11 Best Pilot Watches For Modern Wear
With aviation dating back to the early 1900’s it’s no surprise that many of the most well known and well respected watch brands in the world have a long standing history with aviation and creating pilot watches. From the very first flight, pilots have always required the very best tools to help them fly safely and accurately. Whether its calculating speed, planning a landing, measuring fuel-reserves, or negotiating different time-zones, accuracy and reliability have always been vital in the cockpit.
Horology and aviation have worked together in a professional capacity for decades and in recent years there has been a growth in consumer interest for hi-spec watches. Whether you simply admire their design, appreciate their rich history or are a watch collector, there’s no denying that their precision and style is second to none. If like us you have been lured in by their luxury feel and desirability then our list of the 11 best pilot watches should help you decide which timepiece to add to your collection. Read our guide to find out the 11 best pilot watches.
IWC Big Pilot
IWC Schaffhausen are infamous for their fine quality pilot watches and the IWC Big Pilot is no exception. This Swiss brand has a historic relationship with the world of Aviation, with their first pilot watch, the Big Pilot being released in 1940. This finely tuned timepiece was designed to be worn over the sleeve of a flying suit.
In 2002, the modern interpretation of the 1940’s Big Pilot watch was introduced. Smaller than the original IWC Big Pilot watch which was 55mm but with the same power and style, the 2002 edition was still a sizable 46mm.
With a choice of cases made from stainless steel, gold, titanium, bronze, platinum or ceramic, IWC Pilot Watches are as practical as they are luxe in design. Featuring luminous sword hands, indices, and sans-serif Arabic numerals that shine brightly in the dark, the Big Pilot watch is a sleek and stylish timepiece that can be worn for casual and special occasions.
The Big Pilot watch also features a pilot’s triangle at 12 o’clock making it easier to tell up from down at a glance, a 7 day power reserve, with a power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock, and date at 6 o’clock. View all our available IWC Pilot watches.
Rolex GMT Master II
Launched in 1955 the original GMT-Master was designed to simultaneously show the time in two different time zones to aid pilots travelling across the world. The Rolex GMT-Master II was then unveiled in 1982 with an independent hour hand that could be moved without affecting the minute hand, making it easier for pilots to adjust their watches to the correct time zone.
The Rolex GMT-Master II can be identified by its bidirectional, rotating 24-hour bezel with an additional hand, which completes one rotation every 24 hours. This triangular-tipped hand displays a second time zone with the help of a 24-hour scale on the bezel.
Models with a bicolour bezel signify whether it’s daytime or nighttime in the second time zone, with the lighter half symbolising day and the darker half symbolising night.This unique design is what makes the Rolex GMT Master II one of the best Pilot watches around.
With several different models of the GMT Master II now available including the GMT Master II Pepsi and GMT Master II Batman, there is a style and casing suitable for every watch enthusiast. View all our available Rolex GMT Master II watches.
The Cartier Santos is widely known as the first ever wristwatch for pilots. It was first introduced in 1904 for the famous Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont. Dumont used his Cartier Santos on his record breaking worldwide first public engine-powered flight, which helped solidify the brand’s reputation.
Around the time that the Cartier Santos was introduced, most watch wearers were still using pocket watches so this particular timepiece made it much easier for pilots to tell the time whilst flying. Featuring Super-LumiNova technology the Cartier Santos has a sleek yet practical design that focuses on maximum day and night readability and clarity.
With its classic square case design the Cartier Santos is now available in a variety of different models. In 1978 Cartier introduced one of its most successful luxury watches of all time, the Cartier Santos Sport. Featuring a stainless steel bracelet, gold bezel and exposed screws on the bezel and bracelet, this watch is so well renowned that it is even on display at the airspace and travel Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace in Paris.
The most distinguishable feature of the Cartier Santos is the classic yet elegant Roman Numerals. With quartz and automatic timepieces both available the Cartier Santos has a timeless design that can be worn by both men and women. View all our available Cartier watches.
The Rolex Air collection began production during the Second World War and was incredibly popular with RAF pilots. This was because the Rolex Air watches were much more reliable than their standard issue watches. The Rolex Air-King was created at the end of the war to honour the RAF pilots that fought in the battle of Britain and it is the only model from the series that is still in production today.
With a 34mm dial, the Air-King had a much larger dial than most other watches available at the time, making it much easier for pilots to read while flying. With its 40mm case in Oystersteel, solid-link Oyster bracelet with Oysterclasp, and distinctive black dial, the Air-King perpetuates the aeronautical heritage of the original Rolex Oyster.
Not only can the Rolex Air-King pilots watch be identified by its classically sleek design but it also features an “Air-King” inscription on the top half of the dial. The watch face also features three central hands for hours, minutes and seconds along with indices or numerals for a traditional finish.
The Rolex Air-King timepiece is a historical link to a period when aircraft and watch innovations came hand in hand. This celebratory watch highlights pilots’ capacity to conquer the skies and will go down in history as a true pilots watch. View all our available Rolex watches.
Breguet Type XX
The Breguet Type XX range was first developed in the 1950’s. As one of six watch suppliers to the French Naval Air Forces during the Second World War, Breguet has continued to produce varying models of the Breguet Type XX, which have evolved for the needs and style of modern watch wearers and enthusiasts alike.
The original Type XX, also known as the Type 20 later inspired the French Aéronavale Naval Air Force to commission Breguet to create a series of 500 pilot watches. Each piece was engraved with “Breguet Marine Nationale Aeronautique Navale” on the case back.
Synonymous with pilots, Breguet Type XX watches feature a day and night indicator at 3 o’clock, with a bidirectional rotating bezel, signature fluted case band and a flyback chronograph function.
The flyback chronograph function allowed pilots to use a reset function when timing flights. Most other chronographs, you need to stop, reset and restart the chronograph if you want to time an event, which wasn’t always easy to do mid flight.
Launched in 2012 this innovative watch is renowned for its annual calendar, date display and second time zone making it perfect for frequent flyers. Local time is displayed in the conventional way and the second time zone can be found under the fixed red triangle which is shown on a 24hour rotating disc. This way the wearer will always know whether the second time zone is am or pm.
The hour hand of the conventional watch display can be altered separately without affecting the movement or time of the other hands or display so that the time does not need to stop and remains accurate. The Rolex Sky Dweller has a patented SAROS annual calendar system that replicates the irregular occurrence of 30 and 31 day months using only four additional gear wheels. The current month is indicated in red within one of 12 windows around the dial, whereas the date is shown in a 3 o’clock window.
The rotatable Ring Command bezel of the Rolex Sky Dweller can be turned to one of three positions to select the date, local time or second time zone, enabling the wearer to quickly adjust the watch in either direction using the winding crown. Not only is the Sky Dweller one of the most advanced Rolex watches available, it’s also stylishly designed and can be seamlessly worn for any occasion. View all our available Rolex Skydweller watches.
IWC Petit Prince
Inspired by the book “The Little Prince,” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the IWC Petit Prince watch was introduced in 2013. In the story a pilot talks of being stranded in the desert beside his aircraft and meets a young prince who has fallen to earth on a tiny asteroid.
The first Le Petit Prince watch, model number IW3265-06, was based upon the very simple, basic Mark XVII time-only pilot’s watch. However, this model had a blue sunburst dial, which symbolised the mystery of the night sky, and an engraved back with an image of the little prince. With many of the IWC Petit Prince models quickly selling out when first released, this timepiece is still as popular as ever.
Most models can be identified by the 40mm stainless steel case, blue dial featuring a date indicator at 3 o’clock, automatic self-winding movement, on a stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp. The stunning IWC Petit Prince timepiece is a dream inspired pilot watch that can be worn day and night. View all available IWC watches.
First introduced in the 140’s the Breitling Chronomat was the watch of choice for the world-renowned Italian aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori. The Frecce Tricolori formed in 1961 (Three-coloured Arrows) and were the official aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force.
As a working pilot’s watch the Breitling Chronomat features a circular slide rule, chronograph, and tachymeter to measure speeds. In addition many of the models are also water resistant up to a depth of 500m, making it the perfect timepiece for air and sea.
The Breitling Chronomat can be identified by its onion-shaped crown and the bezel’s four rider tabs at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock. These riders help protect the sapphire glass from damages as well as making it easier to operate the bezeleven when wearing pilot’s gloves.
The latest additions of the Breitling Chronomat also feature a chronometer-certified in-house caliber with a 70-hour power reserve as well as chronograph and GMT functions. View all available Breitling watches.
Bell & Ross BR 01-92
Aviation is in the blood of Bell and Ross and the BR 01-92 is no exception. The BR 01-92 takes its inspiration from aeronautical instrumentation with a strong focus on legibility and reliability. Originally designed for pilots the Bell & Ross BR 01-92 is now worn by watch collectors and wearers across the world.
Housed beneath scratch resistant sapphire crystal glass, with a classic black dial and luminescent numerals, indexes and hands, the BR 01-92 has excellent legibility and its modern design makes it a stylish and sleek must have pilot watch.
Featuring a 46mm satin brushed steel case and screw in crown, with mechanical automatic movement and water resistant up to a depth of 100m, the Bell and Ross BR 01-92 is a practical yet not over complicated watch that will stand the test of time. View all available Bell and Ross watches.
Richard Mille RM 39-01
A direct descendant of the RM 039, the Richard Mille RM 39-01 was designed as a professional pilots watch. Its movement is ideal for flight navigation and its technical precision makes it an essential instrument for any experienced pilot.
The RM 39-01 is a Flyback Chronograph, which allows pilots to reset the timer without having to stop and restart the mechanism. This allows for improved accuracy when crossing a navigational point. In addition this timepiece also has an automatic winding movement with hours, minutes, and seconds at 3 o’clock, oversize date, month with a central seconds counter.
Furthermore the RM 39-01has a UTC function, which allows the watch to display a second time zone with the use of a hand filled with Super-LumiNova. The time zone can be easily adjusted by pressing the pusher at 8 o’clock. View all available Richard Mille watches.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time
First introduced in 2015, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time watch was designed to create a modern adaptation of the classic pilot watch whilst still paying tribute to Patek Philippe’s traditional aviation watches.
Featuring a second time zone and a local time and date, the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time watch is available for both men and women. With the choice of a white gold case and blue dial or rose gold casing and brown dial, this timepiece has a timeless design that can be worn everyday and for special occasions.
With a self winding caliber and 324 S C FUS movement, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel has the precision and luxury to be worn for professional use as well as for making a style statement. View all available Patek Philippe watches.