Who better to review the latest aviation watch than Keith Campbell? Here are his impressions of the Zero West S4-P9427 Spitfire.
On 20th August 1940, Winston Churchill made his famous speech in Parliament stating, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. 80 years later, to the day, I find myself sitting in the Churchill Bar of the Royal Air Force Club in London, wearing a watch that has this inscribed on it’s rear. Does the new S4-P9427 live up to expectations as a quality timepiece that pays historical homage to the Battle of Britain? Well…
There is, as is always the way with watches pitched at collectors, a historical hook. The S4-P9427 (long name, but all will be explained!) has history and actual metal entwined together to make an amazing story. On 28th November 1940, Pilot Sergeant ‘Ziggy” Klein, who had joined 243 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, after joining from the Polish Air Force was shot down and killed in an engagement over Poole Harbour. His aircraft lay undiscovered in the mud for nearly 50 years until it was discovered by a fishing boat. Extensive research matched the found wreckage to the specific aircraft and a tale emerged of bravery and tragedy that parts of this watch were from.
The watch case 44mm in diameter and is manufactured from vapour blasted 316L stainless steel with nicely contrasting black DSL lugs. It feels solid on the wrist and has a nice vintage aviation feel to it, not trying to be something it is not. Water resistance is 100m, but I do not think that I would wear it swimming, particularly with the supplied leather strap. It is 14.1mm thick and the lug to lug distance is 49.6mm between the pins.
The engraved disc within the case back (surrounded by more PVD) has been manufactured from metal recast from the aluminium engine casing of the Rolls Royce Merlin from Spitfire P9427 (hence the suffix in the model number). Sapphire crystal protects the historical metal which is laser engraved with the quote, a compass rose and a map of Poole Bay, where P9427 and Sergeant Pilot ‘Ziggy’ Klein had their last enemy combat engagement together back in 1940. The dial is protected by a custom double-domed sapphire crystal with an internally applied AR coating with a slight blue tint to it.
Worthy of a special mention is the 22mm lug-width strap. It is a hand-made vintage leather strap with nicely contrasting stitching, a single wide sliding keeper loop and an engraved black PVD buckle. Corium, a sister company of Zero West are responsible for manufacturing the straps, meaning quality permeates through all parts of the timepiece, not just the main body.
The dial is designed overall to replicate the instruments found in the Spitfire cockpit. It is constructed of black enamel over brass substrate with overprinting to represent an airspeed indicator design. SuperLuminova X1 luminous pigment has been used, which gives easy legibility in darker conditions. The second hand is a striking red, which gives a nice contrast to the black dial. The date of the crash and the co-ordinates of the aircraft location are at the base of the dial. The hands, which are designed, once again, to replicate instrument needles are set by a brass crown that is designed to replicate the control column fire button from a Spitfire as well – a nice touch!
A Swiss ETA2824 25-jewel self-winding ball-bearing rotor powers the watch, giving it around 38 hours of power reserve when fully wound. It is one of the most used and trusted workhorse movements on the market today and beats away quite happily and accurately at 28,000 VPH. On the off-chance an issue is raised, they are relatively easy to get repaired, unlike some bespoke watches that seem, for the price paid to repair them, to be flown on their own private jet to Switzerland. The movement size itself is 25.6mm in diameter and 4.6mm deep, so bear that in mind as to why the case ended up being 44mm in diameter itself, especially if you have small wrists.
It is a watch with actual history contained within the fabric (or metal) of it. It has been designed as a small memorial to a heroic individual who was fighting for what they believed in. When you think how much some other companies charge for watches that have been made from historical aircraft, this could be seen as a bit of a bargain at £2500! I’ve had watches containing aircraft metal from other companies that have been far cheaper, but the overall build quality was not there in them. Each Zero West watch is individually hand-built for you after you order it, a process that takes around 3 to 4 weeks. A 24-month warranty gives you peace of mind with your new purchase and do remember that it will need servicing every 3 years or so to keep it in perfect health.
This Spitfire watch is a quality item, punching above its weight in what has been produced. Not necessarily a vintage watch design in itself, the aircraft instrument design looks as good in a cockpit as it does in a business meeting. There are some watches that do more than just tell the time – this one tells of a remarkable story, at a remarkable place in time and history, of one man doing everything he could to help others and paying the ultimate price in doing so. This watch should be viewed as a keepsake – one that should be treasured by the owner and handed down with the story so that the heroics of Sergeant Pilot ‘Ziggy’ Klein are never forgotten.
Zero West watches are available from the brand’s website: zerowest.watch The model reviewed is priced at £2,500.