Inspired by aviation, pilot watches are handy for their impressive features and novel designs. Uniquely stylish and highly functional, these terrific timepieces are adept at both keeping precise time and looking great on your wrist. As such, they make a worthwhile addition to any gent’s collection. So, if you’re a high-flying man who loves aviation, then this is the watch for you.
1. IWC Big Pilot Black Dial Automatic Men’s Watch
IWC wasn’t kidding when it said the Big Pilot’s Black Dial Automatic Watch would set the pulses of watch connoisseurs racing. With its ‘unmistakable visual features’ and convenient 168-hour power reserve that guarantees accurate time for eight days before it automatically stopping, this timepiece is an excellent choice. A novel nod to aviation, the hands of this model are propeller-like, offering a classic aesthetic for such a modern watch.
2. Breitling Exospace B55
With an exclusive SuperQuartz movement and original functions tailor-made for pilots, the Exospace B55 is particularly noteworthy for its features, but its look is also just as appealing. Color-wise, it is visually bright and vivid, with bold black and neon cobalt features, making this timepiece ideal for the man who prefers something a bit more striking on his wrist. Breitling describes it as future-oriented and optimally comfortable to wear.
3. Bell & Ross Collection Aviation BR
The Bell & Ross Collection Aviation BR is a high-tech chronograph with a sporty design, which is as robust as it is sophisticated. The square face design was inspired by aeronautical instrumentation, what they call the ‘ultimate reference point for legibility and reliability.’ Black rubber and heavy-duty synthetic fabric straps make this one of the most durable models, reaffirmed by its satin-brushed steel case and screw-in crown.
4. The Longines Avigation
The Longines brand has not only executed a cheeky play on words in the name of The Longines Avigation model but also have perfected this watch’s powerful movement and functions, including self-winding mechanical movement beating at 28’800 vibrations per hour and providing 48 hours of power reserve. The bracelet is an alligator strap in a distinct black tone, and its dial is black-matte with painted Arabic numerals. Silvered sandy hands complete this timepiece, making it a wise choice for men who wear a lot of blacks and like a classic design.
5. Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King
The Rolex brand is synonymous with classic styling and contemporary luxury. This timepiece perpetuates the aeronautical heritage of the original Rolex Oyster but includes some newer, more alluring features. Something most noteworthy about this watch, however, is the distinct black dial with silver hands and touches of emerald green. It adds to the watch’s character and incorporates classic elements alongside newer technology.
6. Citizen JY0010-50E Eco-Drive Skyhawk A-T Titanium Watch
The Citizen Skyhawk A-T redefines aviator-inspired timepieces and atomic timekeeping with an intricate design and radio-controlled accuracy perfection. Thanks to this watch’s innovative design, it receives radio signals both automatically and on-demand, providing superior precision. This impressive piece of technology also boasts Eco-Drive power, a 1/100-second chronograph, which measures up to 24 hours, a perpetual calendar, two alarms, a 99-minute countdown timer, UTC display, power reserve indicator, and rotating slide rule bezel.
7. Hamilton H64715535 Khaki Pilot Watch
While the H64715535 Khaki Pilot Watch from Hamilton features plenty of practicality, such as with its automatic movement, luminescent hands and markers, and 200 meters of water resistance, it’s its design that makes it a must-have item. Boasting the kind of a classic aviator style for which pilot watches are known, this timepiece is sleek and stylish. It features a 46mm stainless-steel case, which is complemented by a dark brown leather strap, a black dial, Arabic numeral minute markers, a subdial with hour markers, date and day display, and an exhibition case back.
8. Bremont ALT1-ZT/51
The Bremont ALT1-ZT/51 has been popular amongst the military squadrons that Bremont has worked with and is an updated version of the previous model. A cleaner dial and new applied SuperLumiNova index markers on the dial are just a few examples of the upgrades. Ideal for travel, the GMT hand combined with chronograph functionality measures seconds, minutes, and hours. This timepiece also fits well with the Bremont brand’s identifiable signature style.
9. Garmin D2 Bravo Aviation Watch
The Garmin D2 wirelessly receives a flight plan from the Garmin Pilot and controls VIRD. It also has various timers and vibrating alerts. Direct-to and Nearest buttons also allow you to use a worldwide airport database. The brand insists that it is the first pilot watch to help you in-flight, possessing a high-sensitivity WAAS GPS receiver. Displays and timers are also customizable, making it an excellent choice for those who want to personalize their watch for their specific needs.
10. Zenith 031930681.21C Pilot Watch
The Zenith 031930681.21C Pilot Watch is as stylish as it is functional. The timepiece features an elegant brown leather strap with cream contrast stitching and a stainless-steel case. The dial is black and boasts luminescent silver-tone hands, easy-to-read Arabic numeral hour markers, and a small, seconds sub-dial at the 9 o’clock position. Although the design is reason enough alone to buy this wristwatch, a Swiss automatic movement completes the package and ensures excellent timekeeping.
11. Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33
Apart from the awesome Star Wars reference in its name, the Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 should be noted for the fact that it was the result of a collaboration between the Omega brand and the Solar Impulse Project. The Project has an ambitious aim to circle the globe in an airplane powered only by the sun. With skeletonized hands, iPad application, lightweight design, and onboard reliability, this watch is undoubtedly an alluring option if you’re after a pilot watch with a lot of features.
12. Laco Paderborn Type B Dial Swiss Automatic Pilot Watch
The Laco Paderborn Watch, which was inspired by the original WWII Laco Pilot watches, boasts a time-tested Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic (self-winding) movement. As such, this top timepiece is incredibly precise and keeps time accurately. Its design features thermally blued hands and dial markers treated with Super-LumiNova C3 for excellent readability in the dark. Although a modernized version of the original, this Laco watch keeps with tradition and maintains and uncluttered dial by forgoing a date display.
13. Fortis 635.10.11 L.01 B-42 Pilot Watch
If you’re looking for a pilot watch with plenty of features, the Fortis 635.10.11 L.01 B-42 may just be what you need. This incredible timepiece comes complete with just about everything you could ever need. The watch, which features a Swiss automatic movement, boasts a chronograph, three subdials, a tachymeter inner bezel, and a day/date display window. On top of all that, it also features an anti-reflective sapphire crystal dial window and is water-resistant to 200m.
14. Alpina Men’s AL-372BGR4S6 Startimer Pilot Watch
Pilot watches are made with precision in mind, and the Alpina Startimer Pilot Big Date Watch is no exception. The timepiece features a highly accurate Swiss quartz movement with six jewels and 48 months of battery life. The design was born from Alpina’s century-long experience in building pilot watches for the continental air forces and fits all military aviation watch specifications.
What is a pilot watch?
A pilot watch is a style of timepiece originally used by airmen as an easy way to check the time without needing to pull out a pocket watch. However, there isn’t an agreed-upon definition of what makes a watch a pilot watch. Common features include large dials, easy to read numbers, luminosity for reading in low light, and extra-large crowns that can be wound with gloves. Extra features can consist of dual time zones or GMT functionality and additional bezel markings for other calculations.
What kind of watches do pilots wear?
Nowadays, with the advancements in technology, you’re more likely to find pilots wearing GPS enabled smartwatches rather than traditional “pilot watches.” As aircraft technology also advanced and computers took over, there’s less need to rely on a watch for flight times and calculation. As such, the kind of watches pilots wear will depend on their industry and personal style. Commercial airline uniforms are very formal, so pilot style or dress watches look great. However, for military pilots, smart or rugged tactical watches are more common.
Why are pilot watches big?
Pilot watches have a large dial and band in order to fit over clothing and be easy to read at a glance.
What makes a good pilot watch?
A good pilot watch will have a large, easy-to-read dial with high-contrast, illuminated numbers and hands, and a large crown. Ideally, it will also have anti-shock movement and a non-reflective sapphire crystal face that won’t crack or shatter. The construction should be sturdy, with good quality materials used to ensure a long lifetime.
Roger Grinstead is a senior apparel designer for X2U with over 25 years of expertise in the fashion industry. He has expertise in menswear and womenswear trends and product development. When Roger is not designing the latest fashion garments, he enjoys writing about men's fashion, hairstyles, and grooming.
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