2021, The Watch Year in Review: Seven High-Flying Pilots’ Watches

By almost any standard, the luxury watch world enjoyed a successful year in 2021 despite the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and its worldwide economic consequences — with high-profile retailers reopening and expanding, new auction records set, some large-scale industry events (like our own WatchTime New York) returning, and of course, a host of notable timepieces launched. As we wrap up 2021 and look ahead enthusiastically to 2022, we take our annual look back at some of the year’s notable timepieces in various popular categories. Today we showcase pilot’s watches.

The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Red Radar Ceramic is the latest creative take on the original Radar watch, one of the most quirky and inventively designed members of the brand’s Flight Instrument collection, with a dial inspired by a radar screen. Rotating under a translucent red sapphire crystal are two ultra-light, concentric disks that replace conventional hour and minute hands. In a major update from the previous Red Radar models, these disks now host two miniature screen-printed planes — a passenger plane on the larger outer hour disk and a fighter plane on the smaller, central minutes disk. The hours scale is printed on the underside of the sapphire crystal, and a red central analog hand laps the concentric disks to record the seconds and complete the realistic look of a radar screen. The 42-mm case, constructed in Bell & Ross’s square dashboard clock configuration, is made of matte-black ceramic and contains the Sellita-based automatic Caliber BR-CAL.302. More details and photos can be found here.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Red Radar Ceramic

Breitling added another legendary carrier to its “capsule collection” fleet of Navitimer models paying tribute to the Golden Age of commercial aviation. The Navitimer American Airlines Edition draws its red-white-and-blue livery from the the minimalist graphics and logo forms used by American Airlines in the 1960s and 1970s and features a 43-mm steel case with the Navitimer’s emblematic bidirectional circular slide-rule bezel, which allowed pilots in the ’50s to make crucial flight calculations on their watches, essentially serving as wrist-borne onboard computers in those early days of commercial flight. A curved sapphire crystal covers the three-register dial in bright blue, with contrasting white subdials and red detailing on the hands. A sapphire exhibition caseback etched with a vintage logo displays Breitling’s in-house Caliber B01, with an integrated 1/4-second column-wheel chronograph, a 70-hour power reserve, and a COSC chronometer certification. More versions and details here.

Breitling Navitimer American Airlines Edition

The Bremont MB-1 Savana is the first titanium-cased version of the MB-1, the London-based watchmaker’s most tortuously tested watch and the one most favored by military pilots, developed in partnership with Martin Baker, a British provider of aviation ejection seats. The 43-mm case, formed in Bremont’s hallmark “Trip-Tick” construction, has a smooth anthracite color and is finished in what the brand calls a “tactical” antireflective coating. Its middle layer features a knurled surface that is inspired by components on a Martin Baker ejection seat. The motif continues on the dual crowns at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock, the latter devoted to operating the bidirectional, inner Roto-Click bezel, a practical timing accessory patented by Bremont. The pale, desert-like hue of the titanium case is echoed on the dial, making for a color palette evocative of military camouflage colors used in deserts and similar climates, hence the nickname “Savana.” The ETA-based Bremont BE-36AE automatic caliber is secured by a patented anti-shock mounting system inside the case. More photos and details here.

Bremont MB-1 Savana

Citizen added the Promaster Navihawk to its range of rugged, purpose-built, multifunctional Promaster models in 2021. Powered by an Eco-Drive movement, the Navihawk is a men’s pilot watch inspired by a pilot’s visual experience in the cockpit. It uses the brand’s Atomic Timekeeping system to synchronizes to atomic time for superior accuracy and allows for time adjustments in 26 time zones. Its many useful functions include a chronograph, perpetual calendar, 12/24-hour time, day/date, and power reserve indicator. It is available in a bold black, ion-plated stainless-steel case with a cobalt blue dial and bright orange accents and features a sliding scale for measurement and a rotating navigational bezel with a compass. Limited to 1,500 pieces, this version of the watch comes with special packaging that features a working Citizen clock that matches the timepiece. More about the Navihawk, and additional variations, can be found here.

Citizen Promaster Navihawk

It’s difficult to home in on only one watch in IWC’s huge Pilot’s Watch year, but the most beloved by collectors is likely the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph “Tribute to 3075,” a modern re-edition of the cult-classic “Black Flieger” model from 1994. The new model’s 41-mm case is constructed not of the original’s black ceramic but of Ceratanium, an in-house-developed composite of ceramic and titanium, boasting the hardness and scratch-resistance of the former while retaining the latter’s lightness and unbreakability. The matte black dial’s layout slightly rearranges the subdials from the vintage model: small seconds are now displayed at 6 o’clock, while 30-minute and 12-hour chronograph totalizers appear at 12 and 9 o’clock. The day and date display at 3 o’clock remains the same, and the white orientation triangle at 12 o’clock now features the two dots on either side, as on classical aviators’ watches of yore. Behind the solid caseback, protected from magnetic fields inside a soft iron inner cage, is the IWC manufacture Caliber 69380, replacing and superseding the outsourced Valjoux 7750 that ticked inside the Ref. 3705. Click here for more info.

IWC Pilot’s Chronograph “Tribute to 3075”

Taking its cues from a 1930s pilots’ chronograph, the Longines Avigation BigEye Titanium from the Swiss brand’s extensive Heritage Collection appeared this year in a brushed titanium case and an eye-catching smoked blue dial. The watch is distinguished by its large, luminous Arabic numerals and the extra-large 30-minute chrono counter at 3 o’clock (the “Big Eye” referred to in the model’s name, with “Avigation” a portmanteau of “aviation” and “navigation”). The dial, protected under a domed sapphire crystal with nonreflective coating, also has a 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock and a subdial for running seconds at 9 o’clock. The 41-mm stainless steel case is water-resistant to 30 meters and features two prominent chronograph pushers for easy handling, even for a pilot wearing gloves. Inside it ticks Longines’ proprietary Caliber L688, a self-winding movement with a 54-hour power reserve and column-wheel chronograph control. You can read more about the watch here.

Longines Avigation BigEye Titanium

Germany’s Tutima launched a slate-gray-dial version of its military-inspired Flieger watch with a Horween leather strap to complete the monochromatic look. The stainless steel case is 41 mm in diameter, with an antireflective-treated sapphire crystal and a a threaded, tightly set crown. Under the crystal is the degradé-effect dial, which radiates elegantly from light gray in the center to nearly black at the edges. The classical, military-evocative numerals and indices are treated with Super-LumiNova and accompanied at 12 o’clock by the triangle with two dots that is a historical emblem of pilots’ watches. Also luminous-coated are the sharply tapered, diamond-shaped hands, which display the hour and minute while the orange-colored central seconds hand adds a splash of contrasting bright color. Behind a transparent sapphire caseback is the watch’s self-winding mechanical movement, the ETA-based Caliber 330, with a 42-hour power reserve. You can learn more about the watch here.

Tutima Flieger
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  1. Mark Connolly

    Why have stopped putting the prices in the body of the article. I want to know whether a watch is worth my time to look at and pricing is the easiest way for me to make that decision. Please go back putting the prices at the bottom of each, instead trying to force me to click a link to the manufacturer’s site where, in may cases THEY don’t even list the price.

  2. Gavin Coury

    As a retired airline pilot with over 35 years experience on international operations, all you really need is an accurate watch that’s clearly visible (also in dim conditions), has the date and a GMT display or stopwatch is optional.
    My favourite was the Rolex GMT II – accurate, robust and displayed everything you needed at a glance.

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