First unveiled at the Baselworld 2009 and going on sale at the beginning of October of the same year, the Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Mach 4 (ref. 241381) featured a “love it or hate it, we don’t care” layout of its huge dial, but had at least one advantage over competitors that you just could’t deny: it was powered by an almost legendary Unitas 6497 hand-wound movement known for its impressive power reserve, the decent ability for keeping good time, as well as that old-school charisma that more modern mechanisms simply don’t have.
Although primarily known for their high-quality Swiss Army multi-functional pocket knives, Victorinox also sells its own family of “pilots” that, if properly serviced, are usually of superior quality to similarly priced competitors and, if serviced properly, tend to work for years without giving their owners any trouble.
Since the brand has a strong “military” aura, its best-selling collections continue to be all sorts of pilot’s watches.
Powered by a pocket-watch-sized Unitas 6497 hand-wound caliber, the Mach 4 comes in a huge 45 mm stainless steel case. Although oversized, the case nevertheless has one natural advantage: it provides lots of real estate for the dial.
The dial of this 241381 is so large that there is enough space for a huge seconds-counter at 7 o’clock, a set of huge Arabic numerals, and even for an inner rotating bezel of the Airboss. Operated by a separate crown at 2 o’clock, the bezel serves to track the time between different events. Sorry, at this time of night I can’t imagine what kind of events an average owner is supposed to track with this 60-minute scale.
Of course, persons suffering from the obsessive-compulsive disorder will love the function.
The most interesting feature of the Airboss Mach 4 is its two-handed seconds indicator. Instead of one hand that completes one turn in 60 seconds, the dial is equipped with two hands pointing at two scales from 0 to 30 and from 30 to 60 seconds on the inner scale. I can not say that it adds sufficiently to the overall usability, but at least it makes the dial more fun to look at.
What I particularly love about the Airboss Mach 4 is how “un-German” it is! While many watchmakers draw their inspiration from the German WWII B-Uhr timekeepers, this one simply has its design based on an average altimeter gauge of an average aircraft.
While not terribly “historic,” it at least looks more original than dozens of “aviators” that you may find in an average brick-and-mortar shop.
See also: Victorinox AirBoss Mach 6 Power Gauge
Photos: Victorinox Swiss Army
Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Mach 4 (241381) specification
Price: $1350 (MSRP)
Movement: Caliber Unitas 6497, hand-wound, 16.5 lines, Swiss Made
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, 24-hour “military time” scale on the dial
Power reserve: 56 hours
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 45.00 mm
Case height: 15.10 mm
Hands: Luminous, sword-shaped
Numerals: Arabic, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brown leather with low-contrast stitching
Crystal: Sapphire, anti-reflective