One of the hottest categories of timepieces on the market today is pilot watches. While the concept of synchronizing crew watches to the navigator’s watch may have taken a back seat to today’s cockpit instrumentation, the look and quality of a true pilot’s watch remains steadfast and in demand.
Typically, today’s pilot and aviation watches are rugged instruments housing many necessary functions. Generally, a pilot’s watch is a COSC-certified chronometer. Examined by the Swiss observatory, Controle Official Suisse des Chronometres (COSC), these watches undergo rigorous testing over a period of time in extreme temperatures, changes in gravitational forces and other stringent conditions (see sidebar on chronometers). In addition to chronometer precision, pilot’s watches are usually antimagnetic, shock resistant, and offer functions such as compass abilities, slide rule bezels and multiple time zones or GMT indication. Additionally, measurement devices such as altimeters, telemeter scales (to measure distance), tachymeter scales (to measure speed), or chronographs (to measure continuous or discontinuous intervals of time) often come in handy. Easily the most important factor in a pilot watch, however, is readability: clean, crisp dials with luminous hands and markers.
A host of great brands offer top pilot’s watches, including Rolex, Alpina, and Breitling, Bell & Ross, Bremont, Hamilton, IWC, Tutima and others. (Portions of this piece are excerpts from Niche Media March issues.)