The 35 Best Pilot Watches from Affordable to Luxury: A Complete Guide for 2022
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The 35 Best Pilot Watches from Affordable to Luxury: A Complete Guide for 2022

Some of the most interesting and coveted watches on the market were designed as tools for professionals in fields that are more exciting than those of the average nine-to-fiver. 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 Navitimer, an aviation icon for decades. More than just jewelry, the timekeepers worn by these professionals, plying trades in which seconds count, were depended upon in some cases to save 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 do we mean when we talk about pilot’s watches?
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 coordinating with 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 to 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 attractive and functional 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, we arranged the list as much as possible from the 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 the RA-AC0H04Y10A's water resistance rating of 100m, making it 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 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 that 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

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 U.S. astronaut Dave Scott on the Moon during 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 Wal-Mart. 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 military flyers' wrists. Citizen's 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 synchs with your local atomic clock and packs a wide range of timekeeping features, including world time, two alarms, UTC, a 1/100th-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.
Victorinox Airboss Mechanical

Victorinox Airboss Mechanical

Price: $1,095, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 10.16mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200-1

The Airboss takes its name from the officer on an aircraft carrier in charge of takeoff and landing time for the fighter jets. A classical-looking military pilots’ watch with a ruggedly functional look, produced by Victorinox, the company best known for giving the world the ubiquitous Swiss Army knife, it’s got a 24-hour inner ring on the dial, inside the traditional 12-hour scale (with the numeral 12 marked by the Swiss cross logo). The 42mm steel case is mounted on a contrast-stitched, ecologically tanned calf leather strap and its sapphire exhibition caseback offers a view of the Swiss automatic movement inside.

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 Klassik 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.
Christopher Ward Worldtimer

Christopher Ward C8 UTC Worldtimer

Price: $1,420, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness; 11.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Lug to Lug: 53.2mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Automatic ETA 2893-2

Christopher Ward watches, designed at the young company’s HQ in Great Britain and manufactured in Switzerland, are known for their distinctive Anglophile aesthetics. The military-influenced C8 UTC Worldtimer is a prime example, taking its cues from the Smith’s Mark II A Clock, an instrument found in British Spitfire planes during World War II. The watch’s two crowns — one for winding and setting, the other for operating the rotating inner for the world-time function — feature an engraved motif echoing the look of airplane engine turbines. The two-piece dial, with stencil-type numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock and military pipette-style hands and red arrow-tipped GMT hand, allows the wearer to keep track of two time zones, while the outer city ring provides offers a glimpse of all the rest of the world’s time zones simultaneously.

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 world-time 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.

Tutima Flieger

Tutima Flieger

Price: $1,650, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic ETA Valjoux 2836, Crystal: Sapphire

Glashütte, Germany-based Tutima has found success in adapting the vintage aesthetics of the military pilots’ watches it produced in the 1940s into contemporary watches that are both sporty and stylish. The recently launched Tutima Flieger models with gradient slate-gray dials and tone-on-tone Horween leather straps offer an understated monochromatic look and are outfitted with a self-winding mechanical movement based on the Swiss-made ETA Valjoux 2836 and upgraded with a Tutima-made rotor.

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: SapphireMühle 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-known 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 U50, this is one of the brand’s most notable releases in a long time and the one best suited for the return to travel that we're seeing in the waning days of the pandemic era.

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-meter 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 Dépraz 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 Avigation BigEye

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 Avigation BigEye features, you guessed it, a big eye (a large running seconds subdial). 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 & Söhne, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. In addition, the casual, military-inspired look and comfortable dimensions of the Longines Avigation BigEye makes it super wearable on the majority of the wrists out there for day-to-day use.

Tudor Black Bay GMTTudor 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 the manufacture Caliber 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-second chronograph, and a countdown 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 GMTTudor 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, which just sneaks in under $5,000 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 column-wheel chronograph movement based on the Breitling B01. 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.
Bremont MBII

Bremont MBII

Price: $4,995, Case Size: 43mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Bremont BE-36AE

What’s tougher than a watch that can survive ejection from a plane? UK-based Bremont introduced the first MBI in 2007 in partnership with Martin Baker (the “MB”), Britain’s leading manufacturer of ejection seats for military aircraft. MBII watches undergo a tortuous gauntlet of tests in the areas of shock, vibration, corrosion and climate, as well as being strapped to the wrist of a mannequin in an actual ejection-seat trial. The steel case is in Bremont’s three-part “Trip-Tick” construction and hardened in a special process that is also used to treat jet-engine turbines. The high-contrast black dial features white Arabic numerals and a “Danger” triangle marker at 6 o’clock. The Swiss-made automatic caliber inside is secured by a specially designed shock-resistant rubberized mounting and boasts a COSC chronometer certification.

Sinn EZM 10 TESTAF

Specifications: Price: $5,680, 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 robust 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.

RGM 801 Pilot

RGM 801 Aircraft

Price: $6,400, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness; 10.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Lug to Lug: 52mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Manually wound RGM Caliber 801

Swiss-trained American watchmaker Roland G. Murphy founded RGM in Lancaster County, PA, in 1992 and launched Caliber 801, the first high-end mechanical movement produced in the U.S.A. in more than 40 years, in 2008. That “Made in America” movement powers the RGM 801 Aircraft, designed as a tribute to vintage pocket watches and classical military aviation clocks, with hands and other dial details echoing those on a cockpit clock used in 1940s military aircraft like the F-4U Corsair and the F-6 Hellcat. From these antique instruments come the black dial with outer, military-style 24-hour numerical scale surrounding an inner 12-hour scale; the thin, diamond-tipped hands; the 6 o’clock subsidiary seconds display; and the use of fluorescent green and yellow details. The movement features many of its own visual tributes to America’s watchmaking heritage, like the distinctive “E. Howard” bridges and the pronounced winding click and polished winding wheels developed by the Illinois Watch Company.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze

Zenith Type 20 Extra Special Bronze

Specifications: Price: $7,200, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 14.25mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Zenith Elite Caliber 679, Crystal: Sapphire

Zenith’s simply named Pilot collection is comprised of boldly designed, historically influenced pieces that take their cues from watches and dashboard clocks that the Swiss company produced in the early days of aviation. The watches feature extra-large cases, bulbous ratcheted crowns designed to be gripped by gloved hands, broad luminescent Arabic numerals, and period-appropriate cathedral hands. The Type 20 Extra Special features a simple three-hand arrangement, with timekeeping powered by Zenith’s Elite Caliber 679, a self-winding movement based on the Elite 680 (essentially a version of the El Primero minus the chronograph function) with a 50-hour power reserve. The hefty 45-mm case is made of bronze and features a solid titanium caseback with an engraving of a vintage plane. Shop here.

 

 

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.
IWC Big Pilot's Watch 43 Spitfire

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Spitfire Titanium

Price: $9,500, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 14.4mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic IWC 82100

IWC introduced a smaller, more wearable 43-mm size to the Big Pilot collection in 2021, including a titanium-cased version in its popular sub-family, which takes its inspiration from the Mark 11 navigation watch IWC developed for the British Royal Air Force in 1948 (and named for the Supermarine Spitfire, a WWII-era British military plane used by the RAF). The matte-grey titanium case frames a black dial styled like that of a historical observation watch (outer zero-to-sixty minutes scale, inner 12-hour ring), which was designed for early 20th-century pilots to use it for celestial navigation. IWC’s manufacture Caliber 82100 ticks inside, shielded by a solid caseback and storing a 60-hour power reserve. Like all Big Pilot 43 watches (BP 43 in shorthand), the watch and its strap are equipped with IWC’s EasX-CHANGE system that allows the wearer to quickly and easily swap between straps (alternates are sold separately) without using tools.

Rolex GMT-Master II

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 watch (actually its predecessor, the original GMT-Master) was the one 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-Master 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-Master 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 quintesential 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 Watch once a week.
Breguet Type XXI 3815

Breguet Type XXI 3815

Specifications: Price: $14,900, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 15.2mm, Lug to Lug: 48mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Breguet ​​Caliber 584Q/A, Crystal: Sapphire

The Breguet Type XX collection of luxuriously styled aviation watches pays tribute to the watchmaking Breguet family’s historical link to the advancement of flight, as forged by the founder’s great-grandson, Louis-Charles Breguet. The Type XXI 3815, which is outfitted with the manufacture Caliber 584Q/A, features a 42-mm case made of corrosion-resistant titanium, a sunburst dial with two subdials and large, luminous hour numerals in either green or orange for a decidedly contemporary aesthetic. In an unconventional layout, the dial’s chronograph readout is on the outer minute ring, indicated by two central hands, while its subdials are devoted to running seconds and a 24-hour time display. The automatic movement, with its gold rotor and silicon escapement, is visible behind a sapphire exhibition caseback.

Blancpain Air Command

Blancpain Air Command

Reference: AC02-12B40-63, Case Size: 42.5mm, Thickness: 13.7mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Blancpain automatic manufacture Caliber 3888, Crystal: Sapphire, Price: $18,500

Revived in 2019 as a limited edition in steel, the Blancpain Air Command traces its history to a prototype made for the French Ministry of Defence in the 1950s, and its successor that was produced in limited numbers for the U.S. Air Force shortly thereafter. In 2021, the vintage-flavored aviation watch joined Blancpain’s regular lineup in a satin-brushed case made of grade 23 titanium (a higher grade than those usually found in watchmaking) and a contemporary blue dial. Among the watch’s retro utilitarian elements are its ratcheted bidirectional bezel that enables a pilot to keep track of his fuel reserve in flight and a tachymeter scale for calculating air speeds. The flyback chronograph-equipped Caliber F385 inside holds a power reserve of 50 hours and is finished in a stark, mostly matte finish that differentiates it from Blancpain’s usual ornately decorated movements.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

Patek Philippe 5524G Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

Price: $55,590, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness; 10.78mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 60m, Movement: Automatic 26-330 S C FUS

Patek Philippe’s Calatrava Travel Time, inspired by a piece in the luxury maison’s museum archives, channels the look of vintage cockpit timers while also offering a patented, aviator-friendly dual time function. An outlier in Patek’s mostly genteel collection of timepieces, it brings a patina of luxury to a classical tool watch template: its 42-mm case is made of white gold while its dial sports a navy blue color inspired by the body paint of 1930s fighter planes. The watch’s big, vintage-look Arabic numerals and syringe-style hands, and the topstitched calfskin strap styled like an old-fashioned pilot’s belt are all elements that hearken back to the early days of aviation watches. The cleverly designed “Travel Time” function can switch the local-time hand forward or backward in one-hour increments without affecting the running of the movement and thus the watch’s accuracy. Like all Patel Philippe watches, it boasts an in-house, highly decorated movement, Caliber 324 S C FUS, with a 21k gold rotor.

 

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William P.

I own both the Rolex GMT-II in two tone 18k gold and stainless and the Hamilton Khaki Pilot watch featured here. One was $14,500 and the other $500 yet I love them both equally. Looks wise, the Hamilton pilot is beautiful, classic, simple and elegant. I love winding up my watch in the morning. I save the GMT-II for special occasions. I fly Boeing 747s for a global cargo airline and you’d be surprised what a following both of these watches have in Asia. I get comments all of the time.

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