Several years ago I recall seeing a picture of this Wempe Zeitmeister Aviator Ceramic Chronograph watch and then eagerly wanting to experience the watch in person. The problem was that this German wristwatch was produced by and branded as a watch retailer chain that didn’t have a store where I was living. In fact, the only Wempe store where Wempe watches are currently sold in the United States is located in New York City. Us watch lovers on the West Coast are out of luck. It was not until I happened to have a layover in a German airport (I believe it was Munich) that I was able to see this or any Wempe-branded watches for the first time. What really struck me was the quality and seemingly reasonable price for an “in-store” brand.
Even though the Wempe Zeitmeister Aviator Ceramic Chronograph (reference WM600003) was a product I was immediately interested in after seeing pictures of it, the real value of this timepiece only became clear to me after wearing it for a while. In short, I can’t think of any other such watches quite like it on the market when it comes to quality, performance, heritage, and again, value. With that said, this isn’t the only aviator watch produced by Wempe. Even though the retail chain has stores in multiple parts of Germany, their watch assembly facility is located in the prestigious watchmaker’s town of Glashutte, where others such as A. Lange & Sohne, Glashutte Original, Tutima, and more are based. I happened to mention each of these brands because they all have a history of producing pilot watches – which is something that this city was known for until after World War II.
Wempe produces a series of aviator/pilot/Flieger watches that contain various movements and in various sizes. Each equipped with a German Chronometer rated base Swiss movement. The variety of aviator watches Wempe produces is actually impressive given that Wempe-branded timepieces are still a niche product compared to other high-end brands. Right now Wempe produces six distinct Zeitmeister Aviator watch models, with five different movements, and in case sizes at 38mm, 42mm, 44mm, and 45mm wide. This Zeitmeister Aviator Ceramic Chronograph is the only 44mm wide model and one of two aviator models to have a Swiss ETA Valjoux 7753 automatic chronograph movement inside of it. It is also the only of the Wempe Zeitmeister Aviator watches to have a ceramic case… and is the most expensive of the current Zeitmeister Aviator pieces because of the case material.
How much difference does a black ceramic case make? Let me first say that the Zeitmeister Aviator Ceramic Chronograph reference WM60 0003 has a sister model which is the reference WM60 0004 that comes in steel. The steel-cased model is also a bit smaller at 42mm wide versus the ceramic case’s 44mm wide diameter. The watches share the same dial and movement, though the steel Zeitmeister Aviator Chronograph comes on a crocodile strap and this ceramic model comes on a sporty case-fitting black rubber strap with a fold steel deployant. So how much difference does ceramic make? Quite I bit I think. Whereas the steel model has a very traditional yet soft feel (thanks to the rounded case), the ceramic model is a lot more contemporary in style and feels like a merger of old and new with a traditionally-appealing and legible dial along with a technical looking and simple housing.
At times wearing the Zeitmeister Aviator Ceramic Chronograph I wasn’t sure whether or not the design elements of the case and dial worked together harmoniously or clashed. Minus the aviator watch-style dial, the case is simple, minimalist, subdued, subtle (due to the matter finishing), and modern. The dial however is a testament to the past with its often used pilot-style 12 o’clock hour indicator, easy to read Arabic hour numerals, and legible chronograph subdials. Wempe went to a lot of lengths to maintain a “tool watch aesthetic” on the dial but also added a bit of flair. You can see the latter in only a few areas on the watch, such as the polished hands and polished rings around the slightly recessed chronograph subdials. Luminant doesn’t disappoint either with Wempe applying a fair bit of Super-LumiNova to most of the dial including the small hands.