Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! This Sunday, I’m reviewing the Pilot’s Watch from Peter Speake-Marin’s latest watch project, Stoic.
When news of Peter Speake-Marin’s latest watch effort first broke, reception to Stoic was polarizing, to say the least. On one hand, sites such as Deployant heralded the effort, stating that Stoic offers “the very highest quality timepiece at a very competitive price”. On the other hand, critics like Fratello Watches denounced the brand, calling it “the art of phoning it in”. Yet, to my knowledge no watch reviewer – until now – has had the opportunity to review one of their watch first-hand. I believe I’m the first to do a hands-on review of Stoic’s watches – let’s see how it actually fares on the wrist!
Stoic – the Brand
Stoic describes their watches as “inspired by STOIC philosophy, where the inner strength of character and endurance are a key life pursuit.” They further state that “STOIC watches are a horological tribute to classical designs that have endured the test of time, with quotes from STOIC Philosophers culminating in iconic timepieces.” For their debut collection, a quote from Seneca is imprinted on the caseback of all watches – “Nothing is ours, except time“. In an interview with TimeTransformed, Peter Speake-Marin explains his own interpretation of the quote as “nothing is more important than time because time is life.”
Out of Stoic World’s debut collection (see above), my pick has to be the Pilot’s watch. I personally find the Sports watch gaudy – it looks like something out of an Invicta catalogue. At $490 USD, I find its sticker price hard to justify. The Chronograph looks alright, though I feel that Stoic should have used a mecha-quartz movement (Seiko VK63, perhaps) to power the watch. The Pilot’s watch seems to be the Goldilocks of the collection to me, offering a classic design and an automatic movement at a reasonable price. However, I’ll say this: if you were expecting a taste of Speake-Marin design language (the brand, not the man) at an affordable price, you will find that sorely lacking here. The watches here (with the exception of the Sports Watch) are best described as homages to horological icons (Rolex Daytona and IWC Pilot’s watch).
On this note, I have to say that I’m mixed about Stoic’s marketing. The whole Seneca and philosophy based brand story seems a bit fluffy, but I’m not entirely sure it’s bad – unlike those claiming to “disrupt the industry” and “make luxury affordable”! It’s not something that turns me off, but it’s one that honestly just doesn’t necessarily resonate with me.
Stoic Pilot’s Watch – Build Quality
I have to say, I’m actually (for the most parts) pleased with the build quality of the Pilot’s Watch!
Firstly, the Pilot’s Watch utilizes sapphire crystal to protect the watch face. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. Stoic has also elected to coat the underside of the sapphire crystal with 3 layers of AR coating for maximum legibility. Due to this application of multiple layers of AR coating, nasty reflections are prevented, resulting in clear legibility of the dial at all times – an element especially paramount for pilot watches. Water resistance on the Pilot’s Watch is rated at 100M, which makes it good for almost all everyday events except prolonged swimming.
At the heart of the Pilot’s Watch is the workhorse Seiko NH35 movement. The Seiko NH35 movement is a common sight in microbrand watches at this price bracket due to its reliability and affordability, and is a movement I’ve covered countless times on this website. Some quick specs: the movement beats at 21600 vibrations per hour, has 42 hours of power reserve, contains 24 jewels, and is hacking. I’m a fan of the Seiko NH35 movement, much more than the Miyota 8 series movement (which is the alternative movement commonly seen at this price point). This is due to the fact that unlike the NH35, the Miyota 8 series movements are non-hacking, suffer from a stuttering second hand (some models), and in my own experience with the Miyota movements, are also more prone to accuracy problems. That being said, I would have loved to see a Miyota 9015 movement in the watch instead, which has a higher beat rate and boasts better accuracy as compared to the Seiko NH35 movement. The Seiko NH35 movement is good to see at this price range, but having a Miyota 9015 would have been even better!
The strap is by far the worst element (in terms of build quality) of the watch. Firstly, the strap is of genuine leather quality, with the lining of the strap having a rough, cardboard-like texture. For the uninitiated, leather generally comes in three tiers: genuine leather, top-grain leather, and full-grain leather. Full-grain leather are viewed as the best, due to the presence of stronger natural fibers, resulting in a more durable, supple strap that would patina beautifully. Definitely would have preferred Stoic to have included a full-grain leather strap here on the Pilot’s Watch, perhaps even vegetable-tanned! In addition, the deployant clasp on the strap is can only be described as functional at best. It feels stiff, and takes effort to click into place/unclick. Furthermore, the STOIC engraving on the buckle looks cheap, and due to the polished finishing of the buckle, is a scratch magnet. Overall, I’ll definitely be switching out the strap on this one. However, do note that the default strap on the watch is quick-release, so you would either have to get a 20mm quick release strap or 20mm spring bars if you are opting for a regular strap.
I’m pleased to report that the Seiko Lumibrite lume on the Pilot’s Watch is quite good, with the hands in particular shining rather brightly in the darkness. Given that night legibility is supposed to be a key feature for pilot watches, I’m glad to see that Stoic have not skimped on the lume here!
Overall, I’m pleased with the build quality of the Pilot’s Watch. With the exception of the strap, the watch is quite well-made! For the most part, it does not feel cheap, but rather a well-machined timepiece.
Stoic Pilot’s Watch – Design
Unfortunately, as the Stoic Pilot’s Watch is an homage of IWC’s own Pilot Watch, that’s not much I can inherently criticize or praise about the design.
The watch that I believe the Stoic Pilot’s Watch is an homage of is the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 (pictured above). It is clear that the Stoic Pilot’s Watch derived most of its design elements from its IWC bigger brother, including but not limited to: the grey sunburst dial, the slightly recessed inner circle, the font, the date window placement, the printed stick indices minute track, the hands, the crown, etc.
That being said, there are some slight differences between the two. Firstly, Stoic has decided against having the two dots next to the iconic flieger triangle at 12 o’clock. In the aforementioned interview with TimeTransformed, Peter Speake-Marin attributes this to his love of vintage Smiths Pilot Watches, whose design excluded the two dots as well. In addition, the Stoic logo is applied. Combined with the slightly recessed inner circle, this increases the amount of depth present on the dial. The diameter of the watch is slightly larger at 38mm as well, modernising the dimensions while allowing the watch to stay relatively unisex. Overall, while much of the design language is borrowed from the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36, there are some subtle tweaks – though this is still very much in the homage category.
The case is nicely finished, with contrast evident between the brushed case/lugs and the polished bezel. It should also be noted that this is another deviation from the IWC Pilot Watch Automatic 36, which featured fully polished bezel, case-sides, and lugs. Stoic toned the polishing down a tad here, injecting an utilitarian feel into the watch – another design aspect probably inspired by the Smiths pilot watches of old (which also featured brushed cases and lugs).
In contrast, the case-sides are polished to a gleam. I like this alternation of brushed/polished finishing – it creates a nice balance between an utilitarian and dress feel. We also get a signed crown, something not always seen at this price point. However, I would have preferred for the crown to be a tad bit bigger for easier winding.
The Stoic Pilot’s Watch features an exhibition caseback, on which the Seneca quote “Nothing is ours, except time.” is imprinted. I’m usually not a fan of engravings on exhibition casebacks, but the text is unobtrusive enough to not obscure my view of the mechanical movement within. Speaking about the movement, there is also some basic Geneva Stripes finishing on the rotor, which is a nice touch. Elsewhere, relevant information such as the watch’s 10ATM WR rating, sapphire crystal usage, and all stainless steel construction can also be found on the caseback.
Overall, I like the design of the Stoic Pilot’s Watch. Yes, it is an homage, but I think it is an homage done well. I personally prefer the dressier look of this watch, as compared to the utilitarian feel of your usual Type A/B fliegers. While affordable Type A/B fliegers are commonly available in the market (Steinhart, Laco, Archimedes, Stowa, Tisell, etc), I appreciate Stoic bringing a dressier alternative to the affordable pilot watches segment.
Shootout: Stoic Pilot’s Watch vs Alpina Startimer Pilot “Sunstar”
As aforementioned, I’m well aware that there are plenty of affordable, traditional Type A/B fliegers options in the market. However, if you’re looking for something dressier with that IWC panache, your next best option would probably be the Alpina Startimer Pilot “Sunstar”.
In terms of build quality, the Alpina Startimer definitely has the upper hand. Firstly, the Startimer houses the AL-525 calibre, which is based upon the Swiss SW200 movement. In comparison to the Seiko NH35 movement found in the Stoic, the AL-525 movement boasts a higher beat rate, accuracy, better finishing, and perhaps above all else, is Swiss. In fact, with the Startimer you get the Swiss-Made on the dial, which I know is all-important to some. Alpina is a Swiss brand with a storied history as well, tracing its roots all the way back to 1883!
From a aesthetic perspective, both watches share similar design traits. The hands on both watches look alike, and both feature a slightly recessed grey inner circle with a sunburst finish. Case finishing is largely the same as well, with both featuring polished bezels and brushed cases/lugs. However, there is more depth present on the dial of the Startimer, due to the use of applied numerals and indices. I like the red accent on the second hand as well, as it adds a pop of colour to the otherwise monotonous dial. As such, I’ll have to give the edge to the Startimer in this regard as well.
However, where the Stoic Pilot’s Watch triumphs is in its value. At $390 USD, it’s just over a quarter the price of the Startimer! Sure, the Startimer is better than the Stoic in almost every regard, but is it that much of an improvement that I would pay quadruple the price? I’m not sure. Furthermore, one does also have to consider that the Startimer is significantly larger in dimensions at 44mm. As such, if you’re looking for a dressier pilot watch with smaller dimensions, the Stoic Pilot’s Watch would definitely be a better choice.
Conclusion: so the Stoic Pilot’s Watch “shiok” or not?
That depends. If you were attracted to Stoic World because of the Peter Speake-Marin association and wanted an affordable taste of the originality his eponymous brand offers, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a decently priced, well-made homage (in this case, of the IWC Pilot’s Watch), then you should be pleased. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with brands making homages per se – Gruppo Gamma started out offering Panerai homages, and brands such as Steinhart and Ginault are still very well-loved amongst the microbrand community for making high-quality homages. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a smaller, dressier pilot watch, I believe the Stoic Pilot’s Watch represents a good buy at $390 USD.
For those interested, the Stoic Pilot’s Watch can be had on their web-store for just $390 USD. As mentioned earlier, the Pilot’s Watch would definitely be my pick out of Stoic’s debut collection. Could an argument be made that Peter Speake-Marin, with his decades of experience and ingenuity, should be offering watches with much more creativity and flair? Perhaps, and I definitely hope to see Stoic evolving towards more original designs of varying complexities in the future. Nevertheless, the Pilot’s Watch in itself (disregarding the Peter Speake-Marin premise and the heavy expectation that it carries) is not bad all in all, and is a watch that I would personally wear on my wrist.
View Stoic’s full collection of watches here.
The Pilots Watch (#1)
Hour, minute, central seconds, date
Rotor with Geneva stripes
316L Stainless steel
Distance Between Shoulders
Sapphire with printed quote
Sapphire with 3 layers of anti-reflective coating
Leather (quick release)
75mm x 116mm
Shipping cost included