Air Watches Its History and Development

Air watches aviation watches pilot watches

Pilot Watches: An Explicit Review

It is amazing how lots of great inventions turn out to perfectly serve other purposes which they weren’t originally designed for. And for the pilot watches or the air watches as you may know it, fashion freaks are happy!

While many fashion enthusiasts relish in their elegant look from a complete combination of a fabulous clothing and a sleek timepiece that catches attention, it will interest you to know that most pilot wristwatches are faithfully serving at an altar of luxury fashion where they weren’t ordained for.

Sounds intriguing, right? Read on to learn more about Pilot watches.

pilot watches held on hand

Photo by Sean Paul Kinnear on Unsplash

What are Pilot Watches?

As the name rightly suggests, if your instinct is whispering some clues to you about watches that are designed for an aviator, then you aren’t far from the truth. And obviously, it seems you were an A-grade student in college.

Well, as you would rightly guess, Pilot watches are watches that were designed originally for use by aircraft pilots. So, with a pilot watch on a pilot’s wrist, they won’t have to disengage their hands from the aircraft’s control to check the time. Possibly about how many minutes or hours left to get to their destination.

airwatches example big size large hands dials

A Brief History of Pilot Watches

Out of the cockpit of a fixed-winged aircraft which was the world’s first aircraft, pilot watches were conceived. The need for a pilot watch became very necessary when the rich, eccentric European, Alberto Santos-Dumont while enjoying a flight with his good friend, Louis Cartier, in 1906 complained to his friend that he’s having too many challenges with his pocket watch.

alberto santos dumont photo


Alberto Santos-Dumont

(20 July 1873 – 23 July 1932)

Brazilian inventor and aviation pioneer, one of the very few people to have contributed significantly to the development of both lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air aircraft.


This was necessitated by the fact that he can’t reach to his pocket watch when flying in his contraption which he had newly bought, and so he needed a wristwatch that can easily be read from while flying. And so, with such a necessary concern for Santos, Louis Cartier resolved instantly to design and produce a watch for his friend Alberto Santos. This watch turned out to become the first of such devices that would later be called the Pilot’s watch.

Louis Cartier

Louis Cartier (1875–1942)

Famous French watchmaker and businessman known worldwide for his watch designs. Founder of Cartier French Conglomerate known for Jewelry Manufacturing and Watchmaking.



However, this doesn’t mean that this was the inception of wrist watches. Wristwatches had already been in existence by then, but it was mostly a small faced timepiece which was worn by rich ladies as an ornament. So, it was the Cartier-Santos pilot watch by the fathers of aviation that made the bold-faced wrist watches very popular throughout the world.
With the willingness to design a watch that will serve his friend best, Louis Cartier designed the pilot watch, which was later named after his wealthy friend “the
Santos-Dumont wristwatch.” As Santos would love to have the pilot watch made, Louis Cartier designed the watch in an elegant, simple, and easy to read bold figures. This Louis designed purposely to enable his friend Santos to tell the time even when he had his hands busy controlling his fixed-winged aircraft.

Pilot Watches Today

Like the air watches that was built by Cartier for his friend Santos, contemporary pilot watches are designed with much resemblance to what was conceived in the cockpit of a fixed-winged aircraft. Today’s air watches still follow the same pattern of a large display with bold figures that can be read without straining the eyes and having a motor vehicle which works as a deckhand.

Accompanying the simplistic read-out face of pilot watches, is its resistance to losing time or a complete stoppage when exposed to centrifugal force, changes in gravity, or vibration. These are the basic features you can easily use in telling that a wristwatch is a true breed of the pilot watches – especially with a large face being the most common identifier.

 air watches modern design and feel by pixabay

Basic Features and Functions of Pilot Watches

Pilot watches have a clear distinction from other sports watches. Some of these features below are what you should look out for if truly you need to have the same seamless experience Santos had with his aviator watch.

  1. High legible, large open dial with prominent hands. Arabic numerals, indexes, and high contrast.

  2. Computerized flight bezel markings to help in checking wind correction angle, fuel burn, and other flight parameters.

  3. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Dual time functions to keep track of destination time, local time as well as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

  4. Faraday cage or anti-magnetic seal with a crystal technology to guard against a sudden drop in pressure.

  5. Riveted leather straps with an oversized winding crown for easy adjustment.

 air watch on table

Pilot Watches, Meant For Who?

Like you would guess, pilot watches are perfectly designed to serve the aviation gurus since it has all they need for a perfect flight. If you consider pilot watches to be only for these folks, then features such as these are what you are looking at:

  1. No-nonsense dial with larger hands and an uncluttered look for high-contrast legibility

  2. Mission Time “Countdown” bezel or a comparable straightforward bezel functionality similar to a 12-hour time indication

  3. Non-reflective and shatter-proof sapphire crystal

  4. Anti-shock movement mount with a highly sturdy case design

  5. Swappable bracelet or leather strap options for more flexibility

Also, you can see the Pilot watches to be a perfect fit for the fashion freaks who have a taste for modern fashion accessories. If you are in this category, you will love these features:

  1. Versatile aesthetic design that fits a formal and casual setting

  2. Large and bold-faced sized that gives you the right "flight jacket" feeling on your wrist.

  3. A distinct triangle 12 O' clock marker with an oversized knob

  4. Considerable power saving ability with a simple time-only display

pilot watch on top of desk 

Image by Marc Ruef from Pixabay

Bottom Line

In recent time, a pilot watch turns out to be a great asset for the style conscious and every everyday casual or corporate wearers. Coupled with the historical origin of Pilot watches, they seem to rank highest among the group of timepiece options that are most sought for.

Just as you may have it serve you, pilot watches now come in a wide range of varieties, and this makes it an important factor why you need to consider your aesthetic or functional needs before choosing one.

Considering what is your best choice and going for it is the simplest fulfilment you can derive from air watches, and with their outstanding build from renowned brands, you definitely won’t go wrong with pilot watches.


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