Our next installment in the history of the watch series is the pilot watch. If you missed our other entries in this series the past posts can be found here. These watches have been worn as an aviation accessory for almost the entire existence of flight. A brief history of the amazing timepiece begins below!


The Beginnings

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The iconic pilot watch stems from the need to keep accurate time calculations while in flight. When planes were first flying there was no such thing as computers and time computing, so very accurate timekeepers were needed in the skies to keep accurate flight times and data among other uses. The first iteration of a pilot watch was created by Cartier in 1906. Louis Cartier’s friend, Santos Dumont, a pilot, requested a watch that would be easy to use while he was in flight and manning the complex controls of aviation. This watch, named the Santos, was a square dial that can be used for calculating airspeed and fuel consumption among other uses. 


The War Years Growth


The two world wars saw a major change in aviation and with it a growth in pilots watches. A heavy need for accurate timekeeping grew during the bombing raids of World War 2. The First World War saw the pilot watch used mainly as a navigation device used for precise timekeeping over a given area. These watches were sometimes marked with the letter A to denote aviation. The resulting growth in the pilots’ timekeeper market was enormous. Omega and zenith were two of these companies that saw growth from world wars.


The Market Today

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Pilots watches are still widely available today with many companies offering their own versions. Of note, Zenith and IWS are major players in the aviation watch market. Pilots still wear these watches today, though many modern planes have built-in instruments that make the pilot watch obsolete, it still serves as a useful backup for these systems. These watches are also widely collected items around the world and can even be fashionable outside of the cockpit.


An Interesting Fact 

Many of the pilots’ watches made throughout history have a unique crown. The design of this crown was made deliberately for ease of use with thick jackets and gloves needed for unheated cabins. The large crown was easy to use with this attire. 


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