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Thread: The A13-A arrives, one man's mission (timer) - complete, delivered and reviewed

  1. #1
    Master sweets's Avatar
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    The A13-A arrives, one man's mission (timer) - complete, delivered and reviewed

    A long time ago (it seems, but actually only March past year) I read a very good post on WUS (I know, there aren't that many) detailing the very impessive efforts of an Italian Oil Engineer (and part-time pilot and rifle marksman) to make his own pilot watch, using the A13-A military cockpit clock/chronograph as his model, fitted into what appreared to be an IWC-Fliegerchronograph-inspired case.

    A man after my own heart, he wanted a super clear central minutes/seconds chronograph. Like me, he would have preferred to use the Lemania 5100 to achieve this, but in its demise, he realised that the quartz ETA 251.262 (or latest variant, the 264) was his easiest alternative.

    What was most impressve about his WUS-post was that this was no drawing he was showing us, no 3-D render.

    He had successfully made an incredibly impressive-looking fully functional prototype with this movement, which was his daily wearer while he figured out improvements.

    By August Paolo had got so many encouraging replies (and PMs no doubt) from WUS members (myself included) that he had generated a spreadsheet to consider whether he could make a limited run to supply those who wanted one. The limited run had to stand on its feet, but could also lead to a longer production run if successful.

    By December he realised he could do it, he had set up a company and was working on a website, as well as final design tweeks to the hands and crown.
    I should stress that Paolo himself has done all of this, he has quietly determined that the A13-A is to be his version, not one arrived at by a committee of posters on WUS. All editting suggestions were politely dismissed and he ploughed on.

    I told people here about it as well, the picture on that thread was the prototype.

    February saw the launch of the website (and FB page) and the call for €50 deposits, a minimum of 75 needed to start a production run.

    75 deposits were paid in a few days. Not in minutes as some kickstarters are, but that's probably due to the limited online presence in one WUS post and a nascent FB page.
    The "brave" 75 sat back to wait.

    A programme was quickly issued suggesting a July delivery, we were underway. July seemed unlikely to me, as I have been in Italy over the summer, and know how little gets done.

    Inevitably the programme slipped some (notably over Baselworld when suppliers took on other new work), and on through the invisible Italian August into September, and now Paolo seems to be assembling about 2 batches of 12 each week at his chosen Milan watchmakers.

    I was 17th in the list, and on Friday I was asked for the remaining 95% of funds (the deposit level was impressively low with no mid-stage payment).

    I paid up, and as of this morning, it is here.

    I know a few are interested here (some have even ordered I think), so what's my impression of one man's mission?

    I am impressed. I mean that. I am properly, hand on chin, quiet nod of approval, impressed.

    In his spare time Paolo has managed to produce a winner.

    The size is within the larger end of perfect for me, 42mm diameter, and quite long (lug to lug 52mm). With downturned lugs it fits the wrist beautifully. My wrist is 7 1/4", for reference.

    The quartz movement allows the whole watch to be thin enough to wear easily.

    The dial is lovely, with the outside step up to the 0-60 scale to reduce parallax error. The satin black is very lovely to look at, with a nice level of gentle reflection, but not enough to distract.

    The custom sapphire shallow-domed crystal shows that off, with a few blue hints from the AR.

    The main hands are instantly readable and have no date window to obscure.
    This absence of calendar also make the watch perfect to just grab and go. Up to 72 month battery life is impressive too.

    All the hands are perfect length, just about to touch the scale without doing so, the chrono hands especially.

    I like the way the counterbalances obscure A-13A to read AA when at rest.

    100m WR is perfecty practical for all occasions.
    The movement hour-hacks, so timezone travel is easily adjusted for.
    And as some may know, you can even pre-set the chrono hands to create a countdown, relatively simply.
    The stealth signature at the top, and simple branding below, keep the exact dial layout that specifcation MIL-C-6499. I am glad it wears its "Made in Italy" with pride too.
    The "pump" pushers are a nice touch, and a nod to IWC.

    The overall case shape is elegant and restrained, with brushed top and sides. It is interesting that there is no separate bezel, the crystal surround is part of the main case. The brand's wing design is engraved on the crown, and suitably mil-inspired info engraved to the rear.

    And the custom order Morellato cordura strap suits it very well.
    All the numerals and hands are in bright white to contrast with the black dial, and only quarter markers and the hands are lumed, although from looking at it in sunlight it is hard to tell.
    It even comes packaged with a full set of O-ring seals (crystal, pushers, crown and caseback) for future maintenance.

    Do I have any gripes yet? No. Well, maybe I would have preferred drilled lugs. Perhaps stronger lume? But these are small points, and that's it. It's a short list.

    I think this one man's mission can be deemed a success. Well done Paolo.

    I know he didn't write MIL-C-6499, so one could see this as some type of homage.
    But, he has been the only one to turn this iconic milspec cockpit clock into a watch.

    And he has done it with great elan. What I especially like is the restraint in the design. Like the Pelagos, this watch really doesn't include any frippery. It is purposeful.
    His vision, tenacity and style mean he really does deserve to make a success of this venture. Good luck to him.

    I see from my serial number that it is XX/500, indicating significantly more than the original 75 being planned for this production run. There could be one available if you fancy one.

    If Paolo ever decides to do an automatic one based on the 5100, I will subscribe to that too.
    I could even send him a donor watch for the movement.........

    Some photos

    Firstly, the watch with its inspiration, an A13-A clock (of course, being mine, it has to be a Nero Lemania one)














    And a wristshot

    Last edited by sweets; 12th September 2017 at 15:10. Reason: size correction

  2. #2
    Grand Master seikopath's Avatar
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    Very nice Dave. I can see why you like that.

  3. #3
    Master blackal's Avatar
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    Very nice.

    Like the hands - especially.

  4. #4
    Master
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    Cor that is rather nice, great legibility, congratulations.

  5. #5
    Master Sinnlover's Avatar
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    That is a really smart looking watch.
    An automatic version would be great. A version using Sinns modified 7750 with central minute hand would be fantastic.
    Does the chronograph second hand sweep or does it tick like a standard Quartz?

  6. #6
    Master
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    I remember an article about these, a very handsome piece.

  7. #7
    Journeyman
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    That's a lovely piece! Congrats.


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  8. #8
    Master sweets's Avatar
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    Thanks gents

    Quote Originally Posted by Sinnlover View Post
    Does the chronograph second hand sweep or does it tick like a standard Quartz?
    Tick, and the minute counter moves as the seconds hits 12.
    The reset is very brisk, the seconds career round back to zero, and when they get there, the minute hand follows immediately after.
    D

  9. #9
    Master Sinnlover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweets View Post
    Thanks gents



    Tick, and the minute counter moves as the seconds hits 12.
    The reset is very brisk, the seconds career round back to zero, and when they get there, the minute hand follows immediately after.
    D
    Thanks for confirming. It is a great looking watch.
    Does anyone know if a sweep Quartz Chronograph with central minute totaliser is being made currently? I mean similar to the Seiko Mechquartz or the movement in the Gen 2 Seiko but with this layout? Is it even possible to modify such a movement in this way?
    That could be a good alternative to an auto.
    Quartz accuracy, grab and go convinence but without the Quartz tick.

  10. #10
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    The best looking new watch I have seen in a long time, congratulations, I might just have to juggle the collection around and get one!
    Cheers..
    Jase

  11. #11
    I'm really glad that this worked out so well. Really nice to have a good news story about a watch like this. Looks great next to those Lemanias, too.

  12. #12
    Master Der Amf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweets View Post
    The size is within the larger end of perfect for me, 42mm diameter, and quite long (lug to lug 57mm)
    I think the lug to lug is supposed to read "52mm", not "57mm"?

  13. #13
    Master sweets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Amf View Post
    I think the lug to lug is supposed to read "52mm", not "57mm"?
    Yes, you are perfectly correct, the OP has been corrected to suit. My mistake and apologies.
    D

  14. #14
    Master JackW's Avatar
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    Wow, those are some counterbalances! Lovely watch, looks very well-executed, with somehow (to me) a hint of Bremont to it.

  15. #15
    Really, really nice. He has done a great job.

  16. #16
    Craftsman
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    Looks a great job - nice and clean :)

  17. #17
    Journeyman
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    Great looking watch.. looking forward to your review if you decide to make one ;)


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  18. #18
    Grand Master learningtofly's Avatar
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    That's a beautiful thing, Dave.

  19. #19
    Master Qatar-wol's Avatar
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    I think you tipped me off to this a few months back, Dave. (I think it was you!) The hour hand stepping seals it for me. I think I'll buy one! It's cheaper (and thinner!) than a CA-M1 Breitling!

    Thanks for the write-up.

  20. #20
    Master sweets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Qatar-wol View Post
    (I think it was you!).
    Yep, it was, I was responding to a WTB you had for an hour-hacking watch of no particular specification. I was pretty sure back then that Paolo would get this pretty much right, and I think he has.

    D

  21. #21
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    Dave, can you post his Facebook link please? I've tried to find it but can't. Thanks
    Cheers..
    Jase

  22. #22
    Master sweets's Avatar
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    It is here

    Dave

    Ps - hope this works, not tried link posting from my phone
    Last edited by sweets; 12th September 2017 at 20:13. Reason: Link corrected

  23. #23
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    Didn't work Dave, can you post the name of the page and I'll search for that.
    Cheers..
    Jase

  24. #24
    Master sweets's Avatar
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    It is "the A13-A pilot watch" on FB
    D

    Link above is now corrected, as I am back in from the kids' swimming and at a proper computer
    Last edited by sweets; 12th September 2017 at 20:14.

  25. #25
    Great. I try not to buy any new watches, and now after reading the above excellent review I find I've just put down a deposit for one.


    https://www.a-13a.com/shop/en/
    Last edited by Sunnie; 12th September 2017 at 19:42.

  26. #26
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweets View Post
    It is "the A13-A pilot watch" on FB
    D
    Ta.
    Cheers..
    Jase

  27. #27
    Super legible, looks great and is a good size

  28. #28
    Master
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    I'll chime in too with a big thumbs up.

    That dial is gorgeous. IWC and others could learn a lot from the design 🙂

    Glad the lug to lug is 52mm!

    simon

  29. #29
    Master
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    A great looking watch and very much my kind of style. Had it come on a bracelet I would have been tempted.

  30. #30
    Thanks for posting - I remember being fascinated by your original post too. Glad he came good you must be delighted with the watch it looks great.


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  31. #31
    Craftsman
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    Thank you for taking the time to write this and post it. A fascinating story and a very fine looking watch too. I can't help but admire the watchmaker for having the technical competence and the endurance to see the project through to a conclusion.

    I'll have to keep an eye open for future crowdfunding projects. I was tempted by Undone but didn't commit. Next time!

  32. #32
    Craftsman deerworrier's Avatar
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    nice to see the watches being delivered. mine is due to arrive around the end of the month and i have to admit it is one watch im really looking forward to owning. it's great to see a small project come to fruition and with such great results.

  33. #33
    I emailed Paolo about availability yesterday and he tells me he's sold about 100 of an initial run of 500, so if you want one there shouldn't be a problem at this stage.

    I'm considering it, but it's nearly inspiring me to create my own perfect watch (which is almost certainly something just like this with a rhodium starburst dial - so all I'd have to sort out would be the dial).

  34. #34
    Master pacchi's Avatar
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    ....preordered!
    I was Made in Italy too, so I felt obliged and it looks so cool!

  35. #35
    Master pacchi's Avatar
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    ....preordered!
    I was Made in Italy too, so I felt obliged and it looks so cool!

  36. #36
    Master
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    I like that alot but aesthetically and, as a mission timer, logically it could do with crown guards.

  37. #37
    Craftsman
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    I love that, so much that I have ordered too. Thanks for posting.

  38. #38
    Master bobbee's Avatar
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    Great watch Dave, thanks for posting.

  39. #39
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    Thanks Dave and thanks everybody for your support to the A-13A project.
    Keep flying high.
    Paolo

  40. #40
    Master
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    Dive watches need crown guards, aviators/pilots watches generally do not, IMHO.

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  41. #41
    Journeyman
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    Stupid question but I'll plough on regardless- how will this look on a 6 3/4" wrist? Those dropped lugs look like they might help make this one fit a smaller wrist OK.


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  42. #42
    Master
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    Congratulations Paolo - great looking watch with one of my favourite movements.

    Is that a Siai Marchetti SF260, BTW?


    Quote Originally Posted by Paolorange View Post
    Thanks Dave and thanks everybody for your support to the A-13A project.
    Keep flying high.
    Paolo

  43. #43
    Apprentice
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    Yes! It's a SF260D 😎

  44. #44
    Apprentice Al Faromeo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lughugger View Post
    .../...how will this look on a 6 3/4" wrist? .../...
    It wears very comfortably on these tiny wrists of mine ('t was delivered yesterday and took just a day shipped from Milan to my doorstep).
    Attached Images Attached Images

  45. #45
    Journeyman
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Faromeo View Post
    It wears very comfortably on these tiny wrists of mine ('t was delivered yesterday and took just a day shipped from Milan to my doorstep).
    Hey! Thanks for posting. Funnily enough, I emailed Paolo today asking about lead times. He's producing 20 pieces per week and has about 3 weeks of orders to deliver on deposit so currently 3-4 weeks lead time from new deposit to door. I'm seriously considering laying down for one if the SARG009 currently inbound doesn't work out! Enjoy - they're very cool pieces.


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  46. #46
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paolorange View Post
    Yes! It's a SF260D 
    Beautiful aeroplane. I had about 50 hours in a Sf260A, which I loved flying - it was a mini fighter! It was fantastic fun, right up to the point that the engine failed on take-off after I had retracted the wheels. I had nowhere to go ahead and had to belly it in.whch didn't do me or the aeroplane much good.They say it's a good landing if you can walk away from it and an excellent one, if they can use the aeroplane again afterwards. Neither applied in my case, but I still have fond memories of flying it...
    Last edited by HappyJack; 25th September 2017 at 12:03.

  47. #47
    Master
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    What a refreshing watch!

  48. #48
    Apprentice
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyJack View Post
    Beautiful aeroplane. I had about 50 hours in a Sf260A, which I loved flying - it was a mini fighter! It was fantastic fun,might up to the point that the engine failed on take-off after I had retracted the wheels. I had nowhere to go ahead and had to belly it in.whch didn't do me or the aeroplane much good.They say it's a good leaning if you can walk away from it and an excellent one, if they can use the aeroplane again afterwards. Neither applied in my case, but I still have fond memories of flying it...
    Thank you for sharing. What happened to the engine?

  49. #49
    Master Qatar-wol's Avatar
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    Well, I've put my money where my mouth is, and paid a deposit. Will report back in when the watch gets to Qatar, and that's another sale we can chalk up to Dave's write up!

  50. #50
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paolorange View Post
    Thank you for sharing. What happened to the engine?
    The fuel selector knob in the A model is a 4 position rotary switch, which allows the choice of Port/Starboard Wing Tanks / Tip Tanks, respectively. on the aircraft I was flying, the detent was badly worn, and rather than replace it, the owner / CFI used to tell people that they needed to wiggle it until the detent clicked into position. Unfortunately he hadn't shared that piece of intelligence with me. So, I taxied out on the port wing tank, then switched tanks to starboard as briefed after run-up before take off, which I used for take off. Because the fuel pick-up was misaligned with the fuel pipe, the system couldn't deliver the full 120 L/hour required for take-off power, but a lesser rate of flow. The engine sucked the fuel out of the carburettor float, which ran dry, and the engine stopped. I had folded up the undercarriage by then, and was at about 150' - 200'.

    I put the nose down and started gliding back down. Plenty of aeros experience meant that I had a good feel for the best rate of glide, so I managed to avoid the stall/spin problem, but I didn't think to close the throttle. As I flared for the landing (no gear) the power came back in at full power and I started climbing. I got the aircraft back up to 50'-100' but realised that there was nowhere ahead to land, being now too far down the runway. So I turned across the field, hoping to fly a low-level circuit. Halfway through a 45˚ banked turn, at about 50', the engine stopped again. I had only just enough time to level the wings before hitting the ground, slightly right wing low. We hit the ground at about 80-90kts (150 - 170 km/h), without wheels, spun round and slid along it for a good few metres before coming to a stop. The seat and harness design caused a compression fracture of my spine.

    Like I said, lovely aeroplane to fly, but the high wing loading and seat over spar, plus the old sponge / spring seat and shoulder harness mounted on the floor behind the seat, made it a bad aeroplane to crash.

    I bought my own plane 2-3 years later - but chose a fixed gear Pitts Special S-2C...and spent a lot of money on maintenance!

    Still, I'd love an SF260 - there aren't many aeroplanes in which I could do aeros, and take my family for a long-distance flight, at 160 kts.

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