Watches and aviation have become synonymous with each other since the early 1900s. Back then, the closest someone came to be an actual pilot were the Wright brothers, with their history being well documented over the years. However, it wasn’t until 1906 that Alberto Santos-Dumont flew the first powered flight in Europe that transpired to the entire history of aviation watches.
Being close friends with Louis Cartier, Santos-Dumont enlisted the help of the watchmaker to create a timepiece that would made it easier to tell time without having to rely on a pocket watch. This gave birth to the world’s first aviation watch, the Cartier Santos-Dumont. Featuring its signature leather band with a curved dial in a rectangular case, the Cartier Santos-Dumont became an important part of the evolution of aviation watches.
These days, many brands carry its very own take on aviation watches, featuring the latest in haute horology. From the likes of Breitling to Bermont and IWC, the market for aviation watches has never been better. While many pilots would prefer an aviation watch, many fanatics have also taken a liking to it due to its symbolic nature, or probably because it fits their lifestyle. Be that as it may, aviation watches are not going away anytime soon.
Hero Image: Rolex; Featured Image: Monochrome Watches
Rolex is considered to be the Ferrari of luxury Swiss watches. Suitable towards deep-sea diving, mountain climbing, and polar exploration, one area of expertise that Rolex does really well is also aviation inclined. The Oyster Perpetual GMT Master, which is part of its professional collection. Originally launched in 1954 in collaboration with Pan American Airways, the Oyster Perpetual GMT Master is known for its two-tone bezel, 24-hour display, and 12-hour hand. Over the years, it has evolved into the GMT Master II while still retaining its signature two-tone bezel.
The International Watch Company, also known as IWC, is a Swiss luxury watch brand that requires no introduction. Having been around since 1868, it wasn’t until the 1930s did it focus its attention on making pilot watches. Its first ever Special Pilot’s Watch came with a rotating bezel, anti-magnetic escapement, and a rugged glass for increased sturdiness. Over the years, IWC continued its tradition of manufacturing and producing aviation watches with the IWC Top Gun and IWC Spitfire collections as well. Of course, nothing leans towards aviation more than its Pilot’s Watches thanks to its signature dial display and oversized crowns.
The only French company on this list, Bell & Ross started out in 1992 with its range of watches drawing inspiration from aircraft cockpits. From first glance, one can already tell the level of influence aviation has over it. While still at an adolescent age when it comes to haute horology, Bell & Ross’ vision was to bring back the glory days of pilot watches from the 50’s and 60’s — engaging with aircraft control specialists to create series after series of watches specifically for aviation enthusiasts. Its BR 01 and BR 03 series, in particular, focus heavily towards mimicking an aircraft’s clock and dashboard.
Swiss watches have always been known to be reliable yet stylish with uncanny precision. These descriptions best suit Breitling, a Swiss luxury watch company that has been around since 1884. Its logo alone tells the tale of its aviation and nautical history. Many Breitling watches came with various timing and conversion rulers, making it suitable for pilots to calculate distance, fuel, and flight speed. However, it is the slide rule bezel that put Breitling aviation watches on the map, more specifically its Navitimer series. Both the Navitimer 1 and Navitmer 8 collections showcase a wide array of aviation watches for one to choose from.
Bremont is a British watchmaker founded in 2002 by brothers Nick and Giles English to caters towards luxury aviation-themed watches. Known for creating special edition watches for both serving and former members of the armed forces, Bremont also specialises in its aviation watches. Ranging from its 1918 limited edition to the ALT1-P and AIRCO, Bremont ensures that although it may be young, the brand ethos towards aviation watches stems from a solid foundation. Some key characteristics that define a Bremont watch include its large dial, multiple faces within said dial, and its large numerals.