Many of us dreamed of becoming police officers, firefighters, or fighter pilots as kids. Most of us ended up working as something else entirely and the closest feeling we can get to being an actual pilot is either daydreaming or having an aviation-inspired watch on our wrists. Here, we’ll give you a hand in picking one of the most interesting pilot’s watches available.
IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot
IWC can certainly be proud of their aviation-inspired watches that date back to the 30s. The Big Pilot, as its name suggests, is really big. The crown is especially remarkable on the Big Pilot series. Back in the day, the original 55-mm IWC pilot watch was created for military pilots. Today, the Big Pilot comes in many variations, ranging from a basic tool watch to a perpetual calendar.
The cases are made of steel, precious metals, and even ceramic versions are available for those interested in high-tech materials. No matter the model you choose, all are clearly part of the IWC pilot line with highly legible, minimalistic dial designs and matching cases.
IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Mark series
Similar to the Big Pilot, the IWC Pilot Mark Series is part of the Pilot collection and clearly recognizable as such with its case design and sword hands. Simple in design, the roughly 40-mm case will fit most wrists. The clean look with just three hands and a date display is easily to appreciate.
According to Breitling, the Navitimer has been the favorite watch of pilots and aeronautical enthusiasts since 1952. The Navitimer often comes in its signature high-contrast design with a dark dial, light subdials, and rotating bezel. Its design may be busy, but it has a lot of functions thanks to the bezel slide rule and scales, which can calculate ground speed, miles per minute, fuel consumption, and more. Online manuals can help you learn how to use these functions that are key to the Navitimer.
This is one of the best-known travel watches today, though it was originally designed for pilots in the 1950s. This aviation-designed watch probably doesn’t need any explaining at all. It’s one of the most versatile Rolex watches out there and the iconic red and blue “Pepsi” bezel is easily spotted from miles away. Add the comfort of the Jubilee bracelet, and you have some of the best Rolex has to offer on your wrist. Older models allow you to have multiple watches in one with a selection of different bezels and a spare Oyster bracelet. The Rolex GMT-Master may have evolved over the years, but its DNA is clearly visible.
Zenith Pilot Type 20
One of the bigger pilot’s watches in this top ten list is the Zenith Pilot Type 20. Starting at 40 mm, it grows to a massive 60 mm for some of the more exclusive models. The most basic model of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 features the standard hour and minute hands with a central or small seconds on the left side of the dial. Cases come in steel, bronze, or gold, depending on the model you’re interested in. More exclusive variations with an annual calendar or tourbillon are also available. The more complicated watches are all powered by the legendary El Primero movement.
Bell & Ross BR 01 Flight Instruments
This may not be your typical aviation watch, but the Bell & Ross BR 01 Flight Instruments collection is clearly inspired by aviation; its design traits are larger inspired by aviation instruments. The BR 01 Flight Instruments watches are available in many variations, yet most feature little beyond the most basic functions of a three-hand watch with a date. For those looking for something a little different, the Bell & Ross Flight Instruments collection is definitely worth a look.
Breguet Type XX
Similar to Breitling, the Breguet Type XX was designed in the 1950s for pilots; the French Naval Aviation squad to be precise. The modern Type XX is now available in a civilian version. All models have automatic movements and some come with extras like date, night/day indicators, or flyback chronographs, which may slightly change the look of the timepiece. Cases are available in steel, titanium, and precious metals, and you have a choice of straps ranging from leather to (precious) metals.
Tutima Military Chronograph Lemania
With their long history in supplying watches to the German Air Force, we can’t pass up the Lemania-based Tutima watches. These pieces are clearly recognizable by their case designs and hidden pushers. Thanks to the Lemania 5100 movement, the Tutima chronograph has its registers at 12, 9, and 6 o’clock with a day and date function at 3 o’clock. These watches are available on a metal bracelet or leather strap, including the typical “bund” strap that has an underlay at the case.
Laco Pilots Watch Type B
Inspired by the typical “Fliegeruhr” design, the Laco Pilot watch Type B won the IF Design Award in 2015. Available in cases ranging from 36 mm to a massive 55 mm, these steel watches have various finishes which give them a vintage look. The dial has the hour index on the inside with large minutes on the outer ring, making for perfect timing. Inside the Laco pilot watch you will find ETA-inspired movements. Most of the leather straps come with a riveted design that is typical of vintage pilot’s watches. Select models come with a loop bracelet.
UTC stands for “Coordinated Universal Time” and marks watches that have a so-called GMT function. The Sinn UTC is a watch with a clean design, large sword hands, and a skeletonized or styled GMT hand. It’s available with a metal bracelet, a leather strap with contrasting stitching, or a silicone strap. Sinn uses state-of-the-art technology to create high-quality watches with features normally found in more expensive pieces. The UTC-dial is recognized by its large markers and 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock markers. The 24-hour GMT dial is printed on the inside.