does make me wonder if the less expensive 8215 might have done the trick and saved a few bucks to boot.
Quibbles aside, I enjoyed the hell out of this watch. It is comfortable, functional, and looks like nothing else in my collection. Best of all, it is inexpensive. You can still grab it on Kickstarter now for as low as $347, but act fast. The campaign ends October 1.
Pro: Brilliant idea
Con: Middling water resistance
Sum: Sacrifices precision for design, but it makes it well worth the trade.