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The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

From a timepiece that pays tribute to the golden age of flight, to a bright, vibrant watch with its eyes on the future

We’ve all been there. Coasting at a cool 600 mph in our private jets, and just too lazy to raise our own wrists to check the time. Instead, we call to our captains — those steady, unshakeable professionals with their fingers on the pulse and hands on the yoke — to ask them the time instead.

Because, if you can depend on one thing from a pilot — other than safely taking off, flying and landing your plane, that is — it is that around his wrist will be strapped one of the finest watches in the world. From Breitling to Bell & Ross, the most illustrious watchmakers have all been inspired by air travel.

So, with last month’s Baselworld fading into jetstream, which of the new Pilot’s watches on the scene are worth your time and money? We turned to seasoned and distinguished pilot Jonny Nicol — also the founder and CEO of private jet booking service Stratajet — to get his recommendations.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, simple and stylish

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

The Big Pilot’s range from IWC is iconic among fans of fine watches and flying machines. This latest iteration comes with a 7-day power reserve, indicated in the sub-dial at 3 o’clock. A classically designed military watch, that distinctive over-sized crown is featured so you can adjust the time while still wearing your flying gloves. Naturally.

Our pilot says: “Pilots develop a close bond with their watches since they are instruments in which you should be confident of trusting your life. 

“So I like the simplicity of this watch, with a big face that’s easy to read – the unfussy design is focused on the piece’s key role; telling the time. The black strap is stylish, complementing the watch and it is a nice touch to hark back to the Junkers JU-52, an aircraft of esteemed heritage.”

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch

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Patek Phillippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

One of the latest offerings from Patek Philippe, this rose gold world timer gives a softer, more luxurious feel to their 2015 white gold model. Being able to check two time-zones is a real time saver when globetrotting, and that handy extra hour hand will quickly become a travel essential. 

Our pilot says: “A bold design in rose gold but with the added precision that you would expect from a Patek – and precision is everything in aviation. 

This watch harks back to the ‘old days’ of flying, paying tribute to Patek Philippe’s traditional timepieces but, with modern features, is equally suitable for the present day. For example the ability to keep track of both home and local time is incredibly useful.”

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

Patek Phillippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

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Breitling Navitimer 1 Automatic 38

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

The Navitimer is a watch for serious pilots, giving you the ability to time several different metrics with the scales around the outside of the dial. This is actually one of the smaller and simpler Navitimers available — measuring just 38mm — and is a favourite of stunt and acrobatic pilots the world over as a result.

Our pilot says: Breitling has done well to achieve a rare synergy of elegance and functionality in this watch. The classic Breitling style blends superbly with the incredibly helpful unit converter around the rim and the strap gives the piece a robust feel. 

You know from it being a Breitling that it’ll work under the most arduous manoeuvres, while it’s smaller size – and therefore lighter weight – make it more comfortable for the wearer in moments of heighten G-force.”

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

Breitling Navitimer 1 Automatic 38

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Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Racing Bird

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

Aviation is in the blood of Bell & Ross — so much so that they built a plane to go with their latest watch. With a bright white dial and orange and blue accents you’re won’t miss this timepiece, and this colour scheme will make reading it upside-down at 1000ft a lot easier as well. 

Our pilot says: A bright and vibrant piece in lighter colours than some of the other watches on the list, so a refreshing addition that boasts functionality as well as style in the form of a tachymeter scale. 

The second hand stands out to ensure precision timing and I love the minor detail of having one end of the hand in the shape of an aircraft!”

The 4 best pilot’s watches you can buy, chosen by an actual pilot

Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Racing Bird

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