Our mind likes to put labels on things, categorize items and events and determine if something is a risk or not. Stemming from millennia of evolution, this is still instinctive behaviour to us and subconsciously applied on a daily basis. Using the specifications and features of a watch, we categorize watches and like to distinguish a dive watch from a pilot’s watch or a field watch. With that in mind, we take a look at six cool pilot’s watches introduced in 2021.
The lightweight one – Longines Spirit Titanium
Longines has a long history in the field of aviation watches, a history rivaled by few other manufacturers. It all started with the birth of aviation, at a time when Longines had already established itself as a reputable manufacturer of precision timing instruments. Of course, Charles Lindbergh is one of the most historical figures to be intertwined with Longines’ history.
As an interpretation of the classic pilot’s watch, the Longines Spirit collection pays tribute to that long and rich past. The collection spans time-and-date models in various colors, as well as chronographs. The latest addition to the line-up is the lightweight Spirit Titanium model, with a full titanium case and bracelet (or black NATO strap). It stays true to the concept of the Spirit collection but mixes a modern, technical case with a dial that is more retro than ever. And perhaps the best part? It lacks a date indication.
Quick Facts – 40mm or 42mm diameter – titanium case – sapphire crystal – 100m water-resistance – anthracite dial with applied Arabic numerals – gold-plated hands – calibre L888.4 (Eta A31.L11), proprietary – automatic winding – chronometer-certified by COSC – 72h power reserve – full titanium bracelet or black nylon NATO strap, both with a quick-release system – EUR 2,550 on nylon strap, EUR 2,950 on bracelet
For more information, please visit Longines.com
The bold one – Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Red Radar Ceramic
Bell & Ross is well-known for creating a modern icon with the BR 01 and BR 03 square-cased watches, directly inspired by flight instruments. With a multitude of designs available, this is the standout model. Bell & Ross has played around with the concept of a radar-like dial several times before, and the BR 03-92 Red Radar Ceramic is the latest in line.
The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Red Radar Ceramic has a full black ceramic case, a break from previous black-coated stainless steel versions. The dial has two concentric discs, the outer for the hours and the inner for the minutes. A central seconds hand in red mimics the scanning bar in an actual radar. The red-tinted sapphire crystal gives the watch its mysterious blood-red hue.
Quick Facts – 42mm x 42mm – square case with round dial, full black ceramic – 100m water-resistance – red-tinted sapphire crystal – concentric hour and minute discs, central seconds hand – BR-CAL.302 (Sellita SW300 base) – automatic winding – 42h power reserve – black rubber strap with PVD-coated pin buckle (ultra-resilient fabric strap and tools included) – limited edition of 999 pieces – EUR 3,900
For more information, please visit Bell&Ross.com
The resurrected one – Airain Type 20
One of the most exciting and appealing historical-inspired watches we’ve recently encountered is the Airain Type 20 Chronograph. This faithful recreation of a vintage Airain watch is created by the same team that resurrected Lebois & Co. and is now doing the same with Airain. Enthusiast and entrepreneur Tom van WIjlick is the driving force behind the rebirth of both brands, once owned by the Dodane family.
The Airain Type 20 Chronograph follows the demands set by the French Ministry of Defence in the 1950s when a new chronograph watch was needed to equip the Air Force. This specific type of pilot’s chronograph became known as the Type 20 watch for military use and subsequently the Type XX for civilian use. In the same vein as the original, the new Airain Type 20 is a bi-compax chronograph with a bidirectional bezel featuring a 12-hour scale. More details about this very convincing watch are found here.
Quick Facts – 39.5mm diameter x 10.85mm height – stainless steel case – 50m water-resistance – domed hesalite crystal – bidirectional bezel with 12h scale – calibre AM1 by La Joux-Perret – hand-wound column-wheel chronograph, flyback function – 60h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph with 30-min counter – EUR 2,540 (black dial) or EUR 2,600 (brown dial limited edition)
For more information, please visit Airain.com
The iconic one – IWC Big Pilot Watch 43mm
When compiling a list of pilot’s watches, you’d be foolish not to include an IWC model, given the brand’s history. As the creator of the iconic Big Pilot, IWC deserves all the credit for shaping this category. Within the brand’s portfolio, you have ample choice between sizes, colours, complications, and materials. The most iconic is, without a doubt, the 46.2mm Big Pilot, but earlier this year IWC decided to create a watch with the Big Pilot DNA, but in a slightly reduced size.
The IWC Big Pilot Watch 43mm is most importantly a lot more wearable than its big brother. It still features a large, robust case with that signature diamond-shaped crown and a very clear and legible dial. What it lacks though, is the 8-day power reserve indicator that purists regard as a must-have element on the dial. Despite this comment, the reduced size is friendlier for the wrist and perhaps a Big Pilot better suited for everyday wear.
Quick Facts – 43mm diameter x 13.6mm height – stainless steel case with diamond-shaped crown – 100m water-resistance – sapphire crystal on both sides – secured to resist rapid air-pressure changes – matte black or sunray brushed blue dial – IWC calibre 8200, in-house – Pellaton automatic winding system – 60h power reserve – calfskin leather strap or stainless steel bracelet with quick-exchange – starting from EUR 8,850
For more information, please visit IWC.com
The affordable one – Bangalore Apogee
The Bangalore Watch Company is a new player but one with an interesting story so far. What started with the Mach 1 Pilot’s Watch was followed by the Cover Drive, a watch inspired by the sport of Cricket, which is hugely popular in India. This year the Indian watch brand introduced the Apogee in honour of the country’s longstanding space exploration program.
While technically a watch inspired by space, it is still very much a practical flight instrument. Available in four colour variants, the Apogee by Bangalore Watch Company has a distinct helmet-shaped case, a popular design in the 1970s, and looks quite different from other watches on this list. One crown is used to adjust the time and date, while the other rotates the 24-hour ring used to indicate a second time zone. Equipped with a reliable Sellita SW200 automatic movement, and starting below USD 1,000, it is a very affordable watch.
Quick Facts – 40mm diameter x 11mm height – micro-blasted grade 2 titanium – 100m water-resistance – dual crowns – second time zone via inner rotating ring – matte, smoked dials blue, grey or green, or meteorite dial (limited edition) – Sellita SW200 automatic movement – 38h power reserve – starting from USD 925
For more information, please visit BangaloreWatchCo.in
The redefined one – Fortis F-39 & F-41 Midnight Blue
Fortis is yet another brand renowned for its precision aviation instruments. First introduced in 1987, the Fortis Flieger has always been a robust, solidly built pilot’s watch collection with a strong following among professional pilots and enthusiasts.
Last year this longstanding and hallmark collection was revamped and turned into the new Fortis F-39 and F-41. First introduced in black, the collection was expanded with Midnight Blue models in 39mm and 41mm earlier this year. The new models are all about functionality, with a robust case, rotatable timing bezel, and very legible dials with white and orange details. An interesting feature is the orange “Synchroline” decoration between 55 to 05 seconds, used by pilots to synchronize when flying in formation.
Quick Facts – 39mm or 41mm diameter – recycled stainless steel – bidirectional 12h GMT bezel – 200m water-resistance – vertically brushed blue dials – luminous white and orange details – sword-shaped hands – Fortis UW-30 automatic movement, Selita SW200 base – 38h power reserve – grey-blue leather strap or optional stainless steel bracelet – CHF 1,950 (both sizes), bracelet available at CHF 450
For more information, please visit Fortis-Swiss.com.