Since their innovative beginnings, the best pilot’s watches have delivered the top tier of legibility, durability, and accuracy to both the military and commercial sphere. In the time since, aviation watches have only improved, adopting a range of new features, functions, and designs. As a result, pilot’s watches remain useful, distinctive, stylish and resilient, even if they’re commonly playing upon traditions established decades ago. To put it another way, if you love a quality vintage aesthetic, copious functionality, and steadfast precision, then a prime aviation watch is right up your alley. The best part? You definitely don’t have to be a pilot to wear one. Without further ado, we present the 10 best pilot’s watches…and then an extra bonus watch for good measure.
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Breitling Cockpit B50 Titanium Professional III
True to its name, the Cockpit B50 Titanium Professional III does indeed look like something straight out of an airline cockpit. What we’re trying to say here is that this aviation watch offers more functionality than you could probably ever ask for, with the busy dial display to show for it. Measuring in at 46mm in diameter and 16.45mm thick, the watch definitely makes its presence known. It runs on Breitling’s own B50 movement, and comes with either a titanium or anthracite strap.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch
Already synonymous with some of the best aviation watches in the game, IWC doesn’t mince words or details on the Big Pilot’s Watch. In 2016, the legendary model harkened back to its roots by way of some minor tweaks, and is now more streamlined than ever before. Powering the watch is IWC-manufactured 52110-calibre movement, which features a Pellaton automatic winding system and 7-day power reserve. You can even track the movement by way of a subdial on the watch face. Also featured are a date window on the display, a beautiful crown affixed to the 46mm case, and a soft-iron inner case to protect the movement from magnetic fields. Sealing the deal is a Junkers JU-52 plane engraving on the case back, and a premium black calfskin strap.
Bremont ALT1-P Pilot Range
Consisting of three choice models, the Bremont ALT1-P Pilot Range first launched in 2007, and has been flying high ever since. First and foremost, every watch in the range balances dependable functionality and vintage design to absolute perfection. Meanwhile, each 43mm case is made of hardened (and patented) Bremont Trip-Tick stainless steel, ensuring the utmost tier of durability. Under the skin is modified calibre BE-53AE automatic chronometer with a 42 power reserve. Classic.
Oris GMT Rega Limited Edition
Made in partnership with the Swiss air-rescue service (aka Rega), the Oris GMT Rega delivers a dark colourway of grey and black. Featured on the watch are automatic winding GMT movement and a 24-hour central hand, allowing you to straddle two time zones at once, just like they do on the Rega jet planes. This top aviation watch is limited to 2000 pieces and presented in a special box.
Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33
Taking aviation watches to literal new heights (and building upon the iconic Speedmaster Professional X-33), Omega’s Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 was designed especially for space explorers. Powered by advanced quartz calibre movement, the watch hosts a 45mm brushed case of grade 2 titanium, a ceramic bezel with chromium nitride scale, a luminous LCD analog/digital display, and a range of features (time zones, alarms, chronograph, etc). For all the actual space explorers out there, this watch can also track mission elapsed time and phase elapsed time. Suffice to say, Omega’s latest is out of this world!
Longines Type A-7 1935
If you’re looking for a pilot’s watch that will invariably turn heads (or at the very least get those heads to bend at a slight angle), accept nothing less than the Longines Type A-7 1935. Within its 41mm case of stainless steel is a radical dial, which rests at an angle and projects painted Arabic numerals along with blue steel hands. Protecting the dial is scratch-resistant crystal sapphire glass with numerous layers of anti-reflective coating. Under the skin is automatic self-winding mechanical movement with a 54-hour power reserve. A premium alligator strap of dark brown lends this unconventional pilot’s watch a qualitatively luxurious vibe.
Patek Phillippe 5524G Calatrava Pilot Travel Time
Swiss masters Patek Phillippe make some of the finest watches that money can buy, and their Calatrava Pilot Travel Time collection is naturally no exception. Each piece in the range combines aviation-based functionality with minimalist style to top-shelf perfection. Features include a dual time zone mechanism with adjoining apertures on the dial, a local date hand, gold numerals with luminescent coating, and a white gold 42mm case. Powering the watch is 324 S C FUS mechanical self-winding movement with 294 parts, 29 jewels, a central rotor in 21-karat gold, and all sorts of accuracy-guaranteeing mechanisms. If you can afford one, buy one, and then invite us over to check it out. We’ll do our best not to drool on it.
Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Steel Heritage
Bell & Ross built its reputation on stunning aviation watches, and the BR V2-92 Steel Heritage duly abides. As optimal as it is minimal, the watch runs on the brand’s own calibre BR-CAL.302 automatic mechanical movement. Emanating from the black display are skeletonised hour and minute hands, and sand-coloured numerals and indices, all brought further to life by way of Superluminova treatment, and protected by ultra-curved sapphire. Surrounding the dial is a 41mm case of satin polished steel, and a rotating steel bezel with anodised black aluminium ring. Choose between a steel or black rubber strap, and prepare to rock some serious style.
Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic
Another big name in the aviation watch game is Alpina, which prides itself on pairing quality with affordability. That brings us to the brand’s new range of Startimer Pilot Automatic watches, which offer striking designs and steadfast builds at a highly competitive price point. Cases measure in at 44mm, and come in materials like titanium, steel, or rose gold. Find the variant that speaks to you, and don’t hesitate to take the plunge.
Overflowing with detail, the Hamilton Khaki Takeoff is a “pilot’s” pilot’s watch (if that makes sense). In accordance with its cockpit-like vibe, the watch includes a bi-directional turning flange on the bezel, which is able to record countdowns. Equipped with H-31 movement, a screw-down crown, and a black leather strap, this one is ready for take-off, indeed. It’s also limited to a mere 1,999 units.
Bonus: Garmin D2 Charlie Pilot Watch
While the best pilot’s watches are usually analog or analog/digital from a style perspective, they aren’t exactly brimming with contemporary functionality. That’s not to say that top aviation watches aren’t tremendously accurate or sturdy, just that they’re quickly outpaced by a quality digital watch when it comes to strict utility. That’s why we’re adding the Garmin D2 Charlie Pilot Watch as a bonus. It hosts a copious range of intelligent features, such as GPS navigation, smart notifications, flight planning, altimeter, automatic flight logging and more. Meanwhile, it retains something of an analog aesthetic, which suggests that Garmin is all too aware of the built-in legacy behind any given aviation watch. That makes it one of the best pilot’s watches in our book.
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