The Tutima Classic Flieger GMT

Time Machine September 25, 2002 admin

The Tutima Classic Flieger GMT

Ref. 635-01

Introduction – Tutima History

The Tutima company is based in Schierbok in Northern Germany,
near the vicinity of the city of Bremen in the Ganderkesee community. The
company was founded in 1927 by Dr. Ernst Kurtz, who was managing director of the
Glashütter Uhren-Rohwerke-Fabrik (UROFA) located in Glashütte in Saxony,
the traditional center of German watchmaking. During WWII, his company supplied
military chronographs to the German government, most notably the Fliegerchronograph
Caliber 59, first produced in 1941.

After WWII, Dr. Kurtz left what became East Germany, settled in Northern Germany,
and set up both a movement manufacture (Norddeutsche Uhren-Rohweke-Fabrik or
NUROFA) as well as Tutima Uhren. Unfortunately, the movement maker did
not survive and ceased production in 1959. Tutima was also reorganized,
and was sold to Dieter Delecate.

During the quartz revolution, Tutima survived by providing instrument watches
with Swiss movements, including the development of a NATO-approved chronograph
in 1985.

Today, Tutima concentrates on two watch lines which emphasize the linkage between
Tutima and the military: the contemporary line includes the NATO Chronograph
with several variations, as well as the Pacific diver’s watch. The Classic
line includes a reproduction of the original 1941 Fliegerchrono and several
other watches which share similar styling.

The watch under review is the Classic Flieger GMT, which features a quick-set
second timezone feature and date. In collecting thus far, I had not obtained
a simple GMT watch which would be suitable for casual occasions (the Reverso
Duo – which does have a second time zone – is too dressy for non-business travel
IMO). Looking at the options, I was drawn to the Tutima because of its
classic styling and reasonable price.

The one word which seems to best describe this watch is value. Despite
the already reasonable list price for the watch, I obtained a significant discount
from an authorized dealer, which put the watch well under $1000. What
I received in return went way beyond my expectations for a watch which competes
in the same price range as Oris, Fortis, and several other well-liked low-to-mid-range

Packaging and Initial Impressions

The watch came in a nicely constructed felt-lined oiled-wood box. While
not of furniture quality like the boxes from Blancpain, it was an unexpected surprise
considering the plastic Seiko-like boxes which similarly priced watches typically
come in. Inside the box was a multi-lingual instruction booklet describing
the operation of the watch, as well as a simple guarantee booklet. In addition,
Tutima USA in California sends a baseball cap to owners who register their watches
(I have not received the cap as of yet).

The initial appearance of the watch out of the dealer’s case
was impressive considering the cost of the watch. The polish of the crown
and coin-edged rotating bezel sets off the brushed finish of the case nicely.
Considering that the watch was styled after a two-register chronograph, I was
impressed how well a simpler version comes across.

No, it isn’t an authentic military dial, but it has a great retro feel to it – especially when combined with the classic calf-skin aviator band. One of my non-watch enthusiast friends commented that the styling reminded him of the Audi TT.

The watch measures 38mm in diameter (not including the oversized
3.5mm high crown), and is 10mm thick measure from the caseback to crystal.

Movement Details…

The movement in this watch is the ETA 2893-2 – which is the GMT
version of the ubiquitous 2892A2. It is a bi-directional winding thin automatic,
11.5”’ (25.6mm) diameter by 4.1mm high, with 28,800 bph, 21 jewels, and the standard
Incabloc shock protection. Power reserve is the standard 42 hours.
Tutima sells both a display and solid back – I chose the display back:

Tutima has individualized their movement by specifying Geneva/Glashütte
stripes to the rotor (engraved with “Tutima Uhrenfabrik GMBH”) and providing
some additional finishing details to the bridges of the movement:

Note the perlage (A, above) and colimaconnage (B) added to
the plates and cocks, and even some slight anglage (C) which is visible not
only at the perimeter where the rotor weight swings, but also at the edges of
the balance cock and other bridges. The bridges and plates appear to be
rhodium plated, with a bright silvery sheen apparent, very much unlike greyish
nickel-plating. The screws are polished, but are not blued.

Without disassembling the movement, it appears that Tutima
expended some effort to dress up the stock ETA movement. Whether this
translates to a fine functional finish is something that can’t be seen through
the back of the movement (the rotor gets in the way of the escape wheel and
other critical components). However, considering the asking price, the
level of finish is definitely very good.

…And a Design Flaw?

While the watch functions as intended, I have a major reservation
about the functional implementation which I must highlight to any pilots who might
be considering this watch – mainly, the quick-set hour hand (i.e. the one you
can set in 1 hour increments while the movement is still in motion) is the 24-hour
hand. In contrast, for example, the Rolex GMT Master II with Cal. 3185 has
a quick-set 12-hour hand.

What’s the difference? Well, the problem is that pilots need a steady reference
to GMT in 24-hour format – the local hour is only used to figure out when to
show up for work.

Having a quick-set 12-hour hand is great for a pilot – one can read the local
time like a regular watch while maintaining an uninterrupted 24-hour reference
to GMT. Unlike local time, where am/pm can be determined by daylight or night,
the professional pilot may often find himself in timezones where GMT could be
anything – and local day/night can’t help him/her figure out the right 24-hour
time. (Note also that one must also stop the movement when adjusting for summer
time w/ the 2893.)

Therefore, I cannot recommend this watch, or any other watch with an unmodified
ETA 2893-2 movement for a professional pilot.

Other watches, in addition to the Rolex, which are functionally better for
pilots include the IWC UTC, the UN GMT+/-, the Blancpain GMT, and (interestingly
enough) the Omega Seamaster GMT (which is an Omega-unique modification of the
2892). I would recommend these as a more appropriate choice for a professional
pilot as they have a constant 24 hour reference and a quick-set 12 hour hand.

However, if you are just a normal traveler, and just need a second time zone
reference, 2893-2 based watches are probably fine.

Case, Crown, and Band

The Tutima GMT comes with a very nicely done brushed finish on the case.
This finishing extends to the underside of the lugs, which is often a place which
gets missed by the lower end manufacturers.

Another nice indication of attention to detail is a slight
indentation on the edge of the case (A, above), where the band comes closest
the case. The indentation provides some additional clearance to prevent
the strap from rubbing on the case.

The embossed logo on the over-sized screw-down crown is another
nice touch. This photo also shows the even grain of the brushing on the
case, as well as the nice coin-edge polish provided to the bi-directional rotating

The strap is a black calf-skin padded aviator’s strap:

It isn’t the height of elegance, but would look right at home
with a leather flight jacket. Note that the strap is 20mm wide at the
lugs, but only has a slight taper toward the buckle – it is wider than the usual
16mm at this point. This may restrict your ability to replace the buckle
with an aftermarket deployant clasp.

The buckle is the one area which does not live up to the finish
on the rest of the watch. It is finished with an easily scratched mirror
polish rather than a brushed finish, and may in fact be chrome plated rather
than polished stainless steel. Even the stamping of the logo on the buckle
seems out of character with the rest of the watch.

Crystal, Dial, and Hands

Amazingly for a watch of this price, the crystal is domed sapphire,
with an anti-reflective treatment on the inside. The net result is a very
legible timepiece. However, the domed crystal, combined with the high-contrast
matte black dial and brushed finish make this one of the hardest watches I’ve
yet photographed – it’s hard to keep what reflections which do come off the crystal
from overpowering the dial.

The dial on this watch (left) is based on the original Fliegerchrono
Calbier 59 originally released in 1941. Jim Soloway owns the current reproduction
of that watch (right) and the family resemblance is quite obvious. One
of the features common to both dials is the subdivisions at 1/5 of a second
in the outer ring. This makes perfect sense for a chronograph, but is
not very useful on the GMT. (Note that the 1/5 of a second division is
appropriate for the original 1941 Fliegerchrono; the current edition running
at 28,800 bph really ought to use 1/4 second subdivisions).

The dial itself is very well done, with a nice, even matte
finish and sharply defined numerals. Note that the outer hour chapter
(1-12) is painted in a non-tritium luminous compound, which is slightly brownish
green in normal light. This same compound is also used in the “squelette”
hands, with the 24 hour hand being truly skeletonized. The tips of the
minute and second hands are bent downward toward the minute chapter to minimize
parallax distortion when reading. Overall, the hands are much better finished
than the twice-as-expensive NATO Chronograph or even the military Sinn watches.


As should be apparent, I’m really impressed with the overall
value of this watch. It has many design and construction details which would
not be out of place on a much higher priced watch. With the exception of
the buckle and possibly the strap, I’m not aware of any watches which are its
equal at the price. The fact that it uses an ETA 2892-based movement instead
of an ETA 2824 already distinguishes it from most of the similarly priced competition.

My only reservation with this watch is the design of its GMT function.
However, if you are not a professional pilot, and are looking for a military-style
GMT watch, I would definitely recommend this watch as a good choice in the under
$1000 street-price range. The styling has very much kept to the spirit of the
original military design, while the quality of the case, dial, and visible finishing
of the movement belie its low cost.

Copyright © 2000
Edward Hahn