A good watch is a very important piece of equipment for every pilot. Today every aircraft mounts a GPS, but pilots are required to learn navigating without it, using only a map, their on-board instruments and a watch. Without modern navigation systems, a good watch is just as important as your altimeter. Below you find my personal choice for 2018.
The manufacturer Laco prided itself on being the official supplier of the Luftwaffe, the German Airforce, for many years. The watches may look minimal, but that’s exactly why they were great aviator watches. The movement, however, is where all the sophistication comes in place. Indeed, only a few selected manufacturers were licensed to make watches for aeronautical purposes. The fame of Laco in this sense lasted after the war. For the quality of German watches it is not uncommon to use the German term ‘fliegeruhr’ to talk about pilot watches also in international context. The price of the aviator line varies between circa 200 EUR and 3000 EUR.
Another manufacturer whose name is closely linked with aviation is Junkers. Indeed, Prof. Hugo Junkers signed the projects of many unforgettable planes in the years between 1915 and 1932. Some Junkers are still kept in operation. For instance, Lufthansa operates regularly a Junkers 52 (also known as ‘Aunt Annie’ or ‘Tante Ju’) around Germany and the luggage company Rimowa sponsored the restoration of another Junkers 52 and recently funded the construction of a Junkers F13 from the original plans.
The price of these watches depends enormously on the movement and types of materials used. The lower range, at around 150-200 EUR has a nice design, but it is not really what I would call a pilot watch. Rather more interesting are watches in the range of 1800 EUR with a Glashütte mechanism and sapphire glass.
A predictable entry in this list is obviously Breitling. During the 1930s, this Swiss company started to build its fame thanks to its support to the world of aviation making wearable and on-board timepieces for airplanes. Today, every aviation contest or exhibition displays the Breitling brand. Breitling is also famous for its small fleet of historical planes (DC-3 and Super Constellation) as well as for its Breitling Jet Team.
My choice goes to their quintessential pilot watch, the Breitling Navitimer 01, available in its new version for around 7000 EUR in Europe.
If you want to distinguish yourself wearing a unique timepiece characterised by highest quality and sophisticated design, then you should really consider Gavox. Its founder, Michael Happé, who is an engineer and a pilot himself, created a collection of watches that fulfills all pilots’ needs and make your money really worth.
Gavox watches feature designs for every pilot’s taste, but probably more important, they are thought to be an aviator instrument and companion. A number of details, such as the anti-glare coating, the contrast colors of the dial and hands and the Superluminova paint, make the time readable at a glance. In addition, the most advanced models offer a number of useful functions. Among the models there would be also the Legacy to talk about, but forgive me if I focus on the Gavox pilot watches for now.
The P40 Curtiss prices in the 170-200 EUR range and comes with different selections of Seiko movements which accompany various display options.
The Squadron model features a more traditional design and it was adopted as official watch by various air force squadron around the world. It prices between 400 and 600 EUR and features a Swiss Ronda movement.
The Avidiver is probably one of the most innovative pilot watches for its design. As the name suggests it is made to tolerate the extreme conditions that can be encountered while both diving and flying. The moving bezel is internal to the glass and so is the triangular indicator which can be controlled with the second crown. The watch prices at 650 EUR , carries a Miyota movement, a double-domed sapphire anti-reflex glass and the best Superluminova paint.
Similarly to its brother, Avidiver, the Aurora is a very innovative watch both for its design and the plenty of functions that are stored under the beautiful analogical dial. The watch prices at around 1000 EUR, features an exclusive Mecatronic movement specifically designed for Gavox. t’s functions includes UTC, second time zone, a perpetual calendar and Many more on the very inventive dial, and, finally, it comes with an unbreakable crystal and beautiful strap.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the upcoming projects for 2018, as there will be some new member to the Gavox family.
Another niche product is represented by De Motu. This brand comes from one of the oldest and most historical airports in Europe, Malmi airport, in Finland. As such it is son of the traditional passion Finns have for aviation. The R42 mounts a modified Swiss movement and is produced in 100 units. The price is 1390 EUR.
I think it is also worth mentioning Astroavia. The company is based in Berlin and could be the odd man out of this list as they make timepieces whose price is in a band where not many pilots would bother to look (in the 50 EUR range to be clear). However, I like these watches because they offer a unique dial design, highly readable digits in all conditions, and come coupled with precise Japanese mechanisms. So, all-in-all they make interesting no-frill pilot watches and a worthy addition to a pilot’s collection.