Lee Smith

15 Best Pilot Watches for Every Budget | Man of Many


Best Pilot Watches at a Glance

Our list of the best pilot watches goes like this.

1. Longines Avigation BigEye

Longines is well known for combining the original beauty of its former products with cutting-edge watchmaking technology. The Heritage models pose a tribute to the pioneering spirit that has inspired Longines designers since the company’s early days. Among the pieces in the Heritage range lies the Aviation BigEye a quintessential piece for every man’s wrist, this is one of the best pilot watches you can buy. This watch features calibre L688 movement and a self-winding mechanical movement that vibrates at an impressive 28’800 vibrations per hour, providing 54 hours of power reserve.

2. IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium

IWC engineered a proprietary material called Ceratanium to generate the unique character and matte black colour of this superlative pilot watch. As the name would suggest, Ceratanium combines the lightweight sturdiness of titanium with the hardness and scratch resistance of ceramic. The piece imparts supersonic jet-like properties as a direct result, with supreme and sturdy performance to match. It’s but one amongst a number of streamlined knockouts from the brand’s ultra-popular TOP GUN line, which takes its name from the same Navy Fighter Weapons School program that inspired the hit movie franchise.

3. OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Co-Axial Master Chronometer

Who needs a premium pilot watch when you can score an astronaut watch instead? For that, look no further than the mighty OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch, previous generations of which played a role in all six moon landings (hence the name). The Swiss masters at Omega present this particular iteration in signature style, with an asymmetrical dial layout, central chronograph function, anodised aluminium bezel, tachymeter scale, and other robust details.

4. Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 46

True to its name, the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph indeed looks like something straight out of an airline cockpit. 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. A portmanteau of the words ‘navigation’ and ‘timer’, the Bo1 is made in Switzerland from polished steel and engineered with a chronometer-certified mechanical calibre built entirely in-house. It has handy sub-dials and a bidirectional rotating bezel for precise time-keeping and features a sapphire crystal case back so you can take in all that impressive movement.

5. Bremont ALT1-P2

The Bremont ALT1-P range was first launched in 2007, and it’s been flying high ever since. Every watch in the range balances dependable functionality and vintage design to absolute perfection. The attention to detail is first class, each 43mm case is made of hardened (and patented) Bremont Trip-Tick stainless steel, ensuring the utmost tier of durability. Under the skin is a modified calibre BE-53AE automatic chronometer with a 42 power reserve. This is one of the best pilot-style watches on the market.

6. Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Zenith’s enduring Pilot collection receives a modern upgrade in the form of this automatic chronograph in either ceramic or stainless steel. It runs on the latest version of the El Primero 3600 calibre and features a big date window and a new flyback function, amongst other things. Highly legible, ultra-precise, and effortlessly efficient, this is an ideal timepiece for fearless aviators and everyday wearers alike.

7. Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 5524G

Swiss masters Patek Phillippe make some of the finest watches that money can buy, and their Calatrava Pilot Travel Time collection is no exception. Each piece in the range combines aviation-based functionality with a minimalist style to top-shelf perfection. This pilot watch features 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 a 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 over it.

8. Rolex Air King

Whilst arguably best known for their dive and sports watches, Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex is also no stranger to the friendly skies. Their mighty Air King comes dressed in proprietary Oystersteel and boasts a proud history dating back to the 1930s. It’s nothing if not a masterwork of legibility, with large numerals—including a supersized 3, 6, and 9—gracing the black dial. Of course, you knew it was one of the best pilot watches as soon as you saw the name Rolex.

9. Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Heritage

French watch company Bell & Ross launched in 1992 but their square cases and retro designs impart a sense of pure timelessness. They began supplying the French Air Force with exemplary pilot watches as early as their founding and have retained a thriving heritage ever since. Speaking of heritage, check out this quintessential model of that very name, which combines the best of the past with the best of the present to create a wearable work of art (and a highly functional one at that).

10. Oris Big Crown ProPilot Timer GMT

Big in name and size alike, this Swiss stunner has a lineage dating all the way back to Oris‘ first pilot watch from 1938. It squeezes various functions—including GMT—into a perfectly round case of 44mm, delivering plenty of bang for your buck. For an extra touch of aviation-themed detail, the bezel’s signature coin edge pattern was directly inspired by jet engine design.

11. Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic

A lesser know name in the aviation watch game is Alpina, which prides itself on pairing quality with affordability. That brings us to the brand’s range of Startimer Pilot Automatic watches. These pilot-style watches offer striking designs and steadfast builds at a highly competitive price point. Cases measure 44mm in diameter and are manufactured in materials such as titanium, steel, or rose gold. Find the variant that speaks to you, and don’t hesitate to take the plunge. Our pick of the bunch is ref. AL-525G3TS6 in dark grey.

12. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pioneer Mechanical Chrono

The military vibes are both strong and purposeful on Hamilton’s Pioneer, which carries the torch from 1970s chronographs worn by British Royal Air Force pilots. Hailing from the Khaki Aviation collection, it features a distinctive case design and makes clever use of dots on the streamlined display.

13. Blancpain Air Command

Blancpain’s modern Air Command resurrected an ultra-rare predecessor and sold out more or less immediately. One look and it’s not hard to see why, as this coveted timepiece delivers a true symphony of function and form. What else would one expect from the legendary watchmaker, which has roots going as far back as 1735?

14. Bulova Lunar Pilot Special Edition

Looking for a great pilot watch at a great price? Bulova has you covered with their Lunar Pilot Special Edition, which is about as classic as they come. It performs a deft balancing act between various features, including three subdials, a stainless steel bezel, and a tachymeter scale. The piece is water-resistant to 50 meters and available with an interchangeable bracelet or straps.

15. Garmin D2 Delta PX

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 Delta PX Watch, it hosts a copious range of intelligent features, such as GPS navigation, smart notifications, flight planning, an 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 watches in our book.
If you are looking for a style unlike the pilot’s watch, there are a number of great options for you to check out. Take a look at all of our guides for watch styles, types and brands below.

Alternatives to Pilot Watches

When it comes to choosing our list of the best pilot watches money can buy, we turned to our watch expert Lee Smith and our list of editors to choose their favourites. Man of Many has had the chance to get hands-on with every watch on this list (often thanks to their friends in the industry, but one look at our coverage from Watches & Wonders could tell you that). Man of Many’s lists takes into account three major perspectives to determine the overall rating, quality, price point, and availability. As one of the best watch blogs on the internet they have the knowledge to determine what makes a good pilots watch, but in addition to their own opinions, we’ve also taken into account reviews via industry leaders such as Time and TideHODINKEE, and Worn and Wound.

How We Chose the Best Pilot Watches

What watches do pilots wear?

Professional pilots wear watches such as the Garmin D2 Delta. Traditionally, fighter pilots will wear Casio or Longines watches. The more contemporary luxury watches from the likes of IWC and Rolex are usually just for aesthetics today, but they can still serve a purpose if needed.

What is a Pilot's Watch?

A pilot watch is exactly as the name suggests. They are watches designed to be worn by pilots. Sometimes referred to as an aviator style watch, they feature large faces, typically 40m+ that include highly legible, even oversized indices. These watches can also withstand dramatic changes in temperatures and pressure. The back of a pilot's watch is designed to be protected from magnetic fields.

What's the difference between a pilot and dive watch?

Pilot watches are watches for aeronautical use, they typically feature a larger bezel with larger indices. Traditional Diver watches have a higher level of water resistance of at least 10 ATM.

Pilot Watch FAQs

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