Fratello’s “Alternative” Top 5 Pilots’ Watches

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:

1. Bremont Alt1-P PilotBremont ALT1 Pilot watch

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?

2. Sinn 356 Sa GRSinn 356 Sa GR watch

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.

3. Oris Big Crown ProPilot AltimeterOris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

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.

4. Pinion Axis SteelPinion Axis - steel pilot watch

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.

5. Hamilton Khaki Pioneer Pilot Automatic ChronographHamilton Khaki Pioneer Pilot Automatic Chronograph

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.




No Responses to “Fratello’s “Alternative” Top 5 Pilots’ Watches”

Show all responses
  1. Thomas Connelly

    The Hamilton H646666735 of course. 3 register “tri-compax” style layout, H31 movt, Type B style dial…. everything you could want.

  2. Randy Rogers

    My preference is the Bremont ALT1-Z, Worldtimer aside, the simplicity of the ‘ZULU’ is “Time where one began, and the time where one is” is sufficient and the Timepiece eliminates the need for multiple Timepieces on a Vacation or business trip. I also like the ‘Horizon’ on the 30 Minute Register. In the original Collection, Initially there was a Blue Dial and Strap, very striking, though the Blue could have been more towards Lapis Blue, in the ALT1-P, but at 43MM a great size and distinctively simple functional design, Chronometre Rated.

  3. Fernando Sereix

    A useful actual pilot watch is one that is not only easy to read but has dual time capability such as a Glycine Airman, any GMT watch with a 24 hour bezel or an analogue digital watch such as the Breitling Aerospace.

  4. The simple points are being able to quickly read the time and basic reliability. The Pinion seems ideal. I am sure other simple watches would do as well. I far prefer a diving watch style with an external, preferably a bi-directional, rotating bezel. Much less fiddly over-all.

  5. Aprameya Kar

    Please add Glycine airman to this list. They have a rich heritage and constantly overlooked or go unnoticed.

  6. Leonard Martinez

    Zeno 8554. It’s affordable and easy to read at 47mm in diameter. There’s no superfluity on this watch. It screams pilot.

  7. Bell and Ross. As a pilot I also have a Breitling aerospace amongst others but it’s always a Bell and Ross that gets noticed when I go to work.

  8. Hugo Maiutto

    The arguments you pointed in the introduction of the article are unnecesary. ¿What do you mean to put Alternative between quotes?
    Best regards

  9. Shreddog

    Just picked up an Alpina Startimer Pilot Regulateur which I love. I chose this watch because most Pilot watches are too much for my wrist and this one was just the right size. It also has an unorthodox face with separate hour and minute dials.

  10. Marc Ceniceros

    I bought my 86 year old Dad a Archimede 42 H Automatic. It’s perfect for his aging eyes. The large clear sterile dial could not be easier to read. The deployant band means his sausage fingers don’t drop it every time he puts it on and no date means there’s no window cluttering up the face, especially since he can’t read it anyway. Plus at only a grand it was a bargain compared to these others. It’s a good looking rugged watch that looked great on my wrist. He almost didn’t receive it!

  11. Hanhart are great pilot watches. And I also have Chronoswiss Timemaster 24. A very cool timepiece.

  12. Robert Harper

    I love the look of pilot watches but there is no need for them in any aircraft today. Every aircraft has a clock and all commercial aircraft have had them for decades. That doesn’t detract from their looking really dashing but in terms of need in an aircraft I can’t think of any nor can any pilot I know of.

  13. Graham Leaper

    Maurice de Mauriac makes some very attractive customizable pilot chronos in Zurich.

  14. I miss the Fortis brand here… a very cool model was the Pilot Professional with the Lemania 5100 movement.

  15. Redmandale

    Why no mention of the Eddie Platts’ Speedbird III? A whole lot of watch for not so much money…

    • Al A Phunt

      That watch should have been mentioned as should the Hawk Vulture CawCaw 4

  16. Robinoz

    I have a Hamilton Khaki that is almost identical to the Hamilton pilot’s watches on issue to the RAF in the late sixties and seventies.

    It looks similar to the Pinion above, but has smaller dial numbers. It’s a very nice watch, but a bit smaller than I like.

  17. I’ve been eyeing the Stowa Flieger range. Beautiful range. They supplied time pieces to the German airforce during WWII so also comes with historical value. Good value for money as they only accept orders online cutting out retailer mark ups.

    • I have a Stowa Flieger with logo and date. It’s a great watch especially for the price

Leave a Reply