There are times when I think a Timex MK1 is actually the perfect field watch pick it up and go, the ticking is loud enough to scare mosquitos away, and of course, it’s got the amazing indiglo. And what color dial would you like? But did I mention I’m a watch idiot savant? So I buy those, and I give them away, and continue to look for the “great one.”
Two of the best candidates I’ve had are the Vaer A12 Dirty Dozen and the Stowa Fleiger 36 Handwound.
Disclosure: I don’t own either of these watches anymore, but I’m not advertising, they made their way to fellow TimeZone members months ago, and I hope they don’t mind my reviewing watches they now own. I’ll do Vaer first, then Stowa for each item as I compare.
Vaer: 36 mm diameter, 20mm lugs, 43mm lug to lug
Stowa: 36mm diameter, 18mm lugs, 45mm lug to lug
The sizing on both of these is lovely, and I have a slight preference for the Vaer with the 20mm lugs. For what it is worth, my significant other preferred the size of the Stowa on my wrist, and felt the Vaer looked too small. The Stowa also looks a bit bigger on wrist due to the thinner, more sloped bezel. The Vaer, on the other hand, got noticed by watch people everywhere. It’s the only watch that caused someone to reach out to me after an online meeting to ask “if they could get a better look at the vintage IWC I was wearing.”
Case sides and crown
The Vaer is “smoother” like a pebble, and has interesting polished details, like the lip at the bottom of the bezel and a slight chamfer on the lugs. The Stowa is a more consistent and better executed. Probably a tie here, but for the style of the watch, the Vaer is really charming.
The Vaer houses a mildly decorated ETA 7001 (aka, the Peseaux) which is a lovely looking caliber, and winds beautifully. It kept almost perfect time for me, and my experience with this movement has been very accurate across the various models I’ve owned. The Stowa houses a slightly better decorated ETA 2801 and kept great time as well, a bit on the + side for me. It wound wonderfully as well. Both movements have the brand name on the movement plates in gilt and blued screws (but with steel slots). Another tie here, I’ll give movement points to the Peseaux caliber in the Vaer, but everything is just a bit crisper on the Stowa.
The Vaer ships in a fit to size cardboard box with the watch and the extra strap (in this case, the bracelet) side by side. Nice photography on the boxes and a little warranty booklet tucked inside. Effective, and recyclable, I thought it was nicely done. The Stowa is over the top with a box that larger brands could learn from. It’s solid, won’t go anywhere or peel, and you can repurpose it with joy. Stowa takes this easily, but as we like to say, you can’t wear a box :-)
The Vaer likely wins on value, coming with a rubber strap, and allowing the choice of a bracelet or other strap (Horween, NATO). The Stow has a very traditional and solid fleiger style strap (the black strap on the Stowa is one I added). The Stowa strap is certainly superior, but was just too long for me to be able to use. A tie here as the Vaer bracelet (for me) was a hair puller, though it looks nice enough.
Hands & Crystal
The Vaer has very readable white outlined hands with white lume filling, with a crystal that shows some real charm to the view, showing a high bend on the hands from the edge (I think this is because of the single dome crystal), and I loved it. The Stowa has incredibly blued hands that are some of the nicest I’ve ever seen at this price level, topped with a flat sapphire crystal. Both watches have hand lengths that are well done (a bit of a pet peeve for me). I’d have to give this to the Stowa in spite of my love for what Vaer accomplished.
MSRP and Manufacturer site
Vaer Site, $1029, and can be bought for $949 with a NATO for the second strap instead of the bracelet, 2 year warranty. Look out for the 10% coupon that shows up as you visit the site. I think I got mine for a bit less when they were first introduced, but I don’t begrudge the price uptick.
Stowa Site, ~$1300 (1270 Euros), with at present a 4-week delivery, can be bought with a variety of modifications on movement, dial, etc., 2 year warranty
My impression and choice
As I mentioned at the beginning, I kept neither, but could have been happy with either one. The charm, size, and value of the Vaer is hard to deny, and if talking to a friend getting into watches, I’d have to suggest them, especially as I live in the USA, and having/supporting a US company is icing on the cake (and slightly cheaper to boot). The Stowa is a more recognized, and better executed watch, but perhaps missing a bit of that charm that the Vaer has. While the onion crown on the Stowa is true to history, if I did this again, I think I’d opt for a regular crown, which I prefer to the onion.
These were two of the best small factor field/fleiger watches I tried, and I probably bought over 10 as I looked for “the one”. Thank you for reading this long if you’ve stayed!