When we think about cool aviator stuff, sunglasses, bomber jackets, and watches come to mind.
There are a few things to consider when choosing aviator watches. Keep in mind that no one style will fit all, so you have to determine what works best for you.
The earliest versions of watches worn by pilots were just modified field watches. The main requirements were that they be accurate and easily read under low light conditions. Hand-wound movement and large white numbers in the black background were needed. In time, air forces started commissioning specific watches for their purposes.
1930s is when Flieger developed 2 types of aviator watches: Type A with simple numbers and delta sign index at 12 o’clock and Type B with minutes in the outer dial and hours in the inner. Type B was huge at 55mm and served pilots who needed precise time when target finding depended on time-referencing and magnetic heading. Those were life or death situations and definitely needed precision.
Three out of five original manufacturers still produce fliegers today: Laco, Stova, and IWC. The only difference is that they are not as large today.
Lacos Type A is available in Japanese quartz; the Type B is their flagship with Swiss automatic and blue thermal steel hands.
Stowa watches can be bought only directly from them and come with traditional Swiss automatic movements.
IWC Type A fliegers are luxurious and will cost anywhere between $4,000-15,000.
The Space Race Aviator Watches
The jet age and improved speeds called for different watches. Air force needed to standardize global operations and decided to coordinate operations based on Greenwich Mean Time or Zulu Time.
Rolex developed a watch that had two hour hands – one for traditional 12 hour increments and another for tracking 24-hour bezel. It was called GMT Master 2. The pilots now could track Zulu time and still know what time is on the ground in the origin.
During space race pilots and astronauts became celebrities and their watches went mainstream with many manufacturers clamoring to make them. Omega Speedmaster Professional is the best example of those times. D White wore it during his spacewalk and NASA then chose this watch for its Apollo program.
Aviator watches of digital age can be very simple with the clearest reading to super complicated, like Citizen’s Hawk. Navihawk, Skyhawk, and Nighthawk are three versions that all have multiple time zones, solar quartz movements, 1/100s chronographs, and circular slide rules. This circular slide rule is the most distinctive feature and could come very handy for pilots, enabling them to calculate time/fuel/distance measurements and convert units. The capability of such calculations makes any pilot credible in the eyes in his colleagues.
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The visual appeal and strength of pilots are definitely immortalized in aviation inspired watches. Those timepieces are impressively functional and immensely stylish, and this combination is virtually irresistible. Wearing one you will always know time and stand out in any room. Any high flying man, whether literally or metaphorically, should choose an aviator watch and dazzle. The only question: how to choose the best one for you?...
Most common users find these watches too complicate and busy. The case is metal and the bracelet is most often metal, but can be leather. They are great outdoor watches and can even be pulled off for business wear, but it requires some effort.
Most pilots prefer Skyhawks, while helicopter pilots love Nighthawks.
Casio G-Shock is the only digital aviator watch that is worth consideration. The GW-500 is one of the most popular watches among pilots today. The watch is extremely tough, solar powered, has dual time zone function, and can receive radio signal for the most accurate time. The watch has rugged look and won’t go well with business suite, so use it in the field or outdoors.
Modern aviator watches
Wingman Watches is brand new company formed by Air Force fighter pilots who desired to design a watch that spoke to the heritage of classic aviators, but also were modern. Their first model reached its goal in less than two days and quadrupled all expectations. They have a website now and watches can be purchased online.
The look is modern and streamlined, but the complication of classic aviator watches remains. Japanese quartz is powering them and stainless steel cases with sapphire crystals add style.
How to wear aviators?
Most aviator watches are very versatile and go well with just about anything. When it comes to formal settings, the watches, just like pilots, can be slightly inappropriate, but if you have a bit of rebellion in you, you will be just fine. Don’t be afraid to bend a rule and wear it with a suite.
Only your personality will be able to tell if the simple utility of Fleiger, the cutting edge features of Skyhawk, or the sophistication of Speedmaster Pro will work best for you.