Unlike a diver’s watch or a grande complication, the “aviator’s watch” doesn’t so much define what it does (anymore) as what it stands for. The modern pilot’s watch would be more appropriately called “aviator style” watch, as it is no longer used by pilots to navigate an aircraft. Today, it stands for the romance of the adventurous days before the invention of sophisticated aircraft instrumentation, when pilots used a watch to navigate distance and air speed.
Just because it is no longer routinely used for navigation, however, the pilot’s watch is no less genuinely functional at a professional level, and has several defining characteristics including high reliability. The main priority for navigation is optimum legibility, with large numerals, hands and plenty of Super-LumiNova. It is therefore usually a big watch, and highly readable, which is a great feature for everyday use. It is often augmented with a chronograph, tachymeter, small seconds dial or a second time zone – also useful functions even if not routinely used by professional pilots. A large crown is also a common feature, a nod to the days when pilots wore flight gloves, and remains a key design element. Some also have a circular slide rule on the bezel, which could be used to calculate fuel consumption, air speed and distance, all of which is now tracked by aircraft instruments.
Breitling Transocean Unitime Pilot, a chronograph with a worldtime system operated by the crown, a steel case and signature steel mesh bracelet. The movement is Breitling selfwinding Caliber B05, which is COSC certified.
The Bell & Ross Vintage Falcon pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Dassault Mystère-Falcon. Sand-colored hands and numerals reproduce the aged look of period watches. With chronograph function, date window and 100-meter water resistance.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Volez II, with chronograph and date window. The sequential reading of the timed seconds resembles radar screens used in aviation. The pink gold version will be produced in a limited edition series of 50 pieces.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Boutique Edition, with a black ceramic case, titanium back and crown. The a large crown and a dial optimized for legibility, with markings that glow at night.
The Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 Annual Calendar, with an El Primero 4054 B movement, distinguished by an annual calendar with day and month, and a large, onion crown. The stitching above the strap attachment is typical of pilots watches.