Often referred to as a flight deck extension, the pilot’s wristwatch has played a major role in aviation ever since the first flight. Combining elegance and design with practicality and accuracy, pilots and aviation enthusiasts have a bewildering array to choose from. Some horologists offer modern, sleek design, while others pay homage to key aviation or space milestones.
As we watch time passing while we wait to don our preferred time pieces in the air again, this month’s Top Ten for Ten marking a decade of business for Vertis Aviation lists an eclectic selection of aspirational time pieces.
First introduced in 1936, the aviator watches created by Breitling remain influential in the aviation sector. In the 1960s Lt. Scott Carpenter, one of the original seven astronauts in NASA’s Mercury Project, orbited Earth three times sporting the Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute. Now branded as the Navitimer series, these aviation watches are iconic with the instantly recognisable bold and impressive face.
2. TAG Heuer
Originally introduced to aviation in 1911 TAG Heuer developed the Time of Trip Aviation and Motor Clock used by drivers and pilots alike to record the duration of a trip. In the 1960s, TAG Heuer took inspirations from the aircraft and automobile chronographs to develop what is today known as the Autavia collection, combining the words automobile and aviation. Now characterized by its sleek design and engine emblem on the rear face, the collection is renowned in the aviation world.
While Garmin is known for its avionics equipment, they also make a smartwatch appealing to pilots. The D2 Air is designed to emulate flight deck tools with features such as weather reports, navigation, pulse and oxygen level monitor, airport navigation, flight logging, and time zones display, among many others. It’s no surprise this avionics-style watch is a go-to for pilots worldwide.
Owning a Rolex watch is a symbol of stature - and aviators wearing the Rolex Air-King are no exception. An homage to the Golden Age of aviation in the 1960s, the Air-King has scarcely changed from its original 1950 design. The pointed minute hand is designed with navigators in mind, delicately crafted to provide precise navigational time readings.
The preferred watch for all aspiring to the special forces and military, the Casio G-Shock watch series sports a bold design offering both digital and analog-digital options. Built to last and withstand extreme conditions, these rugged watches offer some practical adventure features including an altimeter that can read altitude up to 10,000m, water resistance up to 200m deep, and is shock and magnetic resistant. A full auto-calendar ensures missions are completed on time!
When Buzz Aldrin walked alongside Neil Armstrong in 1969, becoming the first two people to walk on the Moon, he was wearing an Omega watch. Some 50 years later, Omega commemorated this magnificent world-changing event with its Speedmaster Moonwatch. If you are seeking to purchase one of these stunning watches, look out for the iconic Dot Over Ninety (DON). Aficionados recognize it as an homage to the original design, and one that sends the time piece price into orbit.
With accuracy and precision at the core of its design, Aviator watches recognize the importance of aerodynamics both in the air and on your wrist. Perhaps the most iconic Aviator is the Bristol Scout named after the reconnaissance biplane used by the British Army. Inspired by a 1915 pocket watch, the buffalo leather band and engraving of the Bristol Scout 1264 aircraft on the back plate places a piece of aviation history on your wrist.
Longines Aviation Watch Type A-7 1935
Timelessness is an essential part of the Longines brand which is embodied through its 130-year-old logo. Still characterized by the famed winged hourglass, which is the oldest logo in its original form registered in the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Longines is best known for the Aviation Watch Type A-7 1935. The timepiece is recognized for its face being twisted at 40 degrees, which is said to be the perfect angle for pilots to easily read the time without removing their hands from the controls.
9. International Watch Company (IWC)
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Edition, “Le Petit Prince”, named after the character created by French aristocrat and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, includes an impressive feature where global time zones are listed by major city on the bezel. By simply pressing and turning the bezel to the chosen city, the watch seamlessly switches to the appropriate time zone without stopping any movement of the hands, resulting in a flawless time change.
10. Space Watch from West One
West One Space Watch
And finally, for aerospace and horology fans an exciting new addition to the mix is on the horizon. Destined to be an aviator treasure is the suite of watches from West One. These truly one-of-a-kind watches are made with metal from the AS-203, a rocket that orbited Earth four times in 1966 to test the design and structure of the final Saturn 5 design. On its fourth orbit, in a test of its structural limits, the rocket exploded with a large piece of debris landing in Zambia. These limited-edition watches are made using the recovered metal and include a moon phase function which allows users to accurately determine the position of the moon in its cycle as a tribute to the rocket’s mission.
TAG Heuer Autavia
Garmin D2 Air
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch
Aviator Bristol Scout
IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Edition, “Le Petit Prince”