The 40 Best Pilot Watches from Affordable to Luxury: A Complete Guide for 2024
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The 40 Best Pilot Watches from Affordable to Luxury: A Complete Guide for 2024

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 variations on those earliest pilot’s watches. 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 100 meters, 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.

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 comes 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.

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 famed 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: Sapphire

The Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” is the first watch that most of us think of when we think of the Space Race, but Bulova played a noteworthy role as well. In the 1960s and ’70s, the watchmaker was a frequent partner of NASA’s space programs, and personally gifted a one-of-a-kind, customized chronograph watch to Colonel Dave Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 mission, in 1971. Scott wore the timepiece, which had been specially engineered to withstand lunar conditions, as a backup after the crystal on his NASA-issued Speedmaster, according to records, had popped off. To commemorate the historic space mission, Bulova released the Lunar Pilot Chronograph, a mostly faithful re-creation of the spacefaring original. which was equipped with a chronograph function to track the duration of oxygen supplies, battery power, and other life-sustaining onboard systems. The case houses Bulova’s proprietary UHF (ultra high frequency) quartz caliber, beating at 262 Hz for an extremely high degree of timekeeping accuracy, losing just seconds per year, and a continuous sweep seconds hand for the stopwatch function, a rarity in quartz chronograph watches. Not a bad package for under $800.

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 U.S. 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 Pioneer Aviation Chrono

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chrono

Price: $2,045, Case Size: 40mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Manually wound H-51-Si

While Hamilton is known best in military circles for providing field watches for American troops during the World Wars, the brand also manufactured timepieces for British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots in the 1970s. Those watches serve as the template for the recently launched Khaki Aviation Pioneer Mechanical Chrono, which sports a black dial with two parallel subdial counters for elapsed minutes and running seconds as well as period-accurate central hands with a white lacquer finish reminiscent of that on the original RAF models. The beige tone of the hour numerals and other markings echoes the look of aged radium luminous substance that would have been used on the watch’s vintage predecessors. Hamilton has equipped the watch with a manually winding movement, the H-51-Si, which is noteworthy for its antimagnetic silicon balance spring.

Citizen Promaster Nighthawk

Price: $391, Case: 42mm, Lug Width: 26mm, Crystal: Mineral, Water-Resistance: 200m, Movement: Quartz Eco-Drive, Water-Resistance: 200m

The Citizen Promaster Nighthawk Black PVD sports a highly technical dial that takes its cues from instruments in the cockpits of U.S. military helicopters. The watch’s 42-mm case is made of black PVD-coated stainless steel and its black dial is packed with scales in contrasting white type that are of particular use to aviators and navigators, including the circular slide rule printed on the ion-plated rotating bezel. Two luminous central hands display the current time, while an airplane-tipped smaller hand shows the time in another time zone on a 24-hour scale; the date appears in a rectangular window at 3 o’clock. The movement inside the stealth-look case, Citizen’s quartz-powered Caliber B877, runs on the Japanese brand’s proprietary Eco-Drive technology, enabling constant recharging of power via any light source.

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.
Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage

Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic Heritage

​​Price: $1,295, Case Size: 44mm, Case Height: 11.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic Alpina Caliber AL-525

As per its name, Alpina’s Startimer Pilot Automatic Heritage is a modern reissue of a historical aviator’s model released by the brand in the early 20th Century. Its dial, in bright white or traditional black, hosts a 24-hour circle within the borders of its main ring of large, white Arabic hour numerals (with the 12 being displaced by the familiar aviation triangle motif and the 3” by a date window). At 44mm in steel, the case is sized for ideal cockpit legibility and frames a wide dial that’s easy to read at a glance. The applied hour markers are treated with a beige Super-LumiNova for an “aged” vintage look. Also evoking the past is the watch’s hinged hunter-style caseback, a throwback to the heyday of pocket watches that can be opened to steal a glance at the automatic AL-525 caliber inside, with its eye-catching blackened rotor.

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

Price: $1,650, Case size: 43mm, Thickness: 9.62mm, Lug to Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic ETA 2893-3

For its 160th anniversary in 2013, Tissot issued a modernized version of a world-time watch that it debuted in 1953, its centennial year. Suitable for both an actual pilot as well as a frequent international flyer, its distinctive design uses a stationary bezel with alternating, engraved hour numerals and markers for the local time on a 1-12 scale, and a 24-hour dial, with each of the 24 numerals corresponding to a city name, to indicate the time in every other time zone around the world once the local time has been set. The 43mm case is constructed from stainless steel, with a water resistance of 30 meters, and contains an ETA-based automatic caliber whose golden rotor can be glimpsed behind an exhibition caseback.

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

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 skies.

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: SapphirePilots will appreciate the convenience of the Seiko Astron SSH049. As part of Seiko’s Astron family, which takes its name from the very first quartz watch Seiko made in 1969, 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's Watch Augsburg

Laco Pilot's Watch Basic Augsburg

Price: $410, Case Size: 39-42mm, Thickness: 11.55-11.75mm, Lug Width: 18-20mm, Lug to Lug: 46-50mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Laco 21 (Miyota 821 base)

Founded in Pforzheim, Germany, in 1920, Laco (originally named “Lacher & Co.” after co-founder Frieda Lacher) was one of five watch manufacturers that made watches for the German air force during World War II. Today’s Laco collection pays tribute to those minimalist vintage aviation watches (aka “fliegers”) in their design, dimensions, and period-appropriate details. The Augsburg model featured here is a quintessential 1940s pilot’s watch, with big Arabic numerals, sword-shaped hour and minute hands and a long, thin, central seconds hand, all doused with C3 SuperLumiNova; a classical inverted orientation triangle with two dots at the top of the dial; a matte steel case with a large fluted onion crown; and a sturdy brown calf-leather strap with contrast stitching and old-school rivets. The self-winding movement inside the case comes from Japan.

Longines Spirit 37mm Champagne Dial

Longines Spirit 37mm

Price: $2,400, Case Size: 37mm, Case Height: 11.7mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Longines L888.4

Longines references its heritage as a provider of watches to adventurers and aviators of the early 20th century with the Spirit collection, which launched in 2020 with a design DNA derived from historical pilots’ watches. Originally issued in 40mm and 42mm sizes, the three-handed Spirit model is now available in a more understated 37mm size, with an elegant Champagne dial. Like its big brothers, it has an oversized fluted crown, a stepped bezel and minute-scale flange, large Arabic hour numerals and diamond-shaped indexes, and large, luminous baton hands — all elements drawn from early 20th-century Longines pilots watches. A date window occupies the 6 o’clock position; above it is the row of five stars that the brand has historically used to denote its highest-quality movements, along with the “Chronometer” text that speaks to its COSC-certified accuracy.

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.

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.

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 GMT

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Price: $3,850 - $5,550, Case Size: 41mm, Case Thickness: 15mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5652

The Tudor Black Bay GMT takes the classical design of the GMT-Master from parent brand Rolex and gives it a very contemporary spin that is distinctly 21st-Century Tudor.  Like its iconic predecessor, its bezel sports a bicolor 24-hour ring on which the wearer can read a second time zone thanks to the dial’s GMT hand; on the Tudor model, the famous bright red-and-blue “Pepsi” colorway of the bezel is slightly modified to a more muted indigo-and-burgundy combo that speaks to the design language of the Black Bay. The newest version features an opaline white dial with a galvanic finish that imparts to it a silvery-grained texture. The outlines of the dial’s hour indexes have been darkened to stand out more boldly. The 41mm steel case holds Tudor’s self-winding,  manufacture Caliber MT5652, which boasts an antimagnetic silicon balance spring and a “weekend-proof” 70-hour power reserve. Like all Tudor in-house movements, it carries a chronometer certification by the Swiss testing agency COSC.
Oris ProPilot X Kermit Edition

Oris ProPilot X Kermit Edition

​​Price: $4,600, Case Size: 39mm, Case Height: 12mm, Lug to Lug: 46.9mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 400

With its 39mm ProPilot X collection, independent Swiss brand Oris has demonstrated that modern aviator-style watches can be more playful than utilitarian and still convey a serious sense of style. At Watches & Wonders 2023, Oris drove the message home with a smile-inducing version of the ProPilot X developed in cooperation with Disney’s Muppets franchise. The ProPilot X Kermit Edition features a bright green, three-hand dial with a smiling emoji of Kermit the Frog in the 6 o’clock date window; the character appears on the first day of every month — aka “Kermit Day” as per Oris — to remind the wearer to “not take life so seriously.” The titanium-cased watch bears all the ProPilot family’s stylish, aviation-inspired details, like the coin-edge textured motif on the sides, designed to resemble a jet’s turbines, and a large, fluted, screw-down crown. Like its predecessors in the 39mm ProPilot X series, the watch is equipped with the Oris’ in-house Caliber 400, which among its various features includes a 120-hour (5-day) power reserve, an antimagnetic structure, and a COSC chronometer certification.

Breitling Aerospace Evo Titanium

Specifications: Price: $4,375, 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.


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.
Bell & Ross Red Radar

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Red Radar Ceramic

Price: $4,300, Case Size: 42mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Sellita-based automatic BR-CAL.302, Crystal: Sapphire

Bell & Ross carved out its space in the pilot-watch arena with the launch of the BR 01, whose high-contrast, cockpit-clock dial design and austere square case proved both iconic and trend-setting. Spinning off from the BR 01 were the even more unconventional Flight Instrument editions, which took their visual cues from other aviation dashboard devices beyond clocks. Among the most eye-catching is the BR 03-92 Red Radar Ceramic, whose dial reproduces the scanning motion of a light beam on an onboard radar screen. Two ultra-light, concentric disks, in place of traditional hour and minute hands, rotate under a red-tinted sapphire crystal, hosting two miniature screen-printed planes — a passenger plane on the outer disk for the hours, a fighter plane on the central disk for the minutes, while a red-painted central analog hand sweeps over both disks to follow the seconds and complete the realistic approximation of a radar screen. Inside the matte-black ceramic case is the automatic BR-CAL.302, based on the tried-and-tested Sellita SW300 and offering a 38-hour power reserve.

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 Big Date Flyback

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Price: $11,500, Case Size: 42.5mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic El Primero 3652 Crystal: Sapphire

Zenith revamped its oldest product family, the Pilot (formerly the Pilot Type 20) in 2023. In keeping with current trends, Zenith has streamlined and downsized the watches in the collection, many of which were fairly enormous in diameter to echo the dimensions of their early 20th-century forebears. The new Zenith Pilots are more aviation-styled dress watches than historically inspired tool watches for the cockpit, with 40mm Automatics as well as this 42.5mm Big Date Flyback Chronograph, which contains the El Primero-based Caliber 3652. In addition to its high-frequency performance (36,600-vph, resulting in chronograph readings precise to 1/10-second) and the flyback functionality, the movement’s large date indicator, displayed prominently on the dial in twin windows, has a patented mechanism that advances and stabilizes both the date wheels in a fraction of second, allowing quick and easy advancing of the date numerals, much like the updating of flight times on an old-fashioned mechanical arrivals/departures board.

Breitling Navitimer B01

Price: $9,200, Case Size: 46mm, Case Height: 13.9mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Lug to Lug: 51.8mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Breitling Automatic Caliber B01

Breitling secured its leadership role in the field of aviation watches with the release of the Navitimer in 1952. Developed for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), the watch became a mainstay of commercial airline cockpits thanks to its innovative, bidirectional slide-rule bezel, which allowed pilots to make crucial flight calculations on the wrist. In 2010, Breitling started equipping the Navitimer with its in-house Caliber B01, which features an integrated column-wheel chronograph function and a substantial power reserve of 70 hours. The stainless steel case measures a robust 46mm in diameter, and the classical tricompax dial of the most recent versions even features the winged logo of the AOPA below the Breitling logo at 12 o’clock, a nod to the model's origins.
IWC Big Pilot's Watch 43

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43

Price: $8,650, Reference: IW329301, Case Size: 43mm, Case Height: 13.6mm, Lug to Lug: 52mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: IWC Automatic Caliber 82100

IWC’s first Big Pilot’s watch, made for the German Air Force in 1940, basically defined the look of a classic military aviation watch and its return to the modern lineup in 2002 kicked off an entire family of Pilot’s timepieces that has taken center stage in the brand’s portfolio. In 2021, IWC engaged enthusiasts who've clamored for the Big Pilot’s style while lamenting its massive proportions (46mm, still smaller than the 53mm original) with the release of the Big Pilot 43, which not only offers a more universally wearable 43mm case size but also a quick-change construction that allows the wearer to switch easily between strap and bracelet options. The dial is also evocative of the historical model’s utilitarian simplicity, sporting large, luminous Arabic numerals, sword hands, and the hallmark inverted orientation triangle at 12 o’clock and eschewing the date window of previous models for an even purer symmetry. The movement, automatic Caliber 82100, features IWC’s highly efficient Pellaton winding system and carries a 60-hour power reserve. In another departure from previous Big Pilots, the BP 43’s movement is also on display behind a sapphire exhibition caseback.

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XX

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX

Price: $5,250, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 10.9mm, Lug to Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic IWC 32111

IWC’s historical footprint in the field of aviation watches goes beyond the one established in World War II with the Big Pilot. In 1948, Britain’s RAF commissioned from the Swiss maker a special timepiece for its members, built to exacting specifications called the Mark 11. Notable for its smaller dimensions, optimum legibility, and antimagnetic case, the Mark 11 remained standard issue for the RAF and other military aviation squads for decades. The Mark XX, introduced to the civilian market by IWC in 2022, is the modern successor to that historical trendsetter. It features a modest yet substantial case diameter of 40mm and a water-resistance of 100 meters secured by a sizable screw-down crown. The steel case’s finish is mostly matte brushed, and the dial (in either black or sunray blue) has the historical orientation triangle at 12 o’clock along with a ring of big, luminous Arabic hour numerals. Inside, behind a solid caseback, is IWC’s in-house automatic Caliber 32111, among whose impressive attributes are a 120-hour power reserve.

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 weeklong 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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Join the Conversation

Stephen H.

I’d say the biggest misses in the list are watches from Dekla, a small manufacturer from Stuttgart, Germany. Their Type A and Type B Fliegers are each faithful to the traditional design and their “tactical” watches are modern interpretations of pilot watches.

Paul S.

Call me cheap, but, the LunarPilot Bulova is for it’s price pretty bloody good and very accurate. All the rest if you can afford them, good on you, but however for practical use a watch which is accurate to + or – 5 seconds a year and under US$ 500 is really quite jaw dropping.

Michael L.

Big miss here is the Omega X-33. Both the older an newer versions were bought by many of my Navy wing mates through squadron watch buys. It has all you need in dual time zones, Julian date, alarms and timers. Titanium is almost indestructible and took a beating on ship and in flight. My go to watch to this day.

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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