5 Classic pilot watches every collector should own

Rich heritage


By Benedict Unang

Featured images: IWC Schaffhausen
5 Classic pilot watches every collector should own

True to its name, pilot watches were invented to assist pilots when flying in the early years of the 1900s. Traditional pocket watches were not sufficiently convenient for them at the time, thus, Louis Cartier created the Cartier Santos, the first pilot watch known to mankind for Brazilian flyer Alberto Santos-Dumont. Since then, pilot watches have gone through a significant evolution and are now used beyond the cockpit. Despite the updates that were made to mirror contemporary times, the essence of it is in its large, easy-to-read dials with illuminating indices, oversized winding crowns, and leather watch straps. If you’re on the hunt for one, these are five pilot watches to add to your collection.  


Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

First introduced in 2015, the Patek Philippe Ref. 7234G-001 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time is a fresh take on the classic with a round, white-gold Calatrava case and a slightly scalloped bezel. A closer look reveals a navy blue lacquered dial with white-gold numerals and blued and white-gold baton hands that are legible even in the low light. The wristwatch additionally features the remarkable Travel Time mechanism, which shows a second-time zone, and comes with a navy blue calfskin strap that smoothly fits the strap lugs. 



IWC Big Pilot’s Watch

IWC’s pilot watches, without a doubt, lend the magic of flight to those who wear them. One in particular struck our eye—the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch. Housed in a 46.2mm steel case, this timepiece offers a luminescent black dial with a date window at the six o’clock position and a sub-dial at three o’clock that indicates the time left until the movement stops. Aside from the eye-catching conical crown, it also features the iconic Junkers JU-52 aircraft insignia on the case back and is driven by the in-house 52010 calibre that delivers an impressive seven-day power reserve. 



Breguet Type XX

The Breguet Type XX Chronographe 2067 pays tribute to the pilots who flew the Breguet XIV aircraft during World War I. Identical to the first generation, the latest model features ivory-coloured Arabic numerals and hour markers juxtaposed against a galvanic-treated black dial. Other details on the display include three sub-dials and a date window between four and five o’clock. For further versatility, the Breguet Type XX comes with two interchangeable straps: calfskin and NATO fabric. 



Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 41

Given Breitling’s storied history filled with acclaimed pilot watches and partnerships with various Air Force organisations, you can’t go wrong with the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 41. Under the polished cambered sapphire crystal sits a denim blue dial with three sub-dials as well as a bi-directional rotating bezel equipped with a slide-rule encircling the dial. Although pilot watches typically come with leather bands, this wristwatch possesses a metal band that matches the brushed steel case. 



Cartier Santos-Dumont

The Cartier Santos-Dumont is an absolute must-have for any watch collector. Recent models are available in an array of casings, but the rose gold case, in particular, harkens back to the original. This Cartier watch boasts a satin-brushed silver dial that pairs well with the grey alligator leather and runs on a high-autonomy quartz movement with a battery life of up to six years. Additionally, it is much thinner than the Cartier Santos, making it a solid choice for those who like a slimmer watch style. 





For more watches and jewellery reads, click here.

Explore More