Gerlach was under my radar for a long time now. They proved to be reliable watch company which can produce a variety of different watches whether it is a casual watch, a pilot, a chronograph or a diver. They got it all. What’s the most important however, it’s the fact the company constantly evolves, creates new designs, with better quality and materials, and the experience they got along the process is visible in every subsequent watch they release. G. Gerlach Dywizjon 303 (or a Squadron 303 if you prefer), is their latest baby and probably their greatest achievement in watchmaking so far. I’m sorry to spoil the review already in the introduction but that’s what it really is.Gerlach Dywizjon 303 is a watch, which pays a tribute to a Polish fighter squadron, which fought during World War II and protected British skies. G. Gerlach is known for bringing back Polish engineering accomplishments, as well as Polish history to the general public. I think that’s a good thing and I treat it as an added value to their watches.
Gerlach Dywizjon 303 comes in a wooden box, the same as G. Gerlach Enigma for example. The box locks with a small magnet. I’m bringing it out because magnet is not something I would like to have around my mechanical watch. However, I’m sure G. Gerlach got this setup tested and it doesn’t have a negative impact on the watch itself. The inside of the box is filled with a red velour and a red velour cushion. I must admit is looks quite appealing and it’s hard to expect more in terms of packaging from a watch in a price range of $400
Case, crown, caseback, crystal
Dywizjon 303 sports a new stainless steel case, which G. Gerlach has developed for the whole line of their upcoming watches. This case will be shared between at least two more models: G. Gerlach Navigator (2nd edition) and G. Gerlach PZL.37B Łoś. It’s a 43 mm in diameter and 52 mm lug to lug. The case wears great due to the fact the lugs are nicely curved and the height of the case, which is 12 mm including a slightly domed (double domed by the way) sapphire crystal. Speaking of which, G. Gerlach has done a great job on the crystal. It has an AR coating on the inside but it’s transparent and make the whole face of the watch crystal clear. There are also hardly any reflections, which further proofs that the AR coating does its job. On the left side of the case, there is an engraved Dywizjon 303 logo. It’s a really nice saddle touch.
At 3 o’clock you will find a signed crown. It’s not a screw-down crown; however, the watch is water resistant to 100 m, which is a great score of an everyday timepiece. I found the crown operates really nicely, it’s sturdy and there is hardly any wobbling involved.
On the back of the case, there is a screw-down caseback. Again, we will find here a logo of Dywizjon 303, as well as some basic information about the watch written in Polish: Sapphire crystal, WR 100, Automatic Movement NH35, G. Gerlach, Made in Poland, 316L Stainless Steel. As for the caseback, I have one complaint. Although I really like the design of the engraving, the execution itself leaves something to be desired. It’s rather flat and I’m afraid it will scratch easily during normal use.
Dywizjon 303 shows the true craftsmanship of G. Gerlach team. What have they done with dial and especially the hands of 303 is just amazing. The enameled white dial is just a pleasure to look at, the printing on the dial is extremely sharp and to add even more details, the numeral indices are applied and painted black. The photos do not do the justice here, it’s something you should see in person. However, the most stunning thing of this watch are its hands. These are ion-plated blue 3D hands and they reflect the light under certain angles. G. Gerlach perfected this technique in their Batory lineup as well as the first Dywizjon 303 watch (a limited edition run for a Polish watch forums). I haven’t seen anything like that in an affordable watch so far. G. Gerlach definitely sets the bar really high for other watch companies here.
Dywizjon 303 is powered by Seiko NH35. It’s not particularly surprising as it’s a great movement, which is highly popular among micro brand watch companies. It offers hacking, hand winding and a power reserve of 40 hours. I did not find any issue with my review unit and the time keeping was definitely within the specifications of the manufacturer.
Straps and wearability
Gerlach Dywizjon 303 comes on a brown leather strap. It’s soft and seems to be well made; however, design wise, it’s not something I would put myself on this watch. It’s just too plain looking in my opinion. Perhaps some stitching or a pattern would give more character. I think a crocodile pattern strap or a padded strap with stitching on the sides would look great on Dywizjon 303. On the other hand, the watch has standard 22 mm lug width so you can try any strap you want.
Nevertheless, 303 wears great and will suit variety of wrists. For my 7.5 wrist it’s a great match; although, I usually wear large dive watches so it takes a moment to get used to to a smaller casual watch like Dywizjon 303.
When I first post some of my photos of G. Gerlach Dywizjon 303 on one of Facebook watch groups someone asked my where would I position this watch and how to compare it with other brands. And that’s a great question. Keep in mind that’s a ~$400 watch. I think (and I want to stress that’s my personal opinion) that’s on par or slightly above Steinhart watches with a similar design. Granted, Steinhart makes Swiss made watches, which is important for many watch enthusiasts but Dywizjon 303 has nothing to be ashamed of. The case, dial, hands, all is really high quality. The ion-plated hands is a feature you won’t find on a Steinhart or any other watch company in a similar price range. I said that I would put 303 above Steinhart Marine (which has the most similar design to G. Gerlach as it is a marine style watch as well). If it’s the same for you, it probably depends on how much do you care about “Swiss Made” sign and a Swiss movement.
Nevertheless, G. Gerlach Dywizjon 303 is a fantastic watch for the money with almost no flaws. And let’s be honest here, it’s even hard to call a choice of a standard leather strap “a flaw”, it’s probably a matter of personal taste. The engraving on the caseback could have been executed better but that’s also not something that would make a deal breaking difference. The most important is that the watch is of great quality, the fit and finish of the all components is great and the overall design is simply stunning. If you are in the market after a casual watch I can highly recommend you G. Gerlach Dywizjon 303. It’s currently available in their store for 1500 PLN, which translates to $392 at the current exchange rates.
+ new 43 mm case
+ enameled dial with applied indices
+ ion-plated blue hands
+ Seiko NH35 automatic movement
– engraving on the caseback could have been better
– standard strap is not a best match for this kind of a watch
Big thanks to G. Gerlach for providing Dywizjon 303 for a review!
G. Gerlach Dywizjon 303 is a fantastic watch for the money with almost no flaws. And let’s be honest here, it’s even hard to call a choice of a standard leather strap “a flaw”, it’s probably a matter of personal taste. The engraving on the caseback could have been executed better but that’s also not something that would make a deal breaking difference. The most important is that the watch is of great quality, the fit and finish of the all components is great and the overall design is simply stunning. If you are in the market after a casual watch I can highly recommend you G. Gerlach Dywizjon 303.