It all began with a simple request. Brazilian inventor and aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont wanted to tell the time while flying. He wanted to time his flights – some of the most revolutionary in the history of air travel – while still keeping both hands on the aircraft controls. It was a simple request, and yet what followed brought the world of men’s wristwatches to brilliant new heights.
It was here that the iconic Santos de Cartier was born, the first ever pilot’s watch, noted for its rectangular shape and easily legible dial. The watch made high-flying history, and revolutionised wristwatches as a stylish accessory – an accessory which was formerly only sported by women.
Cut to the 21st century and we’re still as fascinated by the skies, with aviation watches having evolved from handy technological time-keeping tools to stylish wrist statements. Distinguished by a longer wristband, clearly legible dials, and a timezone complication or a slide rule, aviation watches have set themselves apart to play (nay, fly) in a league of their own. Its wearers are no longer confined to behind the buttons of the cockpit, but may also be those reclined in First Class with a glass of Dom. They still bear much of that old-world allure, and an exploratory charm that lingers between the two worlds of man’s most beautiful technological feats: aviation and horology.
From trusted timekeepers for the full-fledged pilot to timepieces that merely draw inspiration from the incredible language of air travel, we’ve put together a list of our favourite aviation watches of the moment. Fasten your seat – belts watch lovers, your wrist wish-list is about to take serious flight.
Hero image and Featured image credit: Breitling
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Beginning our journey sky high with a true icon, no list of aviation watches would be complete without a legendary Navitimer model. Presented here in a red gold limited edition, the beautiful Breitling Navitimer 01 46mm (approx. THB 782,956) comes with the Swiss watchmaker’s signature aviator chronograph with a black dial and luminescent numerals on an 18K red gold case. Allowing its wearer to take to the skies with high performance and in great style, additional features include a rotating bezel with circular aviation slide rule and transparent caseback for admiring the movements. Definitely high-flying, and absolutely iconic.
Shop from Pendulum Ltd., M/F, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok, +662 610 9423
Did you know that in the 1930s, IWC was one of the first to note that the magnetic fields in an airline cockpit could interfere with the flight crew’s wrist watches? Decades later, the luxury watchmaker is still paying great attention to detail and precision, with its Big Pilot Watch Big Date Edition “150 Years” (THB 535,000) being no exception. The 46.2mm timepiece comes with a soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields, glass secured against displacement by air pressure drops, and, for the first time ever, a date display with large luminescent numerals. Clear, cut-throat, and yet casually cool, the timepiece is definitely a key player in any watch family fleet.
IWC Schaffhausen Boutique, F/M, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok, +662 610 9468
For all your night sky cruises, look no further than the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horolum (approx. THB 111,000). A fun fact for all flight fanatics: the timepiece features SuperLumiNova coating for its numerals and indices, allowing these to glow in the dark in the same colour used to light up airport runways. For extraordinary night-readability, this is further contrasted by a microblasted grey upper plate on the dial, that sits within a circular face on a square microblasted steel case. A 42mm watch with many dimensions, the robust and rigid timepiece is ideal for the curious night owl in your life.
Shop from Cortina Erawan Bangkok, 1/F, Erawan Bangkok, 494 Phloenchit Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok, +662 250 7999
Vintage-inspired pieces are all the rage lately, and for those looking for something along those retro lines, the Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7 (THB 126,800) makes for a charming option. Part of the Heritage Collection, the 41mm round watch is self-winding and features a single-push chronograph, yet its most captivating detail is definitely the white lacquered angled dial. Complemented by honey colour accents and blue steel hands, it’s a timepiece that takes us back to the times when air travel was an adventure, and when men wore suits to board planes.
Longines, M/F, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok
Part of Hamilton’s Khaki Aviation Collection, the 45mm Khaki Aviation X-Wind Day Date Auto (THB 43,900) comes as the new sleek and stylish sibling to the popular older Khaki X-wind line models. Featuring large SuperLumiNova numerals and sporty hands, the dial is easy to read, and provides a cool colour contrast between the stainless steel strap and case, black dial, and white and orange accents. Unusual with a steel strap on an aviation watch, it’s a watch for the man who doesn’t like to play by the rules – yet still accurately keeps an eye on them with a timepiece that is clean, balanced, and always ready for take-off.
Shop at Watch Galleria, M/F, Siam Paragon, 991/1 Rama Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok, +66 2 690 1000
Boasting an air of aviation adventure with it, the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Extra Special (THB 284,600) is a must-wear for all explorers of the skies. Featuring a green oily nubuck leather strap and a 45mm bronze case, the watch is not only visually charming, but also mechanically adept. All the traditional pilot attributes are present: large welded lugs, a wide screw-down crown, and big clear white numerals, as well as a column-wheel chronograph. Definitely oozing a cool rugged look, here’s a watch that looks best in the company of a pair of pilot gloves and goggles.
Shop from Pendulum Ltd., 1/F, Gaysorn Plaza, 999 Phloenchit Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok, +662 656 11167
Are you wearing a black-on-black watch yet? Riding on the tails of the trend, the Bremont U-2/51-JET (approx. THB 160,000) pulls from the iconic Limited Edition P-51 model for inspiration, yet confidently holds its own by combining the brand’s trademark vintage 51 lume together with new heat-treated steel blue hands. Taking design cues from the brand’s military collaborations and projects, it’s a watch with a strong character, with the automatic movement visible through tinted black smoked glass on the caseback. Featuring Bremont’s patented Trip-Tick stainless steel, it’s also one of the most durable timepieces on the aviation watch market.
Shop from Pendulum Ltd., M/F, Siam Paragon, 991/1 Rama Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok, +662 610 7808
For our final item on the list, here’s a watch that will not only take you to the skies, but to the moon, too. Bringing in all kinds of new heights in aviation watch conception, the OMEGA Speedmaster Spacemaster Z-33 (THB 184,000) brings together the brand’s iconic Pilot Line case shape in titanium, with a brand new multi-function quartz movement. The heir to the legendary historic Flightmaster model, this one comes with a floating digital dial as well as analogue time-keeping hands. Furthermore, the watch features self-programmable pilot functions, allowing wearers to log up to ten flights. Sharp, futuristic, and fashionably fly.
Omega Boutique, M/F, Siam Paragon, 991/1 Rama Rd., Pathumwan, Bangkok, +66 2129 4878