I’ve always thought that Germany-based watchmaker Junghans was underrated by timepiece enthusiasts. This is probably because of their German sentiment to marketing and communication – which more or less means no marketing or communication. But what you get in exchange is a wonderful attention to the product, as well as pricing which more often than not is rather fair (relatively speaking). These are high-end mechanical watches after all. Today I am reviewing the Junghans Meister Driver Chronoscope watch, which is a newer model from the brand.
The Meister Driver Chronoscope fits in somewhere between the brand’s other chronograph watches in the Meister and Chronoscope collections, which can actually get a bit confusing when it comes to their names. There is the Junghans Meister which has a chronograph. There is the Junghans Chronoscope which has a chronograph. There is the Junghans Meister Pilot which has a chronograph, and as of yet, there is no Meister Diver Chronoscope to fully round out the collection for diving watch enthusiasts. Oddly enough, the brand doesn’t seem to actually have any diving watches.
Junghans honestly has a lot of watches I’d like to review, and I say that they are underappreciated by watch enthusiasts not only because of quality and value, but also because of design. The brand really has a healthy variety of truly nice timepieces, and they also happen to have the rights to the Max Bill name, and produce a lot of truly iconic mid-century modern minimalist watches. Even in their non-Max Bill watches, you can see a tendency to prefer slick, yet functional designs that don’t have a lot of extra and unnecessary embellishment.
The Junghans Meister Driver Chronoscope is meant to be a classic car themed automotive chronograph. It has a mature and friendly sportiness to it which is both refined and non-threatening. There is no brazen machismo or overt aggression in pretty much any of the Junghans watches, and the Meister Driver Chronoscope nicely embodies those design values very well.
Pretty much everything in the design is “reasonable” as well as intentional. Everything has a purpose and there is little to nothing which isn’t needed. Junghans presents a refined mixture of shapes and aesthetic harmony rather than try to wow onlookers with novel designs. While some of the watches can be claimed to lack a little modern excitement, they are wonderfully classic in their appeal, and just what the doctor ordered for those seeking more conservative timepiece designs and ownership experiences.
Currently, the Meister Driver Chronoscope is offered by Junghans in a few different versions. The faces are available in the pictured reference 027/3686.44 in gray, as well as a dark black/gray, and also as a two-tone “sand” beige color. Attached to the Meister Driver Chronoscope is either a fitted leather strap or this handsome nine-link steel metal bracelet. Being a bracelet guy, I of course, opted for that option.
There are a few interesting quirks in this watch that potential buyers should know about. The most major of which is the crystal, which is not sapphire as you might expect. Rather, Junghans gets a bit retro-nostalgic and uses a highly domed plexiglass crystal with a SICRALAN coating. The most common watch to use a similar crystal is the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. This was a popular material for crystals before sapphire, and is generally no longer used because of its susceptibility to scratches. So why use a plexiglass crystal?
One reason is the way it interacts with the light. Many people argue that the view of the dial through plexiglass is a bit “warmer” than sapphire crystal – and to a large degree this is true. With that said, the effect is subtle at best. A more practical reason is that you can achieve much more dramatically domed crystals in plexiglass than sapphire crystal without as much visual distortion. I think this is because the plexiglass ones are easier to shape and thus suppliers have more control over it – though I am not entirely sure. What I do know for a fact is that if this watch had the exact same style and shape of crystal in synthetic sapphire, versus plexiglass, the price would jump up a lot.
The rear of the watch has an exhibition caseback with a view to the movement, but that crystal is also not sapphire – but rather mineral crystal. Given that this crystal is flat and not prone to scratching, that doesn’t matter much. Oh, and what happens if the plexiglass crystal scratches? The good news is that it is relatively cheap to replace. You merely need to endure the long wait times and often high service costs associated with modern day mechanical watch repair. It’s just that simple.
My only beef with the crystal is the amount of glare. There is clearly some AR-coating on it, but these days if there is a rounded crystal and no top-applied anti-reflective coating, I am going to be subtracting points from my level of endorsement of a watch. If you’ve been reading my reviews lately, then you know that I’m getting pretty hard on brands for this. The Germans are actually among the best at having really well-done AR-coated crystals. It is entirely possible that there are limitations with plexiglass – and the glare really isn’t that bad – but in general, I want most watches with way more AR coating.
Junghans cleverly designed the dial of the Meister Driver Chronoscope to look as though it goes with cars produced over the last 100 years. The design cues range from modern to classic, and from Art Deco to sporty. Legible, lume-painted Arabic hour numerals are produced in an attractive font and contrast well against the dial. The semi-dauphine-style hands are elegant and painted with a fair volume of luminant. I really do enjoy the look of hands in this style and lament the fact that there are so few of them in sportier watches such as the Meister Driver Chronoscope. With that said, you can also find similar hands in a lot of other Junghans watches (dressier ones too).
The dial design is actually rather traditional in its presentation. It follows a lot of rules so well, you’d think Junghans invented some of them. For one thing, it uses an easy to read peripherals scale for the minutes in which the minute and chronograph seconds hands follow precisely. The sub-dials are slightly inset and gently domed, which adds character and depth to the dial. The sub-dial hands are red, which add a sporty sentiment to the presentation. Text on the dial is limited, but meaningful. Dial proportions overall really work nicely, and symmetry is ideal.
Purists will love the lack of a date window, as well as the two-register chronograph, which measures just 30 minutes. To be honest, I’ve never had a use for a 30-minute chronograph as most of the things I need to time are… well more than 30 minutes. In fact, I prefer using a rotating timing bezel to measure times up to 60 minutes, which is why I personally tend to prefer 12-hour chronographs that typically have three sub-dials on the face. With that said, the two large sub-dials on the Meister Driver Chronoscope are very nice looking to see, and the overall presentation of the watch face has been adeptly handled by Junghans.
Inside the watch is a movement Junghans refers to as their caliber J880.3. This automatic movement is a base Swiss ETA 2892-2 automatic, fitted with a chronograph module produced by Swiss Dubois-Depraz. This has been used in much more expensive watches, so you might consider the watch a bargain in regard to its engine. The automatic movement operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve, and has been quite nicely decorated with perlage, Geneva stripes, and blue-colored screws. Again, for the money, there is a lot of watch here.
Junghans very cleverly designed the Meister Driver Chronoscope case to look thinner than it actually is. At 12.6mm thick, this isn’t bloated, but isn’t svelte either. Having said that, the design of the caseback, sloped bezel, and lugs makes the case look and wear thinner than it actually is. On the wrist, the case is 40.8mm with a 45mm wide lug to lug distance. It wears very comfortably, and its smooth surfaces throughout are extremely appreciated. You have no idea how many watches I put on which have all manner of sharp edges to them. The polished and curved edges all over the Meister Driver Chronoscope made for a really smooth timepiece to touch. That even goes for the chronograph pushers, and overall, handling the timepiece is like touching a pebble.
Junghans makes watches that grow on you and that you’ll want to keep in your collection for a long time. That does, however, imply that you need to carefully choose the models you like. The brand isn’t going after impulse purchases, but rather, wants its owners to know and understand the watches they are getting. This is a brand that sells modern dress watches, mid-century modern-style minimalist watches, and even electronic atomic clock signal controlled watches. It has a diverse personality and a good sense of style. Though, you’ll need to monitor the universe of watches closely to learn enough about it.
The Junghans Meister Driver Chronoscope has a light automotive theme, but is really mostly an elegant dress watch when something more bold simply wont do, and when something more subdued is simply too boring. It’s comfortable, inoffensive, and useful – exactly what a lot of people are looking for in a well-rounded all-purpose watch with some character. Price for the reference 027/3686.44 Junghans Meister Driver Chronoscope on the bracelet is $2,300. On the leather strap, the price is $2,190.junghanswatchesusa.net
>Model: Meister Driver Chronoscope
>Price: $2,300 USD
>Size: 40.8mm wide, 12.6mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lovers of refined, conservative chronograph watches made today, that have a big foot still placed in a nostalgic past.
>Best characteristic of watch: Very cohesively well put-together timepiece in form, wearing comfort, and functionality. So much of the watch seems well thought out and logical. Design is elegant and calming on the eyes. Good price value.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Plexiglass crystal is bound to scratch sooner rather than later, and is hard to sell as opposed to sapphire crystal to many buyers. Crystal could also use more AR coating to reduce glare.