If you’ve fallen deep down the rabbit hole of watch enthusiasm — especially for German watches — there’s a decent chance you’ve heard of Ickler cases. For those in the know, Ickler cases are renowned for quality and precision in manufacturing, yet, like most case and component manufacturers, the brand tends to fly under the radar of the general public. We may enjoy and appreciate the products, but we tend to ascribe credit to the brand whose name is on the dial. However, if you’re looking to go straight to the source, Ickler has its own quintet of house brands — Archimede, LIMES, Defakto, and Autran & Viala. Though each brand generally has its own focus, Archimede is arguably Ickler’s flagship brand with the broadest catalog, ranging from divers to 1950s-style dress watches. That said, the core of Archimede’s collection revolves around the staple of German watches: the pilot’s watch. Archimede’s newest release is a modern take on a pilot’s watch that features a hardened steel case, 200m of water resistance, and superb value.
Let’s start by addressing that pesky pachyderm in the room: The Pilot 200 can definitely be seen as Archimede’s response to the Sinn 556i. To be clear, the Pilot 200 is not a homage or a knock-off version of the Sinn 556i. Instead, it’s fellow German watch brand following a well-trod, stripped-down pilot’s watch formula but giving it its own twist (take a look at the Stowa TO2 for another example). So, certainly, the Archimede Pilot 200 shares plenty in common with the Sinn 556i but has lots that sets it apart as something special and unique.
Manufactured by Ickler in Pforzheim, Germany, the 39mm case on the Pilot 200 comes in at 10.8mm in height and 45mm lug-to-lug. Those dimensions can be a bit deceptive, like with many pilot watches, as the thin bezel and roomy dial make the watch wear larger than the numbers suggest (for reference, my wrist is 6.75”). All good so far, but things get really interesting as soon as you add in the fact that Archimede/Ickler use a hardening process to boost the case hardness to 1200 HV. If there’s one value-added change I wish more brands would adopt, it’s surface hardening. Then again, most brands don’t have a case manufacturer with a century of experience as their parent company.
Though the stainless-steel case is hardened, it still features a mix of finely brushed and polished surfaces, all finished with precision — just take a look at the details on the signed crown for an example of the attention to detail. Speaking of which, the crown is broad and easy to grip, though note that it does not screw down. Though a screw-down crown isn’t necessary to attain the 200m of water resistance of the Pilot 200, it would still be nice for some peace of mind. Finishing off the details on the case are a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating and a sapphire display caseback. Note that the Pilot 200 is also available with a black DLC coating atop the hardened case for a slight upcharge.
The dial on the Pilot 200 is austere, placing legibility above all else. The dial is a deep, matte black with stark white indices and broad sword hands. With the monochrome color scheme and lack of superfluous details, the Pilot 200 is aggressively legible. Text is kept to a minimum on the dial and while noting that the watch is automatic is rather unnecessary, the German “automatic” is a nice touch. Having the date tucked away beneath the text at 6 o’clock keeps the dial looking clean and balanced, though a no-date option for this watch would be a nice option.
In addition to a DLC black or stainless case, Archimede also provides the option of a white or orange seconds hand. The orange is deep and saturated and, if you’re a fan of German watches, it’s a color you’ll have seen on plenty of German military-issued chronographs. It’s an excellent fit for the watch and brightens up an otherwise harsh dial. Though the seconds hand is not lumed, the hours, minutes, and indices are bright, long-lasting, and easy to read in the dark.
With the Pilot 200, you get your choice of either a black leather strap with contrasting stitching or a stainless-steel bracelet for an extra ~€120. Archimede was kind enough to send both along. The leather strap was soft and instantly comfortable, though I personally find the contrasting stitching to be a bit loud for my tastes. The stainless-steel bracelet (not hardened) is a simple 3-link design that’s comfortable and functional, if not fancy. The flip-lock clasp is stamped and has ample holes for getting the right fit, but you won’t find an on-the-fly micro-adjust. The bracelet is fine and does its job, but I would personally wear the watch on an olive NATO-style or MN strap or perhaps on a minimal-stitch brown leather strap. The beauty of pilot watches is that they tend to work well with all sorts of straps and with the 20mm lug width, you won’t have trouble finding options.
Powering the Archimede Pilot 200 is the Swiss-made Sellita SW 200-1. The automatic movement bets at 28.8kbph, uses a Nivaflex mainspring, Incabloc shock protection, and provides ~38 hours of power reserve. At this point, the ETA 2824-2 doppelgänger has become the go-to for non-Swatch brands in the ~1-3k price range (though you’ll find it in plenty of watches costing considerably more), so it’s no surprise to see it featured here — and that’s certainly a good thing.
The Archimede Pilot 200 is an easy watch to wear. The sizing is excellent for many wrists, it goes with just about anything short of formal (especially if you opt for the white seconds hand), can be easily dressed up or down depending on the strap you choose, and is a watch you don’t have to worry about. With a hardened steel case and 200m of water resistance, this a true tool watch — it just doesn’t shout about it. And considering it’s priced starting at €806.92 (not including VAT), it’s a truly excellent value. You’re getting a watch that’s made in Pforzheim, Germany from a brand that’s been honing its craft in case and component manufacturing for the past century. Archimede may be riffing on a now-classic design, but the Pilot 200 has plenty of its own design features and extras, like the hardened case, that make it truly stand out. For more information on Archimede watches and the Pilot 200, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Pilot 200
>Price: €806.72 without VAT on strap, €924.37 without VAT on bracelet
>Size: 39mm diameter, 45mm lug-to-lug, 10.8mm thickness, 20mm lug width.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: This became my grab-and-go when I had it in for review, as it was an easy fit for nearly every occasion.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone who likes simplicity in design and is looking for a versatile watch that they can wear anytime without having to worry about scratches or water resistance.
>Best characteristic of watch: The hardened steel case and orange seconds hand.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Rather generic bracelet that lacks some niceties like a machined clasp with on-the-fly micro-adjust.