I might have tackled this topic before, but I’m really proud, being Polish myself, how the watch market sprouted in Poland in the last couple of years. G. Gerlach being one of the oldest watch microbrand in Poland inspired other entrepreneurs to try their luck in this tough market. And I’m happy to say that they are doing quite alright, brands such as Xicorr, Vratislavia Conceptum or Balticus getting more and more exposure, which is ultimately great for us, customers. Each of these brands has its unique characteristics and things they like to focus on. G. Gerlach likes to commemorate achievements of Polish engineering and name their watches after them. Therefore, for their latest watch they chose a Polish light bomber produced in 1930’s PZL.23 Karaś.
Here is a quote from G. Gerlach website about the aircraft:
PZL P23 Karaś was a classic light bomber plane made in early ’30s by Państwowe Zakłady Lotnicze (State Aviation Works) in Warsaw. It was presented at Paris Air Show 1936 and gained attention. More then 50 P23 was exported to Bulgaria. Plane became a victim of rapid advance of the airplane technology, became obsolete when WWII started. Still, the fact that Poland resurrected in 1918 was able to create it and over 250pcs was produced in a relative short period of 1937-1939. Modification&improvements program was running and plane was reequipped with more powerful engines. During the Invasion of Poland (1939) it remained Poland’s primary light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. PZL P23 Karaś gained the lour of first airplane that bombed German Third Reich – September 2nd 1939 single plane drop a bomb on factory at Ohlau.
Remaining airplanes served whole WWII in Bulgaria and Romania, removed from service in 1946. No plane survived to our days.
When you take a first look at G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś there is no denying that’s a vintage inspired timepiece. The resemblance to vintage Hanhart chronographs is uncanny. Yet again, I think it’s a good thing. It’s a great design, which was widely popular in WWII era and there are not many similar watches available today. G. Gerlach comes to the rescue with their affordable mechanical chronograph.
The review unit was sent to me with a brand new packaging set. G. Gerlach’s previous watches, like Dywizjon 303 which I had a chance to review on my blog, came in a nice wooden box, which was pretty decent given the price tag of their watches. PZL.23 Karaś comes with a new packaging. Instead of a wooden box, there is a black-red cardboard box and an additional stylish gift bag. While I personally prefer the old box, I understand why G. Gerlach opted for a change. The whole package looks more premium for an average customer, which is especially import when the company tries cater to wider audience through brick and mortar distribution channels.
G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś features a 43 mm stainless steel case with 52 mm lug to lug. While definitely not small, the watch wears quite comfortable due to lugs being pointed downwards. The entire case is sandblasted, which gives it additional vintage look. One of the major questions and concerns from the people who saw the pictures of Karaś, was the case quality. I’m happy to report that the quality is there, and there is really nothing to be picky about. All the surfaces are smooth, there is no harsh edges or any imperfections I could find. You can really see that G. Gerlach made a great improvement over the years and they perfected their manufacturing process.
At 3 o’clock, there is this huge onion style crown. It really makes the watch truly unique and it’s hard not to notice it by looking at the watch. It’s a push-down crown with a small, barely visible G.Gerlach’s logo. The crown is easy to grip as you could imagine, which is quite important as this is manual winding watch. The ST1902 movement winds pretty easily; although, you have to be careful to not accidentally over-wind it.
The knurled bezel is another characteristic feature of PZL.23 Karaś. Of course it’s a fixed bezel and it is there only for aesthetics. And it plays its role pretty damn good by giving the watch this unique vintage look.
It’s worth noting, that despite being a mechanical chronograph with no screw-down crown G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś is water resistant to 100 meters.
Dial, hands, crystal
Dial on PZL.23 Karaś is pretty simple fare. It’s a black matte dial with white printing. Arabic numerals are printed with lume, which glows fine for a pilot style watch. It’s definitely not a Seiko level lume but it does the job. Printing is extremely sharp as seen even through a macro lens of my camera. At 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock you will find subdials. The left one is a small second subdial, and the right one shows time elapsed when you engage the chronograph function. Given the limitation of the ST19 movement, it’s a 30 minute chronograph, which should be just enough for boiling eggs and such.
And now we get to probably the most controversial part of the watch, the handset. I know for the fact that people generally are not too fond of cathedral style handset. However, the hands are historically correct for this timepiece. And not only that, they also look damn cool to me. I know I might be a minority here but I honestly love the look of these hands. I always admired that style of Hanhart pilot watches and G. Gerlach with PZL.23 Karaś does it for me. Oh, and a color. It’s green. Why? Don’t ask me. Still I think it doesn’t look out of place and together with the rest of the watch creates a well balanced composition.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about crystal. This slightly double domed sapphire crystal is not something you often see at this price point, and G. Gerlach seem to have perfected their game in this matter. The crystal has an unique AR coating on the inside, which gives a premium look to the watch. Although, the dial itself is matte black, the AR coating on the crystal makes it look as if it was glossy. But it’s not overly glossy and doesn’t reflect everything around you. It’s a nice subtle effect that make the watch pop. And if catch the right angle, you will see this nice purple tint of the coating. It’s honestly one of the best executed crystals in this price range I have ever seen.
G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś has been fitted with a Seagull ST1902 column wheel mechanical chronograph. Personally, I’m a great fan of this movement because it enables microbrands to create these stunning affordable mechanical chronographs, which would not be possible otherwise. And on top of that, it’s just a solid movement on its own. It features a small second at 9 o’clock, 30 minute chronograph function and has a 42 hours of power reserve. And yes, it’s Chinese but that should put you off because the quality is really there.
Strap and wearability
G. Gerlach and the release of PZL.23 Karaś is a real proof how the brand evolves over time and how it starts to pay more attention to details. It’s visible not only in the watch itself but in the choice of straps as well. To this point, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of G.Gerlach straps. This changed dramatically with Karaś. The supplied 22 mm brown leather strap is just fantastic! It’s quite thick, yet very soft. It’s also really comfortable on the wrist and the length is just right. With my 7,5 inch wrist I could strap it on using the middle hole. To match the case of the watch, the Pre-V style buckle of the strap is also sandblasted. To put a cherry on top, the strap is fitted with these quick-change spring bars so you won’t need any tools to remove the strap. I feels like almost like an overkill because the lug holes are drilled as well.
PZL.23 Karaś is really comfortable on the wrist despite being a large timepiece. I had my doubts about this huge onion crown, that it could dig into my wrist but that’s definitely not a case. The watch case is 13 mm tall, it’s about sweet spot for me. The watch sits proudly on your wrist but it’s not overly massive. It seems to be a great everyday watch to me.
G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś is a fantastic watch in my eyes. Although it’s subjective, I love the overall vintage style and design of this watch. The green cathedral hands make it look unique but at the same time uniqueness is not for everyone. The same goes for other distinctive features of the watch, such as big onion crown or knurled bezel. If it is a right watch for you, you have to decide yourself. But my advice is this: if you like the look, definitely give it a try. From the quality standpoint this watch ticks all the boxes for me: great case quality, perfect proportions, fantastic sapphire crystal and outstanding leather strap. Oh, and lets not forget a mechanical column wheel chronograph movement. G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś is a no brainer deal for me. If you want to find more information on the watch or want to purchase one, head over to G. Gerlach’s website.
+ great build quality of every component including case, crystal, and strap
+ unusual and interesting design
+ mechanical chronograph
– the design might not be everyone’s cup of tea
|Model||G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś|
|Lug to Lug||52 mm|
|Lug width||22 mm|
|Crystal||Domed sapphire crystal, AR coating on the inside|
|Movement||Seagull ST1902 mechanical chronograph, 42 hours of power reserve|
|Water resistance||100 m|
|Price||2049 PLN ~ $545 USD|
G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś is a fantastic watch in my eyes. Although it's subjective, I love the overall vintage style and design of this watch. The green cathedral hands make it look unique but at the same time uniqueness is not for everyone. The same goes for other distinctive features of the watch, such as big onion crown or knurled bezel. If it is a right watch for you, you have to decide yourself. But my advice is this: if you like the look, definitely give it a try. From the quality standpoint this watch ticks all the boxes for me: great case quality, perfect proportions, fantastic sapphire crystal and outstanding leather strap. Oh, and lets not forget a mechanical column wheel chronograph movement. G. Gerlach PZL.23 Karaś is a no brainer deal for me. If you want to find more information on the watch or want to purchase one, head over to G. Gerlach's website.