If you're an aviator, you already know how important great pilot watches are.

Many in our society shun watches in favor of checking a smart device for the time. But you probably recognize that pilot watches were the original smart device. Pilots have relied on accurate information to keep themselves and passengers safe for generations. Iconic watches from throughout the aviation age have helped pilots achieve this goal. Now, you can wear a piece of that history, crafted meticulously by some of the world's greatest watch makers. Whether you fly or not, the pilot watches below will keep you informed and at the peak of style. You might find these time pieces will quickly become conversation pieces. 

What to look for when shopping for pilot watches

A search for aviation or pilot watches online will deliver tons of results. You'll probably find the same at any local high-end watch dealer. Some will have the highly specialized features relied on by professional pilots. Others have styles that evoke classic pilot watches with few, if any, of those functions.

For the purposes of this list, I'll include a wide range of contenders. You know the level of functionality you want or need from your new watch. And with a little looking you're sure to find the right piece for your wrist. 

A few things to consider before shopping for pilot watches:

Like with any great accessory, you'll need to know what you want out of it before the search begins. After considering a few key questions, you'll be a lot closer to determining which of these pilot watches is right for you. 

How will you be using the watch?

A watch can mean many things to different people. Of course it's a convenient way to keep track of the time. But especially with pilot watches, it can be so much more. Consider any functionality you'll need as a pilot or other aviation professional. Then see how those features are designed and laid out on the face of each watch.

Does the arrangement make sense? Can you easily interpret the information when you need it? It's best to make sure these questions are answered before becoming enamored with a beautiful design that falls short on functionality. 

What is your own personal style?

Even if a watch technically has everything you need, if it clashes with your look you're not going to want to wear it. If you're like me and have worn watches since middle school, you know what you like.

Pilot watches are available in an array of colors, materials, shapes and sizes. Each one is targeted to a specific fashion sense. My advice is to take a moment to really think about your typical look. Then try to find a watch design that accentuates that style while making its own statement.

How much do you want to spend?

You can probably guess that it's not hard to spend big bucks on any number of luxury pilot watches. And if you're really looking for accurate aviation information, it's certainly not a time to skimp. Just like traditional watches, though, there are also many levels of quality, craftsmanship and design.

I would never recommend anything deficient in any of those categories. But don't think you have to spend a fortune to make a statement. Depending on whether this will be a central accessory or one in a collection, you might already have a price in mind. There's probably just the right watch waiting for you in that range.

Here are 6 of the best pilot watches on the market:

As you might have noticed in the chart at the top, I've already selected several of my favorite pilot watches. Along with a photo of each, I included some key specs and other information to help you make an informed decision.

1. IWC Big Pilots Watch Heritage 48 Titanium Automatic

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Credit: Amazon

This isn't one of IWC's most expensive or feature-heavy models. But it exudes luxury and style while holding all the visual cues of classic pilot watches. The visual symmetry of the dials and clean layout are appealing and easy to read. And details even down to the propeller shaped hands evoke thoughts of aviation. This watch features a unique mechanical hand wind feature. It can provide accuracy for eight days before shutting off.

PROS:

  • plus
    Beautiful calfskin band
  • plus
    Easy to read, large face

CONS:

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    Limited specialized features
  • Don't forget to wind it!

2. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Auto Chrono Automatic Watch

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Credit: Amazon

Hamilton is a great watch maker, and my personal choice as an entry into the world of pilot watches. For starters, models like this one are packed with cool features. Plus, with options starting under $1,000, it won't take a huge commitment to flaunt a Swiss made classic.

PROS:

  • plus
    Excellent value
  • plus
    Lots of functionality

CONS:

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    Smaller face than some models
  • Cluttered layout

3. Fortis "Spaceleader" Stainless Steel Automatic Watch

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Credit: Amazon

Fortis brings with it a long line of quality time pieces. This limited edition model builds on that in a classic look packed with useful functions. It's designed for easy readability with an anti-glare coating effective from all angles. Among the easy-to-decipher gauges on its large face is a tachometer and other useful functions. Plus, it's water resistant to 200 meters, so you will be covered in the sky, on the ground, and under water.

PROS:

  • plus
    Incredibly accurate
  • plus
    Sturdy and well built

CONS:

  • close
    Heavier than other models
  • Plain design

4. Breitling Navitimer World Chronograph Watch

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Credit: Amazon

Breitling makes some of the most beautiful pilot watches in the world. They're also among the most accurate and well built on the market. If you're thinking about acquiring a fine aviation time piece, this brand belongs on your short list. And this is my pick from among several fine choices. It's not the largest face on the list, but expect a big 46 millimeter case. The displays inside qualify as a work of art.

PROS:

  • plus
    Beautiful styling
  • plus
    Impeccable craftsmanship

CONS:

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    Harder to read at night
  • Might attract a lot of attention!

5. Bell & Ross BR 01-94 Automatic Watch

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Credit: Amazon

Let's be honest, this watch is not for everybody. But like I mentioned above, personal style is a huge component in shopping for pilot watches. That's why I included this striking Bell & Ross model. First of all, it's a limited edition. Only 500 were produced with the combination of this face and black rubber strap. Plus, it's a casual look that would make a good addition to any collection with too much leather or steel.

PROS:

  • plus
    Great color contrast
  • plus
    Mix of style and comfort

CONS:

  • close
    Polarizing design
  • Bulky on smaller wrists

6. Luminox F-22 Raptor 9273 Lockheed Martin Chronograph Watch

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Credit: Amazon

I wanted to end with this beautiful, more informal piece by Luminox. Created to honor the stealth fighter produced by Lockheed Martin, this is a truly unique time piece. It features several features including chronograph and tachymeter. This is a beautiful, colorful and versatile watch that will add some variety to your collection.

PROS:

  • plus
    Comfort and style
  • plus
    Lightweight titanium bezel

CONS:

  • close
    Cluttered face
  • Quartz movement

The best pilot watches do more than just tell time.

They are intricate tools used to guide professionals who perform complex tasks. Additionally, these watches are timeless works of art. With the right one on your wrist, you will perfectly complete your wardrobe.

Do you have a favorite pilot watch? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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