We’re all familiar with iconic pilots’ watches like the IWC Big Pilot, Rolex GMT-Master and Breitling Navitimer, right? This week, we will shed some light on a few “alternative” pilots’ watches. Whether it is because you don’t want to be one of the three guys in the meeting room wearing the same Rolex GMT-Master, or simply because you might be looking for something in a different budget range, here are some choices you may not have considered.
(Of course, to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the more famous pilots’ watches mentioned above… quite the contrary. We at Fratello Watches simply thought it might be refreshing to point out what else is there for you on the watch market.)
Here we go:
By now, Bremont shouldn’t be an unknown brand to you anymore. Especially when you are a regular reader of WatchTime and Fratello Watches. This company, headed by two pilots who also happen to be brothers, has an impressive line-up of pilots’ watches. This Alt1-P Pilot watch is a 43-mm timepiece with an inner rotatimg bezel and an automatic chronograph movement with a chronometer certificate. What more can you ask for?
I have a weak spot for Sinn watches, especially the Sinn 140/142 models. However, those are not considered pilots’ watches. The beauty of Sinn is its drive to innovate. Sinn comes up with solutions for real-world problems when designing its watches. Tourbillons and minute repeaters are nice, but there are other, more practical ways for master watchmakers to show off their skills. Among the highly innovative solutions that the Sinn watch brand has devised include a system to prevent fogged crystals due to the moisturized air inside a watch case, special treatments to prevent a watch from being easily scratched, a lubricant-free anchor escapement, crystals that are non-reflective underwater, and so on. This Sinn 356 Sa GR is a classic pilots’ watch with a chronograph movement and a power-reserve indicator. Ask your nearest Sinn dealer for a price, as these are subject to difference per country due to Sinn’s distribution methodology.
One of the most interesting new pilots’ watches I’ve come across is this Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter watch. The name of the model basically says it all: it’s a pilot’s watch with an altimeter. Just like the (much) more expensive Breva watches, this Oris has an altimeter and air-pressure indicator on its dial. One version has the indicator in feet and the other in meters. The altimeter is operated by an extra crown located at 4 o’clock which needs to be unscrewed in order to make the measurement. Inside, Oris uses a Sellita-based movement (SW200). Oh, and “Big Crown” does not only refer to the size of the crown, but also to that of the watch case. It has a diameter of 47 mm, which means you should definitely try it on before you buy.
What makes a good pilots’ watch? The aforementioned Bremont and Sinn are chronograph watches, but a chronograph is not a necessity. (To be honest, even a wristwatch may not be as much a necessity for the modern pilot as it once was.) So, realistically, the most important aspect of a pilots’ watch (see again the IWC Big Pilot) is a legible dial and an accurate movement. Pinion is a brand from the United Kingdom that focuses on legible watches with a dial that can be read from almost any angle. The 42-mm watch has Super-LumiNova-filled hands and hour markers and a large crown that is easy to grasp.
A watch that is accessible to those with a smaller budget is this Hamilton Khaki Pioneer Pilot watch (an in-depth review can be found here). Hamilton has a long history with the world of aviation and this pilots’ watch is one of its popular models. It is a 41-mm timepiece with a two-register chronograph. The ETA-based movement has been exclusively made for Hamilton (both brands are owned by the Swatch Group, of course). This solid, easy-to-operate chronograph comes with a stainless steel bracelet. If it was up to me, I would put a NATO strap on it for that vintage look & feel.
What are your “alternative” pilots’ watches? Let us know in the Comments box below.
This article was originally published in early 2015 and has been updated.