As we approach the end of 2019 and prepare for 2020 — surely destined to be another interesting year in the world of watches — we take a look back at some of the most noteworthy timepieces that came out this year, in various popular categories. Today, we look at eight watches from 2019 targeted at pilots and aviation enthusiasts.
Bell & Ross’s BR 03-92 MA-1 pays tribute to to the MA-1 “bomber,” whose parachute-derived nylon shell and reversible khaki green and orange design took it from utilitarian military gear in the ’50s to a stylish fashion statement in the ’70s. The 42-mm case is made of dark khaki-colored ceramic and The dial, also khaki-colored, is in the “sandwich” style with two superimposed metal plates, the lower one coated with orange Super-LumiNova that shines through the stenciled, cut-out numerals and indices in the upper layer. The calfskin leather strap — like the jacket, dark khaki on its its top layer and orange on its lining, and reversible — fastens to the wrist with a gunmetal-colored PVD steel pin buckle. This “flight jacket for the wrist” is powered by the automatic BR-CAL.302, based on the Sellita SW.300-1, which offers a 28,800-vph frequency and a 38-hour power reserve. More info, and original photos taken at the watch’s U.S. debut at CoutureTime 2019, are available here.
Britain’s Bremont unveiled its latest aviation history tribute piece, the H-4 Hercules Limited Edition “Spruce Goose” at our 2019 WatchTime New York collectors’ event. The watch is named for an American prototype plane from the 1940s designed by Howard Hughes and nicknamed “Spruce Goose” by its critics for its use of wood in construction due to a steel shortage; the H-4, conceived as a World War II transport aircraft, had the largest wingspan at the time of any aircraft built at 320 feet, 11 inches, and is currently on display at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. The commemorative watch uses the company’s Trip-Tick case construction, with an onion-style screw-down crown and stepped-bezel, and is available in steel, rose gold, and platinum. Each dial has an outer curved GMT ring around a pilot-inspired minute ring and syringe-style hands. Inside is Bremont’s automatic Caliber BWC/02, visible through a sapphire caseback, and featuring a four-bladed propeller rotor made of birchwood from the original H-4 Hercules fuselage. Find all versions and more details here.
As perhaps the quintessential aviation watch brand, Breitling as usual put out a wealth of pilots’ timekeepers in 2019, many of them worthy of the end-of-year highlight roster. But the new collection that stands out for us is the military-themed Aviator 8 Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, particularly the 43-mm B01 Chronograph below, the only one of the three pieces equipped with an in-house movement, Breitling’s B01. The watch is inspired by the warplane produced by American manufacturer Curtiss Wright between 1938 and 1944 and famously piloted by the so-called Flying Tigers, a group of American volunteers in the Chinese Air Force, during World War II. The COSC-certified, self-winding movement is distinguished by its column-wheel-driven chronograph function and its impressive 70-hour power reserve. The dial layout features silvery white subdials on the military green dial at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, with a date window at 4:30. The B01 Chronograph is also the only one of the Curtiss Warhawk models with a transparent sapphire window in the caseback, albeit one that also features a printed image of the warplane with its “Flying Tigers” shark imagery and the historical Curtiss logo. For more details on the entire Curtiss Warhawk collection, click here.
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary (one of many anniversaries in 2019) of its sporty Promaster collection, Citizen introduced a trio of limited editions, one each built for land, sea and air. Built for the “Air,” and the pilots who make it their home, is the Eco-Drive Satellite Wave GPS Promaster 30th Anniversary, limited to 1,989 pieces (1989 being the year that Citizen debuted the first Promaster models). Its 47-mm case is made of Citizen’s “Super Titanium,” enhanced with a special surface-hardening treatment combining Duratect MRK and Duratect DLC for enhanced scratch-resistance. Its bezel sports an aviation-style scale using traditional pilots’ ground-air visual signal codes. The multi-level cockpit-inspired dial, with large hands and indices placed between a base dial and a clear crystal layer above, has orange accents and luminescent treatment. The Eco-Drive movement, powered by light and receiving time signals from GPS satellites, drives a 1/4-second chronograph timing up to 24 hours and displays the time in two different zones simultaneously. All three of the Promaster 30th Anniversary models can be found here.
Among the milestones of 2019 was the the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy that turned the tide of World War II. Graham, a Swiss brand with a British pedigree, honored that historic Allied victory with the Chronofighter Vintage D-Day, in a 44-mm steel case with the hallmark trigger-style chrono pusher and powered by the automatic Caliber G1747, based on the ETA 7750. Its grained black dial has “D-Day” in large, bold white lettering directly below the Graham logo at 12 o’clock. At 6 o’clock is a subdial with “1944” and “June 6” printed in white, marking the exact date that British, American, Canadian, and Free French forces launched amphibious attacks on the five Normandy beaches in Nazi-occupied France. The circled star at 3 o’clock, a standard symbol for Allied military forces, marks the exact time on that momentous day that the Brits’ Mulberry Harbours — portable harbors built for rapid offloading of cargo until the major French ports could be recaptured from the Germans — set out across the English channel to resupply the invasion army. More details on both of Graham’s commemorative D-Day timepieces are here.
Like Breitling, IWC built much of its year on expanding its collections of pilots’ watches, with many remarkable pieces to choose from. We’re going with one of the rarest and most complicated: the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph Edition “80 Years Flight to New York,” which continues the brand’s partnership with the estate of pilot and Le Petit Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The watch, limited to just 80 pieces, commemorates the 80th anniversary of Saint-Exupéry’s trip aboard the French flying boat Latécoère 521 from Paris to New York, a historical moment in early aviation. This new execution of the Timezoner, which was introduced in 2016, features a 46-mm stainless steel case with a brown rotating bezel made of ceramic and a sepia-tone brown dial inspired by the color of pilots’ suits from its namesake’s era. Denoting this model as a special edition are the red-colored indications for “Paris” and “New York” on the bezel, which is inscribed with the names of 24 world cities, one for each time zone. The watch is outfitted with IWC’s Caliber 89760, which pairs a chronograph with patented, easy-to-use world-time function in which the wearer can easily re-set the time, along with the date and 24-hour hand, in a single turn of the bezel. Click here to learn more about this user-friendly function.
Germany’s Mühle-Glashütte, which marked its 150th anniversary in 2019, announced a limited edition honoring 80 years of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the AOPA AeroSport Limited Edition. The watch, designed with the input of AOPA pilots, has a 42.5-mm steel case with a screw-down crown, an anti-glare sapphire crystal, and a classical coin-edge rotating bezel. Emblazoned on the bezel is a triangular pip that can be used either as a fixed GMT indicator or to calculate the length of flight times. The jet black dial has an AOPA logo above the 6 o’clock position. The watch, limited to 500 pieces, contains a modified Sellita SW-200-1 caliber, with the woodpecker-neck regulation device developed at Mühle’s headquarters in Glashütte, Germany, and a custom-designed AOPA 80th anniversary rotor. Click here for details.
In addition to a plethora of new timepieces celebrating the 50th birthday of its El Primero caliber, Zenith also added to its popular vintage-look Pilot collection with the Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver, the first Zenith watch with a case made of 925 silver, a precious metal rarely found in the watch world. The 45-mm case features a big, ratcheted onion-style winding crown, an element borrowed from vintage aviation watches made for early 20th Century military pilots. The silver-brushed dial has a riveted motif, with shiny reflections, that calls to mind the fuselage of a WWII-era warplane. The large, period-appropriate Arabic hour numerals are applied entirely in Super-LumiNova for maximum brightness and legibility in a dark cockpit. Zenith’s in-house-made, automatic Elite 679 caliber beats inside, with a 28,800-vph frequency and a power reserve of 50 hours. Mounted on a brown, riveted calfskin leather strap, the watch is a limited edition of 250 pieces. More images and details here.
Well done Mark (again). I almost ignored this article, as I find generally find pilot’s watches pointlessly large and wanting. There are more than worth my attention, except the Graham Chronofighter Vintage D-Day, which I find large and wanting.
The new style direction from Breitling, the Bremont, the Citizen all offer so much more in terms of design and execution.