Legend has it that at the beginning of the 20th century, Louis Cartier designed a wristwatch for aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont because of the inconvenience of using a pocket watch while flying. The Santos was one of the earliest wristwatches and the first pilot watch. Born out of practicality, the watches intended for pilots have evolved – in fact, the original Santos had very little to do with a flight ‘tool’ watch.
Pilot watches cannot be rigidly defined but have certain elements in common. They are built for legibility and functionality above all else. Common characteristics include; contrasting dials with highly legible numbers and oversized crowns for ease of operation. We have picked 5 aviation inspired watches from Baselworld 2017 that will look good both in the air and on the ground.
Naturally, this list of five models is non-exhaustive. Watches are ordered by price in ascending order.
Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic
Alpina introduced 4 new models to the Startimer Pilot Automatic range – one of its most successful collections – this year. As always, Alpina delivers excellent value for money by positioning these new models under EUR 900. The traditional attributes of the red triangle brand are maintained. The dial features applied indexes, the 44 mm case is in titanium-colored steel (it is also available in steel or gold plated steel).
Quick facts: 44.00 mm steel case – automatic AL525 movement with hours, minutes, seconds and date (base Sellita SW200). Calfskin strap with pin buckle – starting under EUR 900 – www.alpinawatches.com
Oris Big crown 1917 Limited Edition
The ‘old-school’ Oris Big Crown 1917 limited edition was released as a tribute to one of the brand’s first pilot watches from 1917 that was ‘rediscovered’ recently. A nod to the original watch, it features a cool pin-lever movement – you do not need to pull the crown to adjust the time but simply turn the crown while pressing the pin at 2.
Quick facts: 40.00 mm steel case – automatic Oris 732 movement with hours and minutes (base Sellita SW200-1). Calfskin strap with pin buckle – CHF 2’400 – limited edition of 1917 pieces. www.oris.ch
Longines Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch 90 anniversary
Longines commemorates Charles Lindergh’s first transatlantic flight with a limited series of 90 watches. Like the original model that timed the flight, the hour angle can be used to measure longitude (the process is rather complex but there is an excellent explanation video on Longines’ website). The mobile central dial allows for the synchronizing of the seconds with a radio time signal. The massive 47.5mm case features an oversized crown for easy operation, even while wearing gloves.
Photo credit goes to our friends of ch24.pl
Quick facts: 47.50 mm titanium case – automatic L6992 movement with hours and minutes (base ETAA07.111). Calfskin strap with extension system – CHF 5’000 – limited edition of 90 pieces. www.longines.com
Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Ltd.
As part of its Baselworld 2017 Collection, Graham unveiled 4 limited editions of its emblematic Chronofighter, each with an edgy, nostalgic identity complete with aged-steel cases, riveted dials and cool cotton/denim straps. These are based on the ‘Vintage’ Chronofigther, the tuned-down version of the signature Graham stopwatch. Its special lever design allows you to start/stop the chronograph without fail using your thumb.
Quick facts: 44.00 mm aged-steel case – automatic G1747 movement with hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, day and date (Base Valjoux 7750). Denim strap with pin buckle – CHF 5’450 – limited edition of 250 pieces for each version. www.graham1695.com
Zenith – New Pilot Extra Special 40mm
Unveiled at Baselworld 2017, the new version of the Zenith ‘pilot’ watch comes in a 40mm aged steel case with vintage inspiration, particularly an oversized onion style fluted crown. The grained dial features large luminescent material. It is powered by the brand’s trustworthy Elite 679 movement.
Quick facts: 40.00 mm aged steel case – automatic in-house 679 movement with hours, minutes and seconds. Oily nubuck leather strap with pin buckle – CHF 5’900. www.zenith-watches.com