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Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan: this model and four other color variants are launched by the US microbrand Pancerna on Kickstarter. The impressive thing: their unique design with a clear vision already seems very mature. And even better: I was able to test a near-production prototype before the campaign launch!
Pancerna: timeless design meets military history
Pancerna? I have to confess that I had never heard the unusual name before my initial contact with the up-and-coming watch brand and its founder, Ken Mitchell, either. Pancerna Watch Co. was only founded in 2019 and says it specializes in combining modern design with military history. That alone makes the American watch brand special. Especially in the highly competitive Kickstarter market, where watch companies with an original concept are not necessarily the norm.
Pancerna, on the other hand, doesn’t sound particularly American. Nor is it. The word means “armored” in Polish. This name is a tribute to his Polish roots on his mother’s side, Ken Mitchell explains to me. The company slogan “Armored Time,” on the other hand, is immediately understandable. It stands for the robust case design, which you should see at first sight. In fact, Pancerna emphasizes starting every watch design with a blank sheet of paper, rather than selecting individual components “off the shelf.”
What’s behind the striking design…?
So what is the military story behind the debut, the P.7 Pilot? Both the name and the design are based on the PZL P.7 aircraft, the pride and joy of the Polish military. Built from 1930, the fighter was also used in World War II. My tip: look at the design and compare it with my watch photography. Similarities to the aircraft’s rugged fuselage can indeed be seen.
Before Pancerna launches its Kickstarter campaign on February 1, I would like to find out together with you in the watch review whether the prototype with the reference number 001 can keep the promising impression and prove to stand out from the crowd of Kickstarter newcomers. Because in the end, that will play a decisive role in determining whether the Pancerna P.7 Pilot will be a success.
The Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan comes in a cylindrical package adorned with the company logo, which appropriately resembles crosshairs. Inside is a very high quality green canvas watch roll. Wow – the leather of the clasp is so soft! I unwrap the watch roll. A warranty card (important!), two interchangeable straps and the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan itself – on a beige Nato strap – are revealed. I like the design of the watch roll. With two compartments and enough space to stow it away, they seem to have put some thought into this.
The Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan is recognizable as a pilot at first glance. The matte case, the large numerals and the practical Nato strap make it clear: the natural environment of this pilot watch is the cockpit. In the hand, the timepiece feels extremely stable and high-quality. Meanwhile, the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan does not have a watch as a historical model. So it’s not an homage model, which I find very refreshing!
The Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan on the Wrist
How does the military-inspired watch perform on the wrist? The dimensions of the Pilot are interesting. In any case, the case diameter of 40 millimeters does not emulate the trend of increasingly larger pilot chronographs. The Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan remains compact and fits pretty much any wrist, which makes the watch very functional in this respect. However, much more crucial in my opinion is the distance between the lugs, which is a whopping 49 millimeters. Nevertheless, the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan looks smaller due to its bezel, the inner edges of which are drawn very far towards the center of the case. This is one of the most striking design features of the wristwatch.
The weight is convincing. This case weighs just 78 grams. The lightness promises pleasant wearing comfort in everyday life, through which you hardly feel the watch.
If you appreciate the look of real pilot and military watches, you might like the Pancerna P.7 Pilot in its different color variants with its design. Besides its sister model in “Military Green”, my prototype Desert Tan has the most beautiful color scheme in my opinion. However, black, gray and blue tones should suit every taste.
Eight times harder than stainless steel!
Where many models from young watch companies focus primarily on a functional look, real functionality, on the other hand, often falls by the wayside. This is where you can tell if quality has really been emphasized. What makes the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan so robust and resistant is the finishing of its case. The 316L stainless steel used for this was bead blasted and promises high quality already as a basis. But Pancerna tops it off by coating the case with ion plating. They make the case eight times harder than conventional stainless steel. Impressive! The Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan seems to be indestructible. I’m also taken with the finish of the case, which is something even an experienced traditional manufacturer could bring to market. And keep in mind that we are dealing with a prototype here.
The six-fold screwed case back has been provided with a propeller, which once again clarifies the design’s origin. Besides the engraved specifications, you should also find your serial number here later. Per color variant, the Pancerna P.7 Pilot will be limited to 200 pieces. Pancerna specifies a water resistance of 20 bar. Thus, the pilot watch actually becomes a serious diver. Practical for use in the water are the Nato straps, which can dry easily and are washable.
Not necessarily standard for a watch in the mid-three-digit price segment is the built-in watch glass made of resistant sapphire. It’s another example of not skimping on production costs.
Equipped with a powerful automatic movement
As for the movement, quite little can be said based on my prototype alone. The specimen I received is still powered by a Miyota 9015. The heart of your later production model, however, will be a Miyota 9039. This Japanese caliber is an automatic movement that has been in production since 2018. It is known for its good performance and comparatively affordable price. Thus, it seems to be the right choice in the Pancerna P.7 Pilot.
The workhorse also impresses with its precision. The more than 42 hours of accuracy are also impressive. If you want to wear the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan as a daily rocker on your wrist, you will hardly have to wind the watch. However, if the watch needs to be wound or reset, this can be done easily thanks to the fluted crown.
Dial and straps of the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan
The beige dial surprised me a bit. Most of the time, pilot watches have classic Arabic numerals – you know which ones I mean. At this point, you now understand what Pancerna means by the “modern” design. In a futuristic font, the numerals are printed in a legible way. They bring the classic pilot watch design of the 1930s and 40s into the here and now.
For better readability, indices and hands have been coated with Swiss Super-Luminova and achieve excellent luminosity values in the dark. There are no special functions. The Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan remains a straightforward three-hand watch that focuses on the essentials.
In addition to the dark grey nato strap, which sits very securely on the wrist, you also have the option of wearing the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan with a black nylon Nato, which is even more functional. If you want to actually get active with the watch, you should change the strap before doing so. Both straps are included in the scope of delivery. The third alternative is a brown Horween leather strap that Ken Mitchell was kind enough to send me. As a backer, you can purchase it during the Kickstarter campaign for $29. For me, it’s ideal for more upscale occasions.
My conclusion about the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan
The year is just four weeks old and already we are served the next Kickstarter highlight. The Pancerna P.7 Pilot Desert Tan and its four sister models are actually a must-have for those who like to look for new watch brands on the crowdfunding platform. But I can also recommend the Pancerna P.7 Pilot to everyone else. After all, the model has some features that the majority of campaigns lack: an original design with recognition value, good quality, and a fair price-performance ratio.
For just 525 US dollars, the Pancerna P.7 Pilot Tan is in a segment that is already reminiscent of the premium class. I am looking forward to the campaign launch. The conditions are right!