As we enter the second half of 2019, we want to recap our list of best pilot watches of the year so far. We will publish the final list on our December Flieger Friday post. This year’s selection includes few re-editions of the historical pilot watches (Blancpain, Breitling, Oris), some colorful dial variations (Bell & Ross, Laco, Stowa, Sinn, Tutima, Zenith), and a wide range of price points ($460 – $19,000). We hope you enjoy reading about our favorites, and we welcome your comments on your favorite pilot watch of the year.
Blancpain Air Command
Blancpain is well known for its Fifty Fathom diver’s watch, which was issued to the American Navy in the early 1950’s. Based on the success of the diver’s watch, Blancpain developed a chronograph for the United States Air Force in the late 1950’s. This timepiece was offered to USAF pilots through the distributor Allen V. Tornek. The 2019 edition is equipped with a ratcheted “countdown” rotating bezel. The numbers of the bezel, as well as the dial hour-markers and hands, are made of “old radium” faux Superluminova, reproducing the orange hue of the original chronograph indications.
The 42.5mm case has a sapphire box-type crystal which adds to the retro appeal. The pilot watch is powered by F388B vertical-clutch chronograph movement with flyback function. The movement can be seen from case back with a propeller-shaped red gold rotor. Air Command is limited to 500 pieces and retail price is CHF 18,500.
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition
Breitling did a fantastic job with the re-creation of the iconic Navitimer 806 with the help of collector and consultant, Fred Mendelbaum. The re-edition is an all-black dial with tone-on-tone sub-dials and a rotating beaded bezel. The dial has Breitling written in capital letters and an unsigned winged logo. The unsigned winged logo was used for the European market, while the watches sold in the US had an AOPA-signed logo.
The details of the Navitimer are re-created to mimic that the original 1959 edition. The stainless-steel case is 40.9 millimeters (case is 40mm with the 0.9mm of beaded bezel), circular slide rule, domed acrylic crystal, and exact color tone of the luminescence (with SuperLuminova). Unlike the original 806, which was powered by the Venus movement, this re-edition has a newly developed in-house B09 hand-wound movement with a COSC chronometer certification. The Navitimer 806 is limited to 1,959 editions, and the retail price of $8,600.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Spitfire Bronze
At SIHH 2019, IWC unveilved the all new Spitfire Pilot watch collection. The one which stands out is the Pilot Automatic Bronze model priced at $4,900. The watch has 39mm bronze case with a height of 10.6mm. The green dial with gold plated hands, complements the bronze case very well, especially as the bronze develops patina over time. True to a pilot watch, it has central hacking seconds. IWC is one of the earliest watch brands which excels in protecting the movement again magnetic fields by implementing an inner cage made from soft iron, also known as Faraday cage.
IWC has integrated an in-house movement from the new 32000 caliber family into its pilot’s watches for the first time. The 32110 automatic movement features a pawl-winding system that winds up on both sides and boasts a power reserve of 72 hours. The case back has a neat engraving of the Spitfire plane. The pilot watch comes on a on a 20mm brown calfskin leather strap.
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date 80th Anniversary Edition
To mark the 80th anniversary of the watch, Oris has created the Big Crown Pointer Date 80th Anniversary Edition, a special piece with a 40mm case, fluted bezel and oversized crown cast in bronze, and a striking green dial. Especially when the bronze oxidizes and develops a patina, it complements the green dial well and morphs it into a retro tool watch.
The vintage appearance of the Oris is accentuated by the domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating inside. This is the only watch on this list which is not powered by an in-house movement. It uses the Sellita SW-200 automatic movement. But the $2,000 price tag is reflective of the reliable external movement. A sustainably sourced leather strap with bronze buckle is a nice touch.
Zenith Pilot Type 20 Adventure
Zenith extended its Pilot series with Type 20 Adventure in 45mm bronze case with a grained khaki green dial. The bronze and green make for a great color combination. Like rest of the Pilot series, Adventure’s dial has oversized Arabic numbers entirely made of SuperLuminova. Zenith makes the most legible pilot watch dial apart from IWC Big Pilot and Patek Travel Time.
Type 20 Adventure has a titanium case backs with an engraving of ZENITH Flying Instruments logo. It is equipped with an automatic Zenith Elite 679 caliber offering 50-hour power reserve. The case height is 14.25mm but it appears even more thick due to the domed sapphire crystal. The retail price of the Pilot watch is $7,100, and Zenith offers a choice of camouflage alligator leather or khaki matrix calfskin leather straps.
Sinn 104 St Sa A G
The 104 St Sa A G is a classic pilot watch with a brilliant metallic-green sparkling dial. A special technical feature is the captive pilot’s bezel with minute ratcheting, which can be rotated on both sides and is securely attached to the case.
The polished stainless steel case is 41mm with 11.5mm of height and 20mm lugs. The front sapphire crystal has anti-reflective coating on both sides. Transparent case back also has a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inside. A total of 500 of these watches are being produced, each with an engraved limited-edition marking on the rotor. The list price of Sinn 104 St Sa A G is $1,620.
Laco Augsburg & Aachen Taupe
Laco has expanded its entry-level collection, what they refer to as their “Basic pilot watches”, with two sophisticated taupe color dial variations of the Baumuster Type A and Type B fliegers. The dial offers a greyish color with a tinge of brown, also described as color of the French mole, which the French call as “Taupe”. Mole grey has always been a favorite of fashion designers, as this neutral color can be combined with virtually any type clothing and occasion.
The 42mm stainless steel case with the distinctive and grip crown assumes the rugged appearance of the classic Laco pilot watches. At the rear, the sapphire crystal base offers a clear view of the movement. All Laco Basic Pilot watches are powered by reliable Miyota 821A automatic movement. However, unlike the standard version, the movement will be equipped with a second stop function (hacking) for these two models. The case back also has the engraved serial number. The retail price of Augsburg Taupe and Aachen Taupe is $460.
Stowa Verus Black Forest Edition
Stowa released entry level Verus pilot watch earlier this year. The Verus Black Forest Edition watch is a limited edition of 200 pieces in the color scheme of the Black Forest. It is modern, clean, and functional. It features ETA 2824-2 TOP movement with a very nice finish, plus a black coated case, luminous dial and hands (BGW9 – blue luminescence at night).
The Verus Black Forest is available with or without date indication. Our favorite is the no-date dial. The matching leather strap comes with a black buckle. The price excluding the German VAT is 748 Euros. Verus Black Forest Edition was the winner of the 2019 Red Dot Design Award.
Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Military Beige
B&R V2-94 Military Beige was one of the most unique and photogenic colors offered amongst all the watches we had seen in Basel this year. The satin-polished stainless steel case is 41mm with scale and anodized aluminum insert and tachymeter. The crown and pushers are screw down for 100-meter water resistance.
V-94 Military has a nice beige dial with black painted numbers and indices. The front has an ultra-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. The case back also has a sapphire crystal for viewing the movement. The watch is powered by an ETA 2894 automatic movement with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module on top. B&R V2-94 Military Beige is packaged with either an elastic canvas strap for $4,300, or on a polished steel bracelet for $4,700.
Tutima Night Green Flieger
Tutima Night Green Flieger stands out from the crowd. The transition from deep green to dark midnight green on the dial is impressive. The night green joins the entry-level black and anthracite dials in the flieger automatic series.
The polished 41mm stainless-steel case lends a contemporary appearance to the traditional flieger dial. Even though the fluted bezel makes the dial larger, the short lugs balance out the watch very well. Tutima enhances the legibility of the dial with anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal. There is a sapphire crystal on the case back as well for viewing the automatic movement’s rotor with an 18-karat gold Tutima seal. Tutima Night Green Flieger is powered by their caliber 330, which is a re-worked ETA 2836 caliber. The flieger is available on a leather pilot-style strap for $1,650, or on a steel bracelet for $1,950.
Photo Credit: Respective brands