Monochrome Watches
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Buying Guide

The Best Pilots Watches Of 2022

You are cleared for take-off with this selection of cool new pilot's watches launched this year!

| By Robin Nooy | 5 min read |
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

As the year comes to a close, you’re used to us reflecting on what we’ve seen and handled over these past 12 months. And it has been a lot, obviously. But scoping out the best watches in specific categories is not always easy. There might not have been that many novelties or simply an abundance of them. Or perhaps the novelties didn’t leave a lasting impression. One category that is never short of news is the class of pilot’s watches. This ever-popular style remains a much-loved theme to play around with for many brands, especially those with a long history in the field of aviation-inspired watchmaking. With that in mind, let’s wing through our selection of the Best Pilot Watches of 2022.

IWC Pilot’s Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium

Right out of the gates, it’s impossible to ignore IWC’s legacy when it comes to pilot’s watches. The brand has built a genuine legacy around the theme, which comes in many forms. From ultra-legible and toned-down watches to ultra-complex and a touch extravagant to everything in between. One of the very best of the year is the Pilot’s Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium. It combines the classical look of the pilot’s chronograph with the tactile look and feel of the TOP GUN series. Dressed in stealthy black Ceratanium, it is equipped with calibre 69385, a column-wheel chronograph. It retails for EUR 13,500 and is part of the permanent collection.

IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium IW388106

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Quick Facts – 41.1mm x 14.5mm – black Ceratanium case, crown, pushers and caseback – sapphire crystal on top – tinted sapphire crystal caseback – matte black grained dial – black hands with grey inserts, indices and tracks – IWC Manufacture calibre 69385 – automatic column-wheel chronograph – hours, minutes, small seconds (hacking), chronograph, day, date – black rubber strap with textile inlay – EUR 13,500

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King 126900

The previous generation of the Rolex Air-King, reference 116900, has always been a watch you either loved or hated. With the new 126900 generation presented this year, Rolex corrected what many saw as “flaws” in the outgoing reference. Regardless of your take on the Air-King, it remains an extremely capable watch, descending from various “Air” watches produced for pilots during WWII. It comes in a 41mm wide Oystersteel case, has grown a pair of crown guards, is equipped with the modern calibre 3230 movement, and is worn on an Oystersteel bracelet. The dial is matte black lacquer, with white gold applied numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and white gold hands. Hard to come by, no doubt, the Rolex Air-King 126900 retails for EUR 6,950.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

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Quick Facts – 40mm diameter – Oystersteel case, satin-finished with polished sides and bezel – twin-lock crown – sapphire crystal with screwed caseback – black lacquered dial – applied 3/6/9 numerals – hands and markings with ChromaLight – calibre 3230, in-house automatic – Superlative Chronometer – Chronergy escapement with magnetic nickel-phosphorus pallet fork and escape wheel – hours, minutes, seconds – Oystersteel 3-link bracelet – EUR 6,950

Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback (Reverse) Panda

Hanhart is primarily known for its historically inspired pilot’s watches and chronographs and has genuine relevance in the field of aviation. This often results in very cool, retro-looking pilot watches such as the company’s latest, the Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback. This comes in two sizes, 39mm or 42mm, and two dial designs: Panda or Reverse Panda. And yes, it features a continuously rotating fluted bezel with the signature red mark. Combining a classical look with modern touches like luminous elements, it relies on the manually wound integrated flyback chronograph movement by Sellita. Worn on a black calfskin leather strap, this will set you back EUR 2,390 regardless of size and dial configuration.

Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Panda and Reverse Panda

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Quick Facts – 39mm or 42mm diameter – stainless steel case with fluted rotating bezel – domed sapphire crystal and see-through caseback – Panda or Reverse Panda bicompax dials – historical Hanhart logo – luminous hands, numerals and sub-dials (Panda only) – Sellita AMT5100 M – hand-wound flyback integrated chronograph movement – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph – black leather strap with Alcantara lining – EUR 2,390

Longines Spirit Pioneer Edition

Just like several other brands, the legacy of Longines in the field of aviation is profound. It was Longines that equipped Amelia Earhart with a chronograph during her successful solo crossing of the Atlantic back in 1932. Even today, this history is reflected in the brand’s watches, most notably the Spirit collection. One of the coolest we saw this year was the Longines Spirit Pioneer Edition, with a titanium case, funky black and neon green dial and a textile black and neon green strap. It brought a nice touch of modern frivolity to the otherwise rather retro-inspired collection. Power comes from the COSC-certified chronometer calibre L688.4, and it’s priced at EUR 3,740.

Longines Spirit Pioneer Edition Titanium Chronograph 42mm L3.829.1.53.2

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Quick Facts – 42mm x 16.50mm – grade 5 titanium case – sapphire crystal & solid titanium caseback – matte black dial – applied Arabic numerals – PVD-coated titanium hands – neon-green luminous material – calibre L688.4 (ETA A08.L01) – COSC-certified automatic column-wheel chronograph – silicon hairspring – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph – black synthetic textile strap with neon green stitching – EUR 3,740

Fortis Stratoliner

What’s cooler than a pilot’s watch tested in flight? A pilot’s watch tested in space, no doubt, which is exactly what you get with the Fortis Stratoliner collection. In late 2021, Fortis sent a cradle of prototype movements into the stratosphere to test its durability and shock resistance. Performing valiantly, this calibre Werk 17 found its way into the Stratoliner this year. It comes in a 41mm wide robust steel case with special white or grey dials and space-blue luminous details to measure elapsed space travel times. Worn on either a steel bracelet or a leather strap, the Fortis Stratoliner comes in six variations (3 dials & 2 strap options, makes 6 references) and will set you back EUR 4,950 (strap) or EUR 5,300 (bracelet).

Fortis Stratoliner Space Watch Chronograph

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Quick Facts – 41mm diameter – stainless steel case, brushed – flat, fixed orbit bezel – sapphire crystal front and back – White Dust, Cool Grey or Cosmic Gray grained dial – space blue Super-LumiNova elements – luminous hour and minute hands framed in matte black – calibre Werk 17, made with La Joux-Perret – automatic integrated column-wheel chronograph – shock-resistant & tested in space – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph, day, date – stainless steel bracelet or leather strap – EUR 4,950 (leather) or EUR 5,300 (bracelet)

6 responses

  1. The Rolex Airking is not a pilot’s watch, the dial is too cluttered with verbiage and irrelevant markers. Truth be told it never really has been a pilot’s watch, rather it was the entry level into Rolex watches priced below the Oyster Perpetual. It is actually more of a motoring watch given that it is identical in design to the dials on the dashboard of the now defunct Thrust SSC. No amount of marketing guff from Rolex will make it a pilot’s watch anymore than Rolex adverts showing Mount Everest will make the Explorer the watch worn by Hilary and Tensing in 1952.

  2. everything is a pilots watch today and 118 years ago.
    it tells the time and that’s enough.
    A-Watch, B-Watch, Navitimer, Speedmaster Pro, Cosmonaut, Sport-Chrono, regardless.
    Pilots use the watches they want, some are certified and some just work.

    Best mechanical pilot watch in my eyes?
    the speedmaster 3861 hesalite
    the finest?
    Patek 5520P!
    if you want a special one,
    get a hanhart
    almost nobody has that, but it’s rooted deeply into Flieger.

  3. Unless I’m mistaken the Hanhart is showing up as sold out and not available on their website which is a shame.

  4. Thank you Robin for an excellent article and great photographs. Much appreciated. My first real pilot watch when I started flying in the 70’s was an Omega Speedmaster with (I believe) a Caliber 10 movement. I strapped it to the control yoke of an old Cessna 180 and timed many instrument approaches. It was a real workhorse and amazingly had no issues despite the heavy vibration in the cockpit. If I were to pick just one watch from your article, I would probably go with the Fortis Stratoliner. Thanks again !

  5. Lol new Navitimer comes out for its 2022 70th anniversary and it’s improved in every way and the air king makes the list before it. Parody!


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