Modern pilot watches are no longer made for aviators, although they retain all the key features that made them tool clocks in the first place. Advances such as electric navigation have made the idea of using only paper, pencil and the calculation rule in your trusted Breitling to make important calculations obsolete, while most drivers actually quartz models for its accuracy.
Although pilot watches have become detached from the cabins that formed them in the first place, the evolution of the pilot watch tells the story of our efforts to ascend to heaven, from the desire of Alberto Santos-Dumont d ‘abandoning his pocket watch until the commercialization of international travel causing the increase of dual time zones. Here, we trace the main moments in the history of pilot watches through seven models that were the most innovative. (In our opinion anyway …)
Cartier Santos (1904)
While it bears no resemblance to a pilot’s watch, the Cartier Santos was designed to be exactly that. It was made by Louis Cartier for his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont, a reckless aeronaut who built flying machines. Santos-Dumont asked Cartier to create a watch that he could wear on his wrist instead of having to search. pocket watch while flying one of his creations.
The result was the first wristwatch and the first pilot watch. The small original square carcass piece has been lost, but its lineage is evident in the minimalist lines of current designs.
Zenith Aeronef Type 20 Watch (1909)
Thanks to Santos-Dumont and the Wright brothers, the age of the pilot knight arose. And those who had money and a touch of madness wanted their names to be immortalized in history books. One who succeeded was Louis Blériot, who was the first man to cross the English Channel. Tied to his wrist was a Zenith, which cemented the Swiss watchmakers links with aviation.
It also served as inspiration for the 1939 Airplane Type 20 Watch, the chronometric instrument later designed for the cabins of French aircraft.
Longines Lindbergh Hour Angle Weems (1930-1)
This intriguing-looking watch was devised by aviator Charles Lindbergh, who crossed the Atlantic in 1927, as an improvement on Lieutenant Commander Philip Weems ’earlier navigation system, which was also produced by Longines. Weems invented an independently adjustable second ring, which allowed pilots to synchronize their clocks with the time of the radio without stopping the second hand.
There were no radio signals over the ocean at the time, so Lindbergh devised a clock that could calculate length using time, hour angle, and a sextant (all contained in the clock). with the help of a nautical almanac to determine the discrepancy between civilians. and solar time.
It’s an awesome navigation tool and it also looks amazing. Just don’t tell anyone you’re not entirely sure how to use it.
The observation clocks / B-UHR (1941)
Designed for Hitler’s newly created Luftwaffe, these observation clocks were intended to be used by the aircraft’s navigator. They were 55mm in size, but definitely designed to be worn on the wrist.
These watches establish the design language of the modern pilot watch: large, easily readable Arabic numerals; the onion crown that could be adjusted with gloves on; the marker of the triangle at 12 o’clock flanked by two points; luminescence; antimagnetic balance; and long strap so it can be worn over clothing.
Made by A Lange & Sohne, Laco, Stowa, Wempe and IWC, its history may be murky, but its aesthetic has endured.
Breitling Chronomat (1941) and Navitimer (1957)
One cannot speak of the Navitimer changing the game of Breitling without reference to its predecessor, the Chronomat. In 1940, Breitling applied for a patent from the Swiss government for a circular ruler that could work in conjunction with a wristwatch. They sold well, but when Breitling got to upgrade it, he decided to create a watch that could really be useful for commercial pilots, and the Navitimer was born.
The new clock had a logarithmic scale, which has its roots in seventeenth-century Scotland and an astronomer named John Napier. This was adapted by a mathematician named Marcel Roberts to measure the three most important units for pilots: STAT for standard mileage, KM for kilometers, and NAUT for nautical miles. These three combinations allowed pilots to easily make complex calculations, such as average speed and fuel consumption.
It’s pretty useless for citizens now that we all have cell phones, but if you have one and you don’t want to look silly, this section of the FHH website it may be worth a read.
Rolex GMT-Master (1954)
This is the watch that introduced the dual time zone feature to the world. As air travel became more common, this feature was useful for those who needed to keep track of home and local time. The pilots were especially in love. It was not made for Pan-Am, as some like to say, but the American airline did ask for it. Rolex to be the official watch of its pilots, giving rise to the now iconic red and blue bezel, known to collectors as “Pepsi”.
Since then, the GMT-Master has been succeeded by the GMT-Master II, which added a third time zone thanks to the addition of independent time and 24-hour hands that leaves the bevel free for a time zone. additional.
Bremont MBI (2007)
This model did not exactly change the pilot’s watch, but it certainly took him to new heights. In 2007, the British company Martin-Baker, the world’s leading manufacturer of ejectable seats, asked his colleagues British brand Bremont if they could create a mechanical watch that could withstand the ejection pressure of a fighter jet.
For those who have not experienced this, it is apparently one of the worst experiences the human body can go through due to the 15-19G it has to endure. The clock had to survive the same rigorous tests to which the seats were subjected (extremes of altitude, temperature and vibration), as well as the expulsion itself.
Bremont created the MBI, an extremely durable watch with a three-layer case, a patented anti-shock movement support, and an interior directional bezel. Normal mortals can get into the hands of an MBII or MBIII, but the MBI is only held for those who have had to pull the ejection handle.