The beginning of pilot watches
Men’s watches, Pilot’s watches might strike you as an incredibly specific subgenre. In fact, they were arguably the first men’s watches altogether – for men, at least.
In 1904, Louis Cartier designed what became known as the Santos for Brazilian playboy and aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, who wanted a timepiece that he didn’t have to fish out from beneath his layers of clothing. Having a watch attached to his wrist rather than in his pocket left his attention and hands-free for, you know, piloting.
Patek Philippe had already created men’s watches but they were mainly worn by women, and more bracelets than a timepiece; the derring-do of the dashing Santos-Dumont helped them take off with even flightless men who wanted to channel his chutzpah, a trend that wingspans to the present.
Here are our Top pilot watches
Pilot watches #1
1. Graham Chronofight Vintage Nose Art Ltd. – Lilly
Graham is an independent Swiss brand with a rich legacy inherited from the great British watchmaker George Graham. Being known as a brand far from conventions, Graham has specialized itself in creating aviation-inspired pieces, with quite a bold design. One can’t deny that these watches are special, yet not void of a clear coolness. As already having in the collection some vintage – and military-inspired-pieces – Graham has decided to add something that is part of fighting aircraft’ history to the Chronofighter.
Where does the Nose Art come from? The concept of Nose Art was already found on 18th-century vessels. However, the most common representation we have of Nose Art is mainly linked to WWII aircraft and the pinups that ground crews painted the nose of military planes. Although there is nothing glamorous in these decorations, it helped militaries to identify friendly units from enemy units. During WWII the Nose Arts were of young and glamorous ladies a.k.a “pinups”, was a practice to express individuality which often constrained by the uniformity of the military.
Today with the Graham Chronofighter Vintage Nose Art, Graham catches that stylish and offset military spirit and implements it on the dials of its vintage/military watches. With the inspiration in mind and knowing what the brand already has in this collection, the link was actually rather easy to make between Chronofighter and Nose Art. The collection consists of 4 watches – dubbed Sally, Anna, Lilly, and Nina, in reference to the girls painted on the dials.
Pilot watches #2
2. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Takeoff Auto Chrono
Hamilton was founded in 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. Hamilton watches combine the American spirit with the unrivaled precision of the latest Swiss movements and technologies. Known for its innovative design, Hamilton has a strong foothold in Hollywood, with products appearing in 400 films. The brand also boasts a strong aviation heritage. Hamilton is a member of the Swatch group, the largest watch manufacturer and distributor in the world.
With the Hamilton Khaki Takeoff Auto Chrono Limited Edition. Hamilton is adding a new trophy to its illustrious association with pilot watches. Hamilton is taking its interest to new heights with its close cooperation with Air Zermatt, the Swiss mountain rescue service. This pilot watch, which simultaneously acts as a wrist, cockpit- and table watch, has been created to meet the needs of the rescue team.
This dynamic watch is detachable and can be replaced in the dashboard of a helicopter or airplane cockpit, as indicated in the presentation box which makes aviation references with a reconstructed dashboard and texts such as “NO Step” and “Pull to open”.
Pilot watches #3
3. Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33
The Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 was conceived and steered through development largely by General Tom Stafford, the former NASA Apollo X astronaut who sat on Omega’s corporate board at the time. Omega officially launched the Speed Master Professional X-33 on March 28, 1998, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It was a weird-looking watch, to say the least with a multi-function analog/digital design which had its roots on the Seamaster Multifunction produced from 1986 suing the caliber 1665.
Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 is the latest version of a watch that has surprisingly early antecedents. One of the first analog-digital Omega watches was the now largely forgotten Seamaster Multifunction, which, like the first X-33, had a multi-function LCD display, and an analog presentation of the time.
The Omega Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 offers an evolved original X-33 case design and is a much truer modern interpretation.
Pilot watches are more just an accessory or time telling device
Pilot watches were vital to pilots not just for accessorizing, but also for things like determining how long they’d been in the air – and therefore how much fuel they had left – and navigation. Accuracy, reliability, and legibility were some aviators’ requirements that in turn drove horological innovation.