As discussed last year, the importance of watches in aviation is not as high as at the beginning of manned flights. Watches are mostly a status symbol and as pilots, we often feel as the only breed allowed to wear a ‘pilot watch’. in this selection, I have combined affordable watches and fancier ones, but all have a great reputation for precision and readability. Fasten your seat-belts and let me know what you think about the watches I chose for this year.
What is a pilot watch
It is not sufficient to have a dial and hands resembling a flight instrument to make a pilot watch. Watches suitable for manned flights are actually certified for that purpose and the widely accepted standard is the DIN 8330 (more here), which defines specific physical tests a watch must go through in order to be certified. Similarly, some watches were certified for space use by NASA. I have included two of these further below.
Gavox – Curtiss P40
I have mentioned the Curtiss P40 in last year’s selection and I don’t hesitate to do so this year as well. Indeed, I have tested this Belgian-made quartz watch for over a year and it still remains one of my favourite watches when time-keeping is of essence. Despite its rather small dial (40 mm) the readability is great. I used it during day and night flights and was never disappointed. In addition, the wrist straps available are of the highest quality and feature a spring bar which facilitates its replacement without the need of tools. There are different variants available and the starting price is 190 EUR. find more here: www.gavox.com
Elysee – Heritage Chrono
Elysee is a German company based in Düsseldorf. The chronograph that I chose has an impeccable classic design and works with a Citizen/Miyota movement, which ensures high precision. The price is 275 EUR. Find out more about it here: https://www.elysee-watches.com/en
Seiko – Sky Aviation Automatic
This Seiko is a work horse. It’s an entry level automatic featuring a flight computer in the bezel. As most automatic in this price range, you should expect the need to either adjust the time every few days or to have it calibrated properly at a specialised shop. It has a highly readable dial inspired to early Navitimer models. Like most watches with a flight computer, it is highly unlikely you will use in flight, but it is still very nice to have.
The price ranges around 300 EUR. more info here: https://www.seikowatches.com/global-en/products/prospex/sky
Bulova – Lunar Pilot
With the Bulova Lunar Pilot we move into the league of watches which made the history of space timepieces. Bulova had a long-lasting relationship with NASA, as its Accutron movement (a revolutionary electric movement using a tuning fork) was present in most clocks used in the space control rooms and spacecrafts. It became famous when during Apollo 15, astronaut David Scott used it for a lunar outing, as backup for his Omega which had lost its crystal. The remake of this watch runs on a high-frequency quartz movement (262khz) instead of the original Accutron. The price starts at around 350 EUR depending on the retailer.
Omega – Speedmaster Professional
Dubbed “The Moonwatch” for it was worn by the astronauts of Apollo 11 on the first moon landing, the Speedmaster Professional is an icon of immutable style. It mounts a caliber which must be manually winded, as in space an automatic movement was of no particular use. It is currently sold with either an Esalite or Saphir crystal. The official price is starting at 4600 EUR for the Esalite version and has a 5 year warranty if purchased from an Omega store, lower prices can be found elsewhere, but the warranty is typically shorter. You can find more information here: https://www.omegawatches.com/