9 Best Luxury Pilot Watches of the Year (2024)

Pilot watches were originally made for military use during World War I. These watches feature large, easy-to-read dials and luminous markings, essential for visibility in dim cockpits. 

Made from durable materials like titanium and stainless steel, they are designed to withstand harsh flying conditions and maintain precision with certified chronometer movements. 

Equipped with specialized functions like chronographs, GMT capabilities, and slide rules, pilot watches from top brands like Breitling, IWC, and Rolex blend functionality and iconic style, making them perfect for aviators and collectors.

This article explores our top nine pilot watches. Discover what separates these watches, from their rich historical significance to the latest technological advancements.

Key Features of Pilot Watches

Pilot watches are engineered with features that meet the exacting demands of aviation. These characteristics ensure accuracy and reliability, necessary for pilots and those heavily interested in the flight industry. 

Here’s a breakdown of their key features:

  • Legibility and luminescence: Aviation watches have clear, easy-to-read dials. They often feature large numerals, luminescent hands, and markers to ensure visibility in low-light conditions, such as in a cockpit during night flights.
  • Durability and resistance: Built to withstand the challenging conditions of aviation, these watches are made with robust materials like titanium and stainless steel. They are typically water- and shock-resistant, ensuring reliability and longevity.
  • Precision and accuracy: These classic pilot watches are equipped with precise movements, often certified chronometers since accuracy is vital in aviation. They maintain accuracy even in extreme conditions, which is crucial for timing flight durations and managing schedules.
  • Special functions: Many pilot watches have additional functions that aid in flight. These include a chronograph for precise timing, a GMT function for tracking multiple time zones, and a slide rule for making quick calculations such as fuel consumption and flight time.

Top Brands and Models

With many choices, here are the top nine names that continue to soar above the rest.

1. Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 – Stainless Steel Bezel, Black Dial, Ref. AB0138211B1A1

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Ref. AB0138211B1A1
  • Original Price: S$13,761
  • Current Retail Price: S$12,300
  • Secondary Market Price: S$8,940

The Breitling Navitimer reference AB0138211B1A1 features a self-winding mechanical movement with Breitling’s in-house calibre B01, offering a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. It also boasts a bidirectional slide rule bezel, a non-screw-locked crown with two gaskets, and a cambered sapphire crystal, known to be glare-proofed on both sides.

  • Production Year: 2022
  • Case Size: 43mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Black
    • Bracelet: Stainless steel
    • Bezel: Stainless steel
  • Function: Hours, Minutes, Small Seconds, Date, Chronograph, Column Wheel, Chronometer
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre B01, 70-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Ref. AB0138211B1A1 is a strong choice due to the noticeable depreciation from its original retail to its current secondary market pricing. This lower entry price on the secondary market presents a significant opportunity for potential appreciation in value over time.

About

The Breitling Navitimer reference AB0138211B1A1 is a modern iteration of Breitling’s iconic slide rule chronograph, originally launched in 1952. This model is part of a 2022 refresh that continues the legacy of the Navitimer as a critical tool for pilots and a symbol of aviation heritage.


2. IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun – Ceramic Bezel, Black Dial, Ref. IW389105

IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Ref. IW389105
  • Original Price: S$16,377
  • Current Retail Price: S$16,600
  • Secondary Market Price: S$14,422

The IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun, model IW389105, features a 44.5mm round dial in a ceramic case. This men’s watch operates with automatic movement and is water-resistant at around 60 meters. It is fitted with a white rubber strap, adding to its durable and sporty design.

  • Production Year: 2022
  • Case Size: 44.5mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Black
    • Bracelet: Leather
    • Bezel: Ceramic
  • Function: Hours, Minutes, Small Seconds, Date, Day, Chronograph, Column Wheel
  • Mechanism: Automatic; Caliber 69380; 46-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in IWC Pilot’s Watches, such as the Chronograph Top Gun Ref. IW389105, and even the IWC Big Pilot watch, is appealing due to its stable pricing, showing only a slight increase from its original retail price to the current retail value, which suggests strong demand and potential for maintaining value.

About

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun “Lake Tahoe” edition IW3891-05, introduced in 2022, echoes the US Navy’s “Service Dress White” uniform and the snowy Sierra Nevada peaks, areas frequently traversed by elite pilots from the TOP GUN flight school. This is the same brand that produced Big Pilot’s watch sets for the German Air Force.


3. Rolex Air-King – Stainless Steel Bezel, Black Dial, Ref. 126900

Rolex Air-King- Oystersteel, Black Dial ref. 126900
  • Original Price: S$9,744
  • Current Retail Price: S$10,850
  • Secondary Market Price: S$11,382

The Rolex Air King model features a 40mm case of Oyster steel. It includes a smooth bezel, a screw-down crown, and a Twinlock double waterproofing system. Completing the design, the bracelet is crafted from three-piece solid links of Oystersteel, featuring a folding Oysterlock safety clasp with an Easylink 5mm comfort extension link for enhanced fit and security.

  • Production Year: 2022
  • Case Size: 40mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Black
    • Bracelet: Stainless steel
    • Bezel: Stainless steel
  • Function: Hours, Minutes, Seconds
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre 3230, 70-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Rolex Air-King Ref. 126900 is a compelling choice as its price has increased from the original retail to the current market, and even more so in the secondary market, indicating a rising demand and appreciation in value.

About

The 2022 Rolex Air King reference 126900-0001 represents an updated version of the original Air King from 2017. This model retains its historical roots with the distinctive “Air-King” name in the lettering originally designed in the 1950s, reflecting its enduring connection to aviation and its role in navigational history. 


4. Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special – Bronze Bezel, Blue Dial, Ref. 29.1940.679/57.C808

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Ref. 29.1940.679_57.C808
  • Original Price: S$7,758
  • Current Retail Price: S$9,100
  • Secondary Market Price: S$5,670

The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze, Ref. 29.1940.679/57.C808, features a robust 40mm round case made from bronze with a titanium back, ensuring durability and a distinctive look. Meanwhile, the dial boasts a striking blue sunburst finish, complemented by large Arabic numerals and cathedral-style hands for clear visibility.

  • Production Year: 2018
  • Case Size: 40mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Blue
    • Bracelet: Leather
    • Bezel: Bronze
  • Function: Hours, Minutes, Seconds
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre Elite 679, 50-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Ref. 29.1940.679/57.C808 could be considered cautiously, as the notable drop in price from its original and current retail to the secondary market price indicates a depreciation in value.

About

Swiss watchmaker Zenith made a significant impact by introducing the Zenith Pilot Type watches. Realizing the trend towards smaller timepieces, Zenith launched new versions at Baselworld 2018, including the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special 40MM Bronze.


5. Breguet Type XXI 3817 Chronograph – Stainless Steel Bezel, Grey Dial, Ref. 3817ST/X2/3ZU

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Chronograph Ref. 3817ST_X2_3ZU
  • Original Price: S$18,919
  • Current Retail Price: N/A
  • Secondary Market Price: S$10,823 to S$15,582

The Breguet Type XXI Flyback Chronograph Ref. 3817, showcased at Baselworld 2016, stands out with its 42mm fluted case band and a matte slate grey dial. It includes a flyback chronograph function, a day/night indicator, and a date aperture, enhancing its functionality for everyday wear and professional use.

  • Production Year: 2016
  • Case Size: 42mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Grey
    • Bracelet: Leather
    • Bezel: Stainless steel
  • Function: Chronograph, Flyback, Date
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre 584Q/2, 48-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Breguet Type XXI 3817 Chronograph Ref. 3817ST/X2/3ZU may appeal due to its historical significance and robust functionality. However, the wide range in secondary market pricing indicates a potential for risk and reward, suggesting it might be more suited to collectors with a specific interest in aviation history and classic chronograph features.

About

The Breguet Type XXI Flyback Chronograph Ref. 3817, introduced at Baselworld 2016, traces its lineage to a unique platinum model created for the ONLY Watch Auction in 2015. This watch is a modern homage to the original 1950s Type XX models, which were initially developed to meet the specifications of the French naval air force.


6. Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time – White Gold Bezel, Blue Dial, Ref. 5524G-001

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524G-001
  • Original Price: S$78,426
  • Current Retail Price: S$83,400
  • Secondary Market Price: S$47,816

The Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 5524G-001 is a distinguished timepiece crafted from white gold, featuring a cushion-shaped case with a 42mm diameter and height of 10.78mm. It boasts an open back and a sapphire crystal that provides a view of the intricate workings of the Patek Philippe calibre 324 S C FUS movement.

  • Production Year: 2015
  • Case Size: 42mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Blue
    • Bracelet: Leather
    • Bezel: White Gold
  • Function: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Additional 12 Hour Hand (adjustable), Day/Night Indication, Date
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre 324 S C FUS, 45-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524G-001 is promising despite the notable decrease from its original to secondary market price, as it reflects unique market dynamics typical of high-end watches.

About

Launched at BaselWorld 2015, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 5524 blends pilot and military-style aesthetics with advanced functionality. This model introduced a new sports watch line within the prestigious brand, expanding Patek Philippe’s traditionally elegant portfolio to include a timepiece that combines historical pilot watch elements with contemporary watchmaking technology.


7. Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time – Stainless Steel Bezel, Blue Dial, Ref. 7900V/110A-B334

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time Ref. 7900V_110A-B334
  • Original Price: S$54,233
  • Current Retail Price: S$44,600
  • Secondary Market Price: S$38,163

The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time 7900V/110A-B334 is crafted with a robust stainless steel case measuring 41mm in diameter and 12.8mm in height, paired with a striking blue sunburst dial. It is equipped with the in-house calibre 5110 DT, which supports multiple functionalities, including an adjustable additional 12-hour hand, central seconds, a pointer date, and an AM/PM indicator.

  • Production Year: 2017
  • Case Size: 41mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Blue
    • Bracelet: Stainless steel
    • Bezel: Stainless steel
  • Function: Hours, Minutes, Additional 12 Hour Hand (adjustable), Day/Night Indication, Seconds, Date
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre 5110 DT, 60-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time Ref. 7900V/110A-B334 could be strategic, as the decrease in price from its original retail to the secondary market suggests a more accessible entry point for investors.

About

Introduced at the 2017 Dubai Watch Week, the Overseas Dual Time by Vacheron Constantin is an evolution within the esteemed Overseas collection, known for combining luxury with practicality for global travelers. This model expands the brand’s offerings by incorporating a dual-time function that caters to the needs of international lifestyles.


8. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph – Ceramic Bezel, Gradient Green Dial, Ref. 5200-0153-B52A

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Ref. 5200-0153-B52A
  • Original Price: S$25,044
  • Current Retail Price: N/A
  • Secondary Market Price: S$15,548 to S$25,226

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph features a 43.6mm satin-brushed black ceramic case with a thickness of 15.25mm, providing a sleek and durable design. It boasts a striking green dial, complemented by applied luminous indexes for optimal visibility. This model is also equipped with a sail canvas strap or a green fabric NATO strap, enhancing its functionality and aesthetic appeal.

  • Production Year: 2015
  • Case Size: 43.6mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Gradient green
    • Bracelet: Textile
    • Bezel: Ceramic
  • Function: Hours, Minutes, Small Seconds, Date, Chronograph, Column Wheel, Flyback
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre F385, 50-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Ref. 5200-0153-B52A looks favorable, especially given its secondary market price range, which suggests a potential for appreciation.

About

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph, first introduced in 2015, marked a significant extension of the Bathyscaphe line, known for its blend of practicality suitable for everyday wear with the functionality of dive watches. This model incorporates the flyback chronograph feature, thanks to the high-beat calibre F385, enhancing its appeal and utility.


9. Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Chronograph – Ceramic Bezel, Black Dial, Ref. Q204C470

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Chronograph Ref. Q204C470
  • Original Price: S$18,102
  • Current Retail Price: N/A
  • Secondary Market Price: S$10,314 to S$14,692

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Chronograph Limited Edition (Q204C470) boasts a robust 44mm black ceramic case. It features a black dial paired with a new black Trieste fabric strap, secured by a stainless steel tang buckle, combining comfort with security. The watch is matched with a reliable automatic mechanical calibre 751F movement, providing essential functions such as hours, minutes, seconds, a date display, and a chronograph for precise timekeeping.

  • Production Year: 2012
  • Case Size: 44mm
  • Materials
    • Dial: Black
    • Bracelet: Crocodile skin
    • Bezel: Ceramic
  • Function: Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Chronograph, Date
  • Mechanism: Automatic, Calibre 751F, 65-Hour Power Reserve

Investing in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Chronograph Ceramic Ref. Q204C470 is intriguing, particularly due to its limited production of just 500 units. The rarity, combined with a significant drop in price from its original retail to the secondary market, enhances its potential as a collector’s item.

About

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Chronograph Limited Edition (Q204C470) stands out within the renowned series, distinguished by its limited production run of just 500 units. This exclusive edition enhances the lineage of the Master Compressor collection, which is celebrated for its innovative features.


Comparison Table

The table below provides a detailed overview of select chronograph models, encapsulating essential information such as the model name, key features, original price, current retail price, and secondary market price.

Watch Model

Key Features

Original Price

Current Retail Price

Secondary Market Price

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Ref. AB0138211B1A1

  • In-house Caliber B01
  • 70-hour power reserve
  • Slide rule bezel

S$13,761

S$12,300

S$8,940

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Ref. IW389105

  • Ceramic case
  • 46-hour power reserve
  • White rubber strap

S$16,377

S$16,600

S$14,422

Rolex Air-King Ref. 126900

  • Oystersteel case
  • Twinlock double waterproofness system
  • Calibre 3230

S$9,744

S$10,850

S$11,382

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Ref. 29.1940.679/57.C808

  • Bronze case
  • Blue sunburst dial
  • Calibre Elite 679

S$7,758

S$9,100

S$5,670

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Chronograph Ref. 3817ST/X2/3ZU

  • Flyback chronograph
  • Calibre 584Q/2
  • Slate grey dial

S$18,919

N/A

S$10,823 to S$15,582

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524G-001

  • White gold case
  • Calibre 324 S C FUS
  • Dual time zone functionality

S$78,426

S$83,400

S$47,816

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time Ref. 7900V/110A-B334

  • Stainless steel case
  • Caliber 5110 DT
  • Blue sunburst dial

S$54,233

S$44,600

S$38,163

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph

  • Black ceramic case
  • Calibre F385
  • Flyback chronograph function

S$25,044

N/A

S$15,548 to S$25,226

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Chronograph Ceramic

  • Limited edition of 500 units
  • Black ceramic case
  • Calibre 751F

S$18,102

N/A

S$10,314 to S$14,692

*The prices of each luxury watch may change, depending on the market and economic conditions.

How to Choose the Right Pilot Watch

Here are several factors to consider when choosing the perfect pilot watch that suits your functional needs and personal style.

Personal Needs and Preferences

Assess whether the watch will be used primarily for actual flying or as a style statement.

Consider the specific features you may need, such as a chronograph for timing, a GMT function for tracking multiple time zones, or a slide rule for flight-related calculations.

Size and Fit

Pilot watches often have larger dials for easy readability. Ensure the watch size is comfortable on your wrist and doesn’t interfere with movement.

A common case diameter for pilot watches ranges from 42 mm to 46 mm but choose based on personal comfort and wrist size.

Material Durability

Opt for watch materials that can withstand frequent use and varying environments, such as stainless steel or titanium, which are both durable and corrosion-resistant.

If aesthetics are a priority, consider more unique materials like ceramic or bronze, but be aware of their care and maintenance needs.

Functional Features

Essential features might include a luminous display for low-light conditions, water resistance for unexpected weather changes, and robust movement types (like automatic or manual wind).

Additional functionalities like a flyback chronograph or magnetic resistance can be beneficial depending on your aviation activities.

Brand Reputation and After-Sales Service

Choose brands known for their durability and reliability when purchasing pilot’s watches.

Check the quality of after-sales service, as good support can greatly enhance the longevity and performance of your watch through proper maintenance and repairs.

Maintenance and Care

Proper watch maintenance and care are crucial for preserving the longevity and value of your watch. Watches, particularly high-quality mechanical ones, are intricate devices that require regular attention to operate at their best. 

Below are some essential tips and practices to ensure your watch remains in top condition, maintaining its functionality and aesthetic appeal over the years.

Regular Cleaning and Servicing

  • Clean your luxury watch regularly with a soft cloth to remove dirt and sweat.
  • Ensure professional servicing every 3 to 5 years for mechanical watches to check the movement, replace lubricants, and ensure water resistance.

Avoiding Common Damages

  • Keep the watch away from water unless it is rated for significant water exposure; even then, check and maintain the seals regularly.
  • Protect the watch from shocks and impacts by removing it during rigorous activities.
  • Avoid exposure to strong magnetic fields which can affect the movement’s accuracy.

Tips for Preserving Longevity and Value

  • Store the watch in a dry, temperature-controlled environment to avoid deterioration of its components.
  • Use a watch winder for automatic watches if not worn regularly to keep the movement active and lubricated.
  • Maintain the original appearance by using only manufacturer-recommended products for cleaning and avoiding unauthorized repairs.

FAQs

1. What Watch Do Pilots Prefer?

Key preferences include high legibility, chronograph functions, and GMT or dual time zone capabilities to track different time zones during flights. 

Brands like Breitling with its Navitimer, arguably the most famous pilot’s watch, Rolex GMT-Master II, and Omega with its Speedmaster are popular among pilots for their proven accuracy, durability, and the added functionality crucial for navigation and timing. These watches serve practical purposes in the cockpit and represent precision and adventure.

2. Should a Pilot Wear a Watch?

Yes, a pilot should wear a watch, as it is an essential tool in the cockpit. Beyond just telling time, a pilot’s watch offers additional functionalities such as a chronograph for precise timing, a GMT or dual time zone feature for tracking multiple time zones, and sometimes even a slide rule bezel for flight-related calculations. 

These features aid in navigation and time management during flights, making a reliable watch a critical component of a pilot’s gear.

3. What Watches Are Given to Pilots?

Renowned brands like Breitling, its Navitimer series, and Omega, with models like the Speedmaster, are popular. These watches typically include features like chronographs for precise timing, slide rules for in-flight calculations, and GMT functions for managing multiple time zones.

4. Why Do Pilots Wear Breitling Watches?

Pilots wear Breitling watches due to the brand’s long-standing reputation for precision and durability, which are essential in aviation. Breitling’s designs, such as the iconic Navitimer, feature tools specifically useful for pilots, including chronographs for timing and slide rule bezels for navigational calculations.

Final Word

In conclusion, pilot watches are more than just timepieces; they are indispensable tools for aviators, blending precision engineering with sophisticated design. Whether you’re navigating the skies or simply appreciate fine craftsmanship, these watches stand as symbols of reliability and adventure.

Key Takeaways

  • Built to endure the rigors of flight, pilot watches are crafted from materials like titanium and stainless steel, ensuring durability and resistance against extreme conditions.
  • With features like chronographs, GMT capabilities, and slide rules, pilot watches offer practical tools that go beyond mere timekeeping, aiding pilots in navigation and timing.
  • These watches not only carry a rich history dating back to World War I but also boast a timeless style, making them coveted by both aviators and watch collectors.

Ready to buy, consign, or sell luxury watches? Explore Watch Book, your go-to platform for pre-owned luxury watches like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and more. Find your next timepiece, or list your watch for free today!

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