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It all started in 1904 when Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont commissioned watchmaker Louis Cartier with the job of designing a bold and easy-to-read timepiece. Being a pilot surrounded by navigational instruments that demanded constant observation, Dumont needed a timepiece that wasn’t too complicated and would help him read time with just a quick glance. This led to the creation of pilot watches – boldly indexed and large-dial timepieces that were an in-flight timekeeping instrument and an on-ground style statement. While this happened more than a century ago, pilot watches have substantially evolved since then to become luxury novelties. Maintaining the original blueprint yet infusing modern watchmaking accents, they have a cult following among aviation enthusiasts. If you’re looking to be a part of this niche group, these are five timepieces that could help you get started.

Breitling Aviator
Breitling Aviator Series

 

Breitling has always had a passion for engineering, be it motoring or aviation. Apart from being the go-to brand for chronometre timepieces, Breitling also takes pride in their influence in vintage as well as modern aviation. The Aviator is a part of Breitling’s aviation and sailing-inspired Navitimer 8 B01 series, and boasts an automatic movement with a three-sub dial chronograph. In terms of design, the leather strap and steel casing give it a bold vintage aviator-esque appeal.

Price: Rs 5,29,340

Longines Avigation A-7
Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7

There’s almost no other watch like the Avigator A-7 today. This aviation timekeeper by Longines has a distinct style with an angled dial and a large onion-shaped crown at an unusual position – it harks back to a style which allowed pilots to read the time quickly and easily since they wore watches on the inside of his wrist over thick gloves. This timepiece celebrates the brand’s history and ties with the American Army in 1935. Apart from the tilted axle, the timepiece boasts a chronograph, an open caseback and a date window. It comes with a white lacquered dial with an automatic movement underneath. Perhaps, one of the most unique pilot watches around.

Price: Rs 2,19,500

Alpina Startimer
Alpina Startimer

On the simpler side, the Alpina Startimer boasts a classic black dial and stainless steel colour combo. Running purely automatic, it boasts a chronograph and date window. It’s a no-fuss pilot watch that’s great as a first purchase, considering its price too. The Startimer series also comes with a blue dial and stainless steel variant too, for those who prefer a steel strap over a leather one.

Price: Rs 1,67,600

IWC Le Petit Prince Pilot Watch
IWC Pilot Le Petit Prince Edition

The Le Petit Prince is one of our favourite watches – this version debuted late last year. Worn at the Grammy’s by Bradley Cooper, it was later auctioned off for charitable purposes. The piece is loaded with complications and features a chronometer, a day-date window, minutes, and small seconds sub-dial too. Cased in rose gold and strapped on with calfskin, the elegant blue dial makes for a perfect pilot watch. Limited to just 250 units.

Price: Rs 16,67,000

Zenith Pilot Series
Zenith Pilot Series

The Zenith Pilot Series is one of the most recognised pilot watches of all time. The line is deeply entrenched in vintage war aviation and the the Type 20 Special is an example of that. Boasting an Elite 679 calibre, this automatic Pilot piece is housed in bronze. The elegant blue dial and strap give it the luxury touch it needs since the dial embraces a tone of simple elegance.

Price: Rs 4,60,200

All images: Courtesy brand

Mikhail Gomes
Senior Features Writer
A watch aficionado, Gomes also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.