12 min read ·

25 Best Pilot Watches - Affordable to Luxury - A Complete Guide 2021

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical
Some of the most interesting and coveted watches on the market were designed as tools for professionals in fields that are more exciting than the average nine-to-five. Divers, race car drivers, and pilots have spurred on many of the most popular tool watch designs on the market today. Take for example the Rolex Submariner, designed for divers, the Tag Heuer Monaco, used for auto racing both onscreen and off by Steve McQueen, and the Breitling Navtimer, an aviation icon for decades. More than just jewelry, professionals in these time-centric fields depended on their watches for their lives.
Pilots had to rely on their watches for critical information like calculating the distance traveled and the amount of fuel left. However, thanks in large part to digital tech, much has changed, and many great pilot’s watches are now used as heritage-infused time tellers in less austere circumstances, though the watches themselves are still more than capable. But, before we get too far ahead, what does it mean to be a pilot’s watch?
Watches for pilots must be highly legible day or night, so you’ll see a lot of large dials and ample luminescent material. Further, the cockpit is also in many cases a low pressure environment, exactly the opposite of what a dive watch experiences, and pilot’s watches have to be engineered to withstand the lack of pressure. Generally, durability is always a plus. And finally, measuring time and considering other time zones are also important, so complications like chronographs and GMT functions are desirable.
Today, there’s an entire genre of watches dedicated to aviation. Some are homages of vintage designs, while others are modern takes on what it means to be a pilot’s watch. Some pilot watches are still tools and act as backups to onboard instrumentation for professional pilots, while others are simply accessories for frequent fliers. In either case, the pilot watch genre is responsible for some of the most beautiful and capable designs on the market. Here’s a sampling of some of the top pilot and aviation watches you can buy today. To keep things orderly, this list is arranged from least to most expensive.

Orient Pilot RA-AC0H04Y10A

Specifications: Price: $265, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 11.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Orient F6722, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: MineralThe RA-AC0H04Y10A is one of Orient’s entry level automatics with a strong dose of vintage pilot watch style. Sizing is a little on the large side at 42.4mm wide, but luckily the watch is just 11.6mm thick, meaning the overall wearing experience is still solid. The dial is executed in a more or less Type B style, with larger minute markings on the outside surrounding a smaller ring for the hours on the inside. What’s unique about this particular reference is that it has a khaki dial with a weathered effect that aims to replicate the look for aged pilot’s watches. Also unusual for pilot’s watches is that the RA-AC0H04Y10A has a water resistance rating of 100m, making this an aviation watch that can also play in the water. Inside beats Orient’s in-house caliber F6722 which beats at 3Hz and a power reserve of 40 hours, making this a solid overall offering in keeping with Orient’s stranglehold on affordability.Shop here.

Marathon Pilot’s Navigator

Specifications: Price: $304, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Water Resistance: 60m, Movement: Quartz ETA-F06, Crystal: SapphireOne of the more affordable Swiss options on this list is coming from Marathon, whose military specific pieces are leaders in value and ruggedness. For pilots and navigators, Marathon designed the Navigator, a straightforward time-only quartz watch in a rugged, lightweight composite case with an easily polished acrylic crystal. The Marathon Navigator series has been issued to military pilots around the world for decades for a reason. As an inexpensive and comfortable watch with a highly legible dial and handset thanks to tritium vials, and built specifically for low pressure environments like, you know, a fighter jet’s cockpit, the Marathon Navigator is a serious bit of kit for pilots and flight enthusiasts who want the real thing.Shop here.

Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster GR-B200

Specifications: Price: $350, Case Size: 63mm, Thickness: 18.3mm, Lug-to-Lug: 54.1mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Casio Quartz, Crystal: MineralThe G-Shock GR-B200 is one of the latest additions to the Gravitymaster series, which is G-Shock’s collection of watches for pilots and aviation enthusiasts. Like all G-Shocks, the GR-B200 is a tough cookie featuring G-Shock’s new Carbon Core Guard structure which encases the timekeeping module within a carbon-fiber-reinforced resin case. The bezel is also made out of resin infused with carbon fiber inserts. The GR-B200 has sensors which pilots will find useful, including a compass, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and even a step counter. And if you pair it with your phone, you have access to the Mission Function, which records attitude data measured by the watch and route information from your phone’s GPS. The G-Shock GR-B200 comes in several colorways to suit your style, and is feature-packed, especially for the price.Shop G-Shock here.

Bulova Lunar Pilot

Specifications: Price: $525, Case Size: 46mm, Thickness: 13.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 52mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Quartz Bulova 262kHz, Crystal: SapphireThe Bulova Lunar Pilot is an homage to the Bulova chronograph worn by US astronaut Dave Scott on the freakin’ Moon on Apollo 15. Visually, the new Lunar Pilot is a faithful recreation, retaining the curvy case shape and distinctive elongated pushers of the original. The dial is mostly similar too ― except for the addition of a date window at 4:30 and the label “262 kHz” at 6 o’clock within the running seconds subdial. Some enthusiasts will turn up their nose at this piece because it has a quartz movement, but this isn’t the quartz in a Timex from Walmart. Bulova’s high-performance quartz movement buzzes away at 262Hz, which is 8 times that of typical quartz movements and has an accuracy of +/-5 seconds per month. This quartz caliber also makes the Lunar Pilot a screaming deal with both aviation and space connections.Shop here.

Sangin Instruments Kinetic II

Specifications: Price: $579, Case Size: 43.5mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Quartz Ronda GMT, Crystal: SapphireSangin Instruments is a relatively new microbrand on the scene, founded by a US Marine Corps Special Operations veteran. With an eye for detail and an intimate understanding of special operators’ watch needs, Sangin Instruments has quickly developed a cult following among the military, law enforcement, and civilian tactical enthusiast crowd, often selling out of their limited releases in hours. Sangin’s Kinetic II is designed as a pilot’s watch, equipped with a Swiss Ronda Quartz GMT movement, but also serves as a capable dive timer given its rugged build, rotating bezel, and 300 meters of water resistance. While they can be challenging to get, at the price, you can’t do much better for a tactical pilot’s watch with real-world combat credibility.

CWC RAF Pilot’s Quartz Chronograph

Specifications: Price: $800, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46mm, Water Resistance: Not Rated, Movement: Quartz Ronda 5030, Crystal: SapphireFor the money, this CWC RAF Chronograph is one of the more charming and interesting watches on this list. With a classic design almost identical to RAF-issued models from the past, this CWC presents a strong value proposition for an enthusiast in search of military and pilot vibes in the same piece. While this watch claims no water resistance at all, the classic look, Swiss quartz chronograph functionality, and reasonable price more than make up for any loss in aquatic utility, as this is a watch for the air, after all.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical

Specifications: Price: $845, Case Size: 36mm, Thickness: 9.95mm, Lug-to-Lug: 42mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Hand-wound ETA 2801, Crystal: MineralVintage-inspired watches have been a huge trend for the past couple of years, and one of the standout pieces from this trend is the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical ― a comically long name for an excellent watch. Designed as an homage to the old Hamilton and CWC W10s, it might be more accurate to call the Pioneer a reissue because of the sizing which is, at 36mm in width by 42mm in length, incredibly faithful to the original. Its modest size, coupled with faux vintage lume, truly makes it seem like a watch from the past you scored on eBay. Inside the Pioneer, however, beats a thoroughly modern movement, the Hamilton calibre H-50, which is hand-wound and has a generous 80-hour power reserve, which ensures it’ll keep running even if you’ve left it on the counter or in the glove box (don’t do this) over the weekend.Shop here.

Citizen Promaster Skyhawk A-T JY8108-53E and JY8075-51E

Specifications: Price: $895, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 12.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive Quartz, Crystal: SapphireAlways at the forefront of value and functionality for your dollar, Citizen also produces a number of trusted aviation-themed watches which are often spotted on a military flyer’s wrist. Their Skyhawk series, a descendant of the original Navihawk, is an analog-digital, feature-rich, Eco-Drive powered pilot’s watch built to complement the unique needs of pilots in flight. Available in a range of colorways including a subdued black ion plated variant, the Citizen Skyhawk A-T looks the business while also syncing with your local atomic clock and tracking a wide range of timekeeping features, including world time, two alarms, UTC, a 1/100th of a second chronograph, a countdown timer, and more. Outside of something like a smart watch, the Citizen Skyhawk A-T offers about as much data as you can ask for in a solar-rechargeable package with an unnecessary-but-awesome 200 meters of water resistance.

Stowa Flieger Klassik 40

Specifications: Price: $1,150, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 10.2mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48.6mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto SW200, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: SapphireThe Stowa Flieger Klassik (German for “classic”) is, as its name clearly suggests, the classic flieger reimagined for the modern era. It has all the ingredients that we have come to associate with and love about fliegers, including a highly legible dial with the triangle with two dots at 12, large Arabic hour markers, blued hands, and a large onion crown. However, all of this comes in a more refined case that’s just 40mm wide and around 10mm thick, making for a fantastic mix of sporty and classy. The best thing about the Flieger Classic is that Stowa has numerous variants, including automatic and hand-wound, date or no date. You can even order with or without the Stowa logo on the dial. There’s something for everybody, and the price is pretty reasonable for what you get from this German maker.

Tissot Heritage Navigator Automatic 160th Anniversary

Specifications: Price: $1,650, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 9.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto ETA 2893, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: SapphireThe Tissot Heritage Navigator Automatic 160th anniversary is proof that pilot’s watches can come in dressier formats. This watch is an homage to the Tissot Navigator from 1953, which explains its classically-styled case, though the new watch has been upsized to suit modern tastes. It’s a little large at 43mm, but that’s because it has a worldtime complication which can be used to read the time instantaneously in up to 24 time zones ― handy for any pilot or frequent traveler. That’s not all, the movement is also COSC-certified, which means owners can be assured of its accuracy. This is a pilot’s watch that you can quite easily wear to any black-tie event and another example of the powerful value you get from Tissot.Shop here.

Mühle Glashütte Terrasport I


Specifications: Price: $1,799, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 10.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 52.6mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto SW200, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Mühle Glashütte is best known for its rugged tool watches, and the Terrasport I is the company’s take on a traditional Beobachtungsuhr (observation watch). The Terrasport comes in a 44mm case and features a large dial with simple Arabic hour markers and hash marks. At 12 o’clock, you have the old school traditional triangle with two dots, though this watch as a whole feels more modern than many fliegers out there. And, in terms of utility, the Terrasport I comes with a screw-down crown and a water resistance rating of 100 meters, meaning you can take it swimming and even scuba diving. This is a pilot’s watch that is just as home in the water as it is in the skiesShop here.

Seiko Astron SSH049

Specifications: Price: $2,000, Case Size: 42.7mm, Thickness: 13.3mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.9mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Quartz Seiko 5X53, Crystal: SapphireWhen travelling resumes, pilots will appreciate the convenience of the Seiko Astron SSH049. As part of Seiko’s Astron family, this watch features GPS and can automatically adjust the time to match your current time zone. As one of Seiko’s newer Astron models, it is powered by the 5X Dual-Time movement that features quicker time zone adjustment and a new time transfer feature that lets you instantly switch the display of times on the main dial and subdial. This new movement is also considerably thinner than its predecessor, which makes this one of the slimmest GPS watches in the market.

Sinn 105 UTC

Specifications: Price: $2,100, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 11.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.4mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto SW330, Crystal: Sapphire
Based on Sinn’s very popular 104 series, the new 105 collection provides a modernized update to a classic collection full of Sinn’s utilitarian design language. The new 105 uses Sinn’s well-lived case shape and signature lugs, while providing a pop of orange and a highly legible dial and handset as well as GMT functionality by way of a charming orange hand and tegimented, PVD-coated bezel. Other than Sinn’s new U50, this is one of the brand’s best releases in a long time. While the low-travel world we’re living in at the time of writing might not necessitate a GMT watch, this new 105 from Sinn is worth buying just to enjoy until travel again becomes an acceptable pastime.

Laco Pilot Watch Original Paderborn Erbstück

Specifications: Price: $2,350, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 12.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto ETA 2824, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: SapphireAs one of the five watch manufacturers contracted to produce watches for the Luftwaffe, it should come as no surprise to learn that Laco knows a thing or two about pilot’s watches. One of Laco’s most interesting and premium offerings is the Pilot Watch Original Paderborn Erbstück. Erbstück means heirloom auf Deutsch and the Paderborn Erbstück has been designed and modified to look like a real vintage watch, with a stainless steel case that has been hand-treated to look as if it was from the Forties and a unique crown modelled after the crown of an original Beobachtungsuhr. Despite the rugged, vintage exterior, the Paderborn also has a domed sapphire crystal and is powered by a modern ETA 2824-2 caliber.Shop here.

Junghans Meister Pilot

Specifications: Price: $2,495, Case Size: 43.3mm, Thickness: 14.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto ETA-Based J880.4, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: SapphireThe Meister Pilot from Junghans is a classic pilot’s chronograph with some modern niceties, including a 43.3mm case width, which means the dial is expansive and the watch is highly legible. Junghans clearly designed the watch with actual pilots in mind given the crown, chronograph, and bi-directional timing bezel are all shaped for easy use even with clumsy or cold gloved hands. Another modern feature of this watch is its 100 meters water resistance, which is always nice to see on a chronograph. Junghans calls the movement inside the calibre J880.4, which is really an ETA 2824 with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module on top. While the long term serviceability of this modular chronograph movement is hard to know, it does keep the price of this Meister Pilot impressively reasonable.Shop here.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Timer GMT

Specifications: Price: $2,600, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 52mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto SW220, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: SapphireThe Oris Big ProPilot Timer GMT is a pilot’s watch with a GMT complication that is designed to be as easy to read as possible, with an expansive black dial completed with Arabic numerals printed in white. To prevent its owners from mixing the seconds hand with the GMT hand, Oris went for a sub seconds subdial. The GMT hand has a large red tip which is the only splash of color in this otherwise rather monochromatic, all-business watch. For added practicality, the watch has a rotating bezel that can be used as a count-up timer as well as a screw-down crown and 100 meters of water resistance.Shop here.

Longines Aviation Big Eye

Specifications: Price: $2,625, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 14.45mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto ETA-based L688, Power Reserve: 54 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
An everyday chronograph, the Longines Aviation Big Eye features, you guessed it, a big eye (a large running seconds sub-dial). It’s also perhaps the most affordable column-wheel chronograph watch on the market, providing precise functionality and more positive operation that you can feel upon engaging the pushers. Column wheel calibers require a high level of expertise to finish, and are for that reason commonly utilized by master watchmakers at A. Lange & Sohne, Patek Philippe, & Audemars Piguet. In addition, the casual, military-inspired look and comfortable dimensions of the Longine Aviation Big Eye makes it super wearable on the majority of the wrists out there for day to day use.

Tudor Black Bay GMT


Specifications: Price: $4,050, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Tudor MT5652, Power Reserve: 70 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire

In the same case dimension as the Black Bay Chrono, the Black Bay GMT houses a manufacture calibre MT5652 with a date and GMT complication. When this model initially arrived in consumer’s hands, there were some mixed feelings due to a fault with the date wheel function in some watches. While Tudor has claimed that it has solved the issue in newer stock, some find the issue persists. However, if you’re in the market for an everyday GMT watch to track a second timezone as life and work go international, you’ve got to keep the Black Bay GMT in mind, especially for the price. The Tudor Black Bay GMT takes some of the special sauce from sister brand Rolex’s GMT Master II and translates it into Tudor’s design language. Frankly, it works really well and the price is more than fair.

Breitling Aerospace Evo Titanium

Specifications: Price: $4375, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 10.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 51mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Quartz Breitling 79, Crystal: SapphireThough many pilots reach for inexpensive watches knowing they’ll beat the crap out of them, many pilots do wear luxury watches. Swiss giant Breitling has for decades produced capable aviator’s watches which combine a luxury feel with legit features for use in flight. The Aerospace Evo Titanium is the most recent in a long line of fully featured analog-digital watches built with flyer specific features, like a second time zone, alarm, calendar, 1/100th of a second chronograph, and a count-down timer. Executed in lightweight titanium, the newest Aerospace Evo is a serious, high-tech watch for pilots who fly serious, high-tech aircraft.

Tudor Black Bay Chrono

Specifications: Price: $4,900, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 14.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Tudor MT5813, Power Reserve: 70 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Though the Tudor Black Bay Chrono is technically more of a sport watch, it really shines as a functional everyday pilot’s watch, with a useful chronograph complication that just sneaks in under $5000 on the leather strap. Like some other Tudor Black Bay watches, the Black Bay Chrono does the trick where it measures big on paper but fits surprisingly well on many average-sized wrists. The main selling point of the Black Bay Chrono is its reliable Breitling B01 calibre-based column-wheel chronograph for under $5,000. At the price, this is one of the more interesting chronographs you can find from a watchmaking standpoint, and the durable build would make a perfect companion in the cockpit.

Sinn EZM 10 TESTAF

Specifications: Price: $5680, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 15.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 53mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto ETA-Based Sinn SZ01, Power Reserve: 42 hours, Crystal: SapphireFor the pilot who happens to be a watch enthusiast, and there are a lot more of these than you’d imagine, Sinn’s EZM 10 TESTAF is about as good as it gets. Balancing cool guy tech in the form of the excellent SZ01 chronograph movement with a highly legible dial and handset, all in a titanium case, the EZM 10 is also independently certified to meet the TESTAF (which stands for Technischer Standard Fliegeruhren, obviously) standard, a German guideline for what constitutes a professional pilot’s watch. SInn’s EZM 10 TESTAF does about as much as you can ask from a mechanical watch designed for pilots, with a 24-hour subdial, central 60-minute chronograph counter, and a case filled with argon gas to fend off humidity inside the watch.

Breitling Navitimer B01 43mm

Specifications: Price: $8930, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 14.6mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Breitling B01, Crystal: Sapphire
Few brands can rival Breitling’s history in making watches for pilots, and even fewer watches can rival the Navitimer’s legitimacy as one of the premier watches for airborne operations. In fact, the Navitimer was so synonymous and perfect for flying that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) adopted the Navitimer as its official watch. In terms of design, over the Navitimer’s decades-long existence, not much has changed. The latest version of the Navitimer now comes in various colors, but it still has the familiar three-register layout and that distinctive slide rule bezel that some pilots still rely on today for critical calculations. The biggest change is on the inside, as new Navitimers are now powered by Breitling’s in-house caliber B01 chronograph movement.

Rolex GMT Master II

Specifications: Price: $9,700, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 12.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Rolex 3285, Power Reserve: 70 hours, Crystal: SapphireNo list of pilot’s watches will be complete without the Rolex GMT-Master II. Lest we forget, this was the watch that Pan American Airways designed in collaboration with Rolex for its pilots back in the day. Over its decades of service in the Rolex catalog, the main GMT II’s ingredients haven’t changed, with Rolex’s signature Oyster case, a highly legible dial with a cyclops over the date, and a large GMT hand to track a second time zone. The latest iteration of the GMT-Master II can be distinguished by its lustrous ceramic bezel, which comes in a variety of colors. Inside beats Rolex’s newest Calibre 3825, which has a 70-hour long power reserve courtesy of the new "Chronergy" escapement. And like almost all Rolex watches, it’s certified by the COSC. Though expensive and difficult to actually get (*deep sigh*), many consider the GMT II the ultimate pilot’s watch for good reason.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch IW501001

Specifications: Price: $12,900, Case Size: 46.2mm, Thickness: 15.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 60m, Movement: Auto IWC 52110, Power Reserve: 168 Hours, Crystal: SapphireIWC was one of the five original companies contracted to produce watches for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) during World War II, a piece of history that gives the brand a lot of legitimacy in the aviation watch arena. The 5010 is IWC’s latest version of its Big Pilot’s watch, essentially a modernized take on the original flieger-style watches from the 1940s. The classic flieger-dial style, onion-shaped crown, and heavy leather strap from the original models are there. However, the power reserve subdial at 3 o’clock hints at something special, a whopping 7-day long power reserve, which is super practical if you only intend to wear the Big Pilot’s once a week.