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