Pilot Watch: The Ultimate Flying Tool for Those Who Traverse the Skies

Aviator watches, more commonly known as pilot watches, are an exceptional and fascinating niche in the horological world. Making them a favorite amongst timepiece connoisseurs and collectors. But what makes pilot watches so desirable? Are pilots the only ones who can wear them? Let’s dig deeper.

The Birth of the Pilot Watch

Amongst the factors that make pilot watches popular and in demand are their sharp legibility and functional aesthetics. And just like dive watches and military watches, these timepieces were created out of necessity. Historians claim that the first-ever pilot watch was the one crafted by Louis Cartier for pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont. Designed to time his flights, it came with basic technical specifications. And this marked the beginning of the pilot watch’s fame.

Military forces such as the Italian Aeronautica Militare, the German Luftwaffe, the British Ministry of Defense, and the French Aéronavale often used various manufacturers to produce timepieces according to their accurate specifications. They paved the way for creating iconic models such as the B-Uhren, the Mark series, and the legendary Type 20 and 21 chronographs. 

Signature Features of a Pilot Watch

The pilot watch became a legend due to its notable features and specifications. And these are the key elements that massively contributed to its value and desirability.  

  • Slide rule bezel – A mini-computer version of the pre-digital era, this is a mechanical calculator that enables all sorts of inflight calculations. It can determine unit conversions, flight time, distance, speed, fuel consumption, and more. 

  • Contrasted and luminous dials – As a flying tool, pilot watches are large enough to be read. Highly legible displays are an essential feature, as well as Arabic numerals with markers. The dials are luminous and contrasted for readability purposes, especially useful during limited lighting conditions. They also come in matte black with large markers and numerals painted in radioactive material.


  • Orientation triangle - This triangular index positioned at 12 o’clock is a luminescent equilateral upright triangle with two dots on either side (for the B-Uhr-inspired watches). This enabled a pilot to immediately figure out the 12 o’clock indication with the vertical orientation of the dial and hence to read the time at a glance, both during daytime and nighttime. It can be difficult for pilots, considering a plane doesn't always fly in a straight line and be a challenge with simultaneously telling time. 

Pilot watches were created for aviation purposes. However, that doesn’t mean that only pilots can wear them. These timepieces are a brilliant option for everyday casual wear. And when choosing one, it’s imperative to know whether it can suit your aesthetic or functional needs. If you are searching for legendary and authentic French pilot watches, Chronofixe’s collection fits the bill. 

Explore our vintage timepieces today!