Tool watches can be divided into three basic categories (dive watches, field watches and pilot’s watches), even though some might overlap into multiple groups. The robust, utilitarian nature of tool watches is what a lot of people look for in a daily, care-free watch. In today’s Buying Guide we take a closer look at one specific category of tool-watches, the one that takes us up in the clouds (if we want): the Pilot’s Watch. The category is very much alive, with plenty of new options to choose from. And going through the list of watches, you’ll see there’s plenty of room for a bit of fun, with innovative materials, unusual displays and funky colours. So, with that in mind, here’s our selection of some of the best Pilot’s Watches presented this year, so far.
Longines Spirit Pioneer Edition
Longines is intertwined with aviation from very early on in the brand’s history. The Spirit collection is a perfect embodiment of that history, blending vintage flair with modern mechanics and materials. Any Longines Spirit would have sufficed, but today we longed for some funk courtesy of the Spirit Pioneer Edition. This titanium chronograph comes with neon-green markers and hands, strongly contrasting with the black dial. It’s fitted with Longines’ Calibre L688.4, which provides 66 hours of power reserve and comes with an anti-magnetic silicon hairspring. Part of the permanent collection, it retails for EUR 3,740. And the best part of it all? There’s no date to disturb the balance of the dial!
For more information, please visit Longines.com
Quick Facts – 42mm x 16.50mm – grade 5 titanium case – sapphire crystal – solid titanium caseback – screw-down crown – 100m water-resistant – matte black dial – applied Arabic numerals – PVD-coated titanium hands – neon-green luminous material – Calibre L688.4 (ETA A08.L01) – COSC-certified automatic column-wheel chronograph – 27 jewels – 28,800vph – 66h power reserve – silicon hairspring – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph – black synthetic textile strap with neon green stitching – titanium pin buckle – EUR 3,740
Blancpain Air Command 36
We’ve already established the Blancpain Air Command was quite the impressive piece, but the new 36mm is the better of the two. It fits right in with current trends of sub-40mm sizes and perfectly scales down the impeccable style of its larger brother. Modelled after a vintage pilot’s chronograph said to be created for the US Airforce, the Air Command has real-life aviation credentials. Available in titanium or red gold, paired with a sunray brushed blue dial and blue ceramic bezel insert, it packs a punch. Inside ticks Blancpain’s in-house-made Calibre F188B, an integrated flyback chronograph with a column wheel. The only complaint? It might be a bit pricey at EUR 17,500 in titanium, or EUR 28,920 in red gold.
For more information, please visit Blancpain.com
Quick Facts – 36.2mm x 11.50mm – grade 23 titanium or 18k red gold case – bi-directional blue ceramic bezel – sapphire crystal front and back – 30m water-resistant – blue sunray brushed dial – tachymeter scale – hands and markers with Super-LumiNova – Calibre F188B, in-house – automatic winding – integrated column wheel flyback chronograph – 35 jewels – 21,600vph – 40h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, flyback chronograph – blue calf leather strap with pin buckle – EUR 17,500 (titanium) or EUR 28,920 (gold)
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Radiocompass
It would be impossible to cover Pilot’s Watches and not include Bell & Ross. The brand is a specialist when it comes to aviation-inspired watchmaking, with countless cool and fun pieces. One of the latest is the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Radiocompass. This recreates a vintage navigational radio compass on the dial, with a unique set of hands. The orange hour and yellow minute hands look identical to the radio compass, and are paired with a bright green seconds hand. The matte black dial with white prints is housed in a matte black ceramic case. Power comes from the BR-CAL.302 which is based on a Sellita SW300-1. Limited to 999 pieces, it retails for EUR 3,900.
For more information, please visit BellRoss.com
Quick Facts – 42mm x 42mm – matte black ceramic case – sapphire crystal – closed caseback – 100m water-resistant -matte black dial with radio compass layout – orange, yellow and green hour, minute and seconds hand – Super-LumiNova – BR-CAL.302 (Sellita SW300-1) – automatic – 25 jewels – 28,800vph – 38h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date – black rubber strap with pin buckle – limited to 999 pieces – EUR 3,900
Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph
When it comes to tool-watches, and pilot’s watches specifically, Hamilton is more than an adequate contender. You can opt for a full-blown flight instrument like the Khaki Aviation X-Wind, or a more vintage-inspired pilot’s watch. And the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph squarely fits within the latter group of watches. Clearly a re-edition of a 1970s RAF-issued pilot’s chronograph, it oozes vintage character throughout. The grainy black dial is finished with Old Rodium coated markers and hands, and two recessed chronograph subdials. It is a no-nonsense utilitarian watch, with the main distinguishable updates being the sapphire crystal and mechanical movement ticking away inside. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s also quite fairly priced, retailing at EUR 1,995.
For more information, please visit HamiltonWatch.com
Quick Facts – 40mm x 14.35mm – stainless steel case – pump-pushers and push-pull crown – box-shaped sapphire crystal – solid steel caseback – 100m water-resistant – black grained dial – painted tracks and markers – white lacquered hands – Old Radium style Super-LumiNova – Calibre H-51-Si – hand-wound chronograph based on Valjoux 7753 – cam-lever operated – 27 jewels -28,800vph – silicon balance spring – 60h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph – brown leather strap with steel pin buckle – EUR 1,995
IWC pilot’s watch chronograph 41 top gun ceratanium
With multiple sizes, materials, colours and complications, the IWC (Big) Pilot’s Watch collection is spread wide and deep. To us, one of the best of this year is the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium. The TOP GUN range is all about technical, stealthy looks and innovative case materials. This 41mm wide chronograph is decked out in IWC’s Ceratanium, a mix of lightweight titanium and highly scratch-resistant ceramics. The look and feel of this material are quite unique and very tactile. The grained matte black dial provides a stealthy background of the grey indices, tracks and hands. A tinted sapphire crystal reveals the in-house made IWC Calibre 69385, an automatic column-wheel chronograph. Worn on a black rubber strap with textile inlay and Ceratanium pin buckle, it retails for EUR 13,500.
For more information, please visit IWC.com
Quick Facts – 41.1mm x 14.5mm – black Ceratanium case, crown, pushers and caseback – sapphire crystal with AR-coating – tinted sapphire crystal caseback – screw-in crown – 100m water-resistant – matte black grained dial – black hands with grey Super-LumiNova – grey indices and tracks – IWC Manufacture Calibre 69385 – automatic column-wheel chronograph – 33 jewels – 28,800vph – 46h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds (hacking), chronograph, day, date – black rubber strap with textile inlay and ceratanium pin buckle – EUR 13,500