Cover From left: Zenith, Oris and Patek Philippe (Photos: Respective brands)

The pilot’s watch was a handy navigational instrument for the aviators in the early days. As such it had to be legible (think large numerals and luminescent hands), robust, precise and functional. Today, while it is no longer required to play such a role (although pilots are still taught the basic dead reckoning navigational technique using a watch), the pilot’s watch remains popular with discerning men, and some women, simply because its athletic build feels and looks so good on the wrist. That a lot of them possess that vintage allure linked to the romantic nostalgia of the early days of flying is just icing on the cake. Here are some of our favourites so far this year.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II

Launched in 1955, the GMT-Master was so closely associated with the boom of intercontinental travel at the time that it also became Pan Am’s official watch, often seen beneath the cuffs of the airline’s pilots. The GMT-Master II updates that transcontinental appeal by matching, for the first time, the emblematic Oyster case with the five-link Jubilee bracelet and a blue-and-red Cerachrom bi-directional bezel.

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IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition “150 Years”

The new blue lacquered dial features rhodium-plated hands and a large date aperture at ‘12’. Limited to 150 pieces, it is powered by the hand-wound 59210 movement with 8-day power reserve.

Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Racing Bird

Based on its concept super flying machine BR-Bird, the new Racing Bird catches the eye with its stylish looks of white dial and blue numerals, bezel, chronograph counters and strap. Orange accents allude to the favoured colour of flying instruments. The 41mm case is crafted of satin-polished steel.

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Breitling Navitimer 8 B01

Endowed with a new automatic movement, Caliber 01 with a ratchet-wheel chronograph, this extremely well-designed watch features large Arabic numerals that recall the Bretling’s earliest pilot’s watches, luminescent hands for greater legibility and water resistance up to 100m. Our favourite part? The bi-directional bezel with notches of alternating satin-finished and polished surfaces.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Calibre 114

Boasting a strapping 44mm stainless steel case, this tribute to Oris’ aviation heritage runs on its fifth in-house movement, Calibre 114, that possesses a whopping 10-day power reserve from a single oversized barrel. The anthracite or black dial features perfectly proportioned displays of the non-linear power reserve and the 24-hour second time zone.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph

Powered by a high-beat El Primero movement, the choice of bronze case lends the watch a retro-chic vibe. The material also takes on a patina unique to the wearer over time, which is a bonus. The solid caseback depicts Louis Bleriot’s plane that crossed the English Channel in 1909. Pairing the 45mm watch with a blue oily nubuck leather strap only ensure complete ruggedness.

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Alpina Startimer Pilot Chronograph Quartz

There is something about the coming together of the creamy beige dial and the blue nylon strap that is just so irresistible. One of five new versions of the Startime Pilot, the case is 42mm steel with scratchproof sapphire crystal while the dial features luminous indexes and hand-polished hands.

Patek Philippe Ref. 7234R-001 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

And here’s one for the ladies. Originally launched in 2015 in white gold case, the latest features rose gold case measuring 37.5mm in diameter, with a brown dial. On the left side of the watch are the pushers to adjust the second time zone. The brown calfskin strap is reminiscent of the harness on a pilot’s survival kit.

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