In a world of homages and copies, it is not uncommon to see a pilot watch that looks similar to the big brands. Let’s face it, so many do pilot watches, from Laco to Stowa, and of course IWC. The latter is what I would say this Rotary Commando Big Pilot is based on, and Rotary chose to do a simple 3-hand date version. This new model comes in a few different versions, with a couple of different dial colors and some models with either bracelets as shown in this review, or rivet-style leather straps. All models are sized at 42mm, start at $393 (leather strap), and top out at $455, for this bracelet version.
The look of the Rotary Commando Big Pilot is what you would expect, and while the inspiration is clearly IWC, it’s not a 1:1 copy by any means, with a slightly different case shape, a smaller, less pronounced crown that isn’t really diamond-shaped, and this one I am reviewing is on a bracelet vs your more traditional leather strap. The majority of the watch is all brushed stainless steel with a highly polished bezel surround and a fairly large dial that gives the impression that this is a larger watch than it really is. At 42mm, it is on the smaller side than what we think of when it comes to this style of pilot watch, but this large dial with large Arabic numerals still makes it really stand out, and including the crown, I got 45mm across, so it’s not a dainty piece by any means.
That large dial, at least on this blue version, is a radiant sunburst dial, and as such, it really captures the light and has the ability to change from a rich royal blue to a darker almost navy blue as you move the watch around. It is a fairly simple printed dial, but it looks pretty good and the large red arrow second hand and matching red dial text are nice touches, if nothing else, the watch is easily readable, no matter how bad one’s eyes are.
Everything else about the Rotary Commando Big Pilot is pretty straightforward; screw-down crown, a sapphire crystal over the dial, a 3-link bracelet, and an automatic movement. Keeping in mind that this is an affordable, budget-orientated piece, I do not expect this watch to be one to blow me away with details or materials, but I will say I am disappointed with two aspects of this watch, the movement and the bracelet, or more importantly, the clasp.
The movement used is the Miyota 8205, and if you know anything about the Miyota 8200 series, you know these are not the best movements, especially when it comes to a smooth sweeping hand and accuracy. These movements are known to have what I and many others have always referred to as the second-hand stutter, and this Rotary Commando Big Pilot suffers that affliction as well. Right around the 20 mark, the hand will stop, for about a second or two, then jump to catch up, stop again, and then erratically start moving again until it hits about the 35-minute marker, and will resume normal sweeping. I’ve seen this for many years, and while this is one of the newer versions of this movement that at least hacks, having this movement in a $455 watch, is really inexcusable.
Concerning the bracelet, most of it is fine. It does have solid end links and the links feel pretty hefty and use pins to keep the bracelet together, but the clasp is just so generic and has a stamped deployant, that just looks all kinds of cheap. These days, I would never expect to see this type of clasp on a watch of this price. Functionally it operates just fine, but if all we cared about was function, or just good enough, we would all slap a Timex on our wrists and call it a day, and not spend $400, $500, or $1000, and beyond on wrist watches.
As I said, it works just fine, and on my 7 1/2 inch (19.05cm) wrist, it fits more than fine, at 42mm, it is a nice size for me, without feeling too large with that big dial and smaller crown. I will say though, the bracelet and clasp do give the watch an overall cheap feeling, and going with one of the strap models may be a better option, at least from where I sit.
Another weak point of the Rotary Commando Big Pilot is the lume, and this was no surprise for me as the majority of the Rotary Watches I have reviewed have had less than stellar lume, and while not everyone cares about lume on a watch, a lot of watch enthusiasts do, and this is another area this pilot watch is lacking in.
Rotary does a lot of homages these days, and so do so many other brands, so I am not knocking them for that. The Rotary Commando Big Pilot has a few nice qualities and if this watch were around the $250 mark, I could probably overlook all my criticisms. At $455, these things are much harder to overlook, especially with so many microbrands in the marketplace these days that offer so much more. And going back to one of the original microbrands, Steinhart, who also produces Nav B Uhr watches, you can find a very similar looking (and possibly better looking, though that is very subjective) pilot watch from the German brand, with a higher grade movement (SW200), for less than $100 more of the price of this Rotary. Just something to keep in mind. Like anything, do as much research and look around at options, but if you are keen on this Big Pilot from Rotary, holding out for a sale or big discount wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
I've been an avid watch lover since the age of 7. Watches are not only my hobby but a passion. My favorite style used to be dive watches, but field or non bezel watches have been growing on me. When I'm not reviewing watches I am either cooking or with family and friends.
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