Best Watches for Pilots: What are the Top Rated Options in 2020?

When looking for the best wristwatches for pilots, an individual wants a timepiece that will make the flying experience easier.

It should have the necessary features, be very accurate, and will handle the high pressure well.

AT A GLANCE: MY TOP 5 PICKS FOR THE BEST WATCHES FOR PILOTS
  1. MY TOP PICK: Citizen JY8035-04E Eco-Drive Navihawk
  2. Seiko SNA411 Flight Alarm Chronograph
  3. Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph Watch
  4. Citizen AT8020-03L Eco-Drive Chronograph
  5. Seiko SND255P1 Flightmaster Pilot Watch

In addition, the watches should have good visibility even in low-light conditions.

And the following ones are the best pilot watches chosen by customers that you should know about.

Top (10) Best Aviation Watches for Pilots From Great Brands

Product imageProduct nameEditor's ratingPrice
citizen JY8035-04ECitizen JY8035-04E4.9 out of 5 starscta button
seiko SNA411Seiko SNA4114.8 out of 5 starscta button
bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph WatchBulova Lunar Pilot Watch4.8 out of 5 starscta button
Citizen AT8020-03LCitizen AT8020-03L4.8 out of 5 starscta button
Timex Intelligent Quartz Fly-Back Chronograph WatchSeiko SND255P14.7 out of 5 starscta button
Seiko SND255P1Timex TN7004.7 out of 5 starscta button
hamilton H64715535Hamilton H647155354.7 out of 5 starscta button
hamilto H77616533Hamilton H776165334.6 out of 5 starscta button
alpina AL-372B4FBS6Alpina AL-372B4FBS64.6 out of 5 starscta button
Breitling Transocean Unitime4.6 out of 5 starscta button

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Citizen JY8035-04E

citizen JY8035-04E

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This watch doesn’t feel too heavy on the hand.

It, however, is very solid and durable thanks to the stainless steel case.

It’s very suitable for both commercial airline pilots and military pilots alike.

It fits nicely on most wrists and doesn’t look too bulky or too small.

Besides, the 48mm case has a smooth finish that doesn’t dig into the skin or make the section sweaty or stuffy.

The digital display is clear for easy viewing.

In fact, many consumers say it’s more user-friendly in comparison to the analog type.

To improve visibility in the dark or low-light situations, the hands have good luminosity.

It’s very flexible and feels nice on the skin courtesy of the polyurethane band.

Pros:

  • Well designed and durable
  • Accurate and easy to use
  • Good quality and clear display

Con:

  • No magnetic compass

Seiko SNA411 Flight Alarm

seiko SNA411

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The Seiko SNA411 features a range of functions to make the pilots’ life easier.

They are all well-placed on the dial and don’t look too cluttered.

The silver tone-hands stand out from the black dial and viewing time is much easier.

In the dark or dim lighting, the hands and markers illuminate thanks to the lume.

It feels sturdy and handles vibrations, impact, regular movements, abrasion, falls and other things relatively well.

The stainless steel case and the Hardlex dial are some of the reasons that give it longevity and reliability.

For a man’s watch, it has a nice diameter of 42mm.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive chronograph
  • Fits nicely on the wrist
  • Versatile and clear views

Con:

  • The bezel may be a little hard to read

Bulova Lunar Pilot Watch

bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph Watch

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This timepiece gets a nod for its sturdy construction and high performance.

The stainless steel case should handle everyday use, exposure to moisture, high pressure, and other things.

And being stainless steel, it doesn’t rust, fade, tarnish, or corrode.

The 43mm diameter fits perfectly in a man’s wrist and doesn’t look too slim or bulky.

The good experience is enhanced by the smooth finish which also doesn’t leave marks or make the skin sticky or sweaty.

Thanks to the sapphire glass, the possibility of the face cracking, shattering, getting scratches, or losing clarity is very minimal.

Also, it is less affected by glare but still has decent visibility in low light.

Pros:

  • It feels very solid and datable
  • High performance and reliable
  • The Accuracy is quite good

Con:

  • The lume is not super bright

Citizen AT-8020-03L

Citizen AT8020-03L

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Pilots are all around, and that’s their job.

So they’ll be constantly dealing with multiple timezones, and we all know how much a hassle it can be to manually reset your watch every time you land.

That’s why this Citizen model is a great watch for pilots.

At the push of a button, you can change the timezone of your watch, and you can choose a timezone from over 26 different cities.

Making things just a bit more convenient.

Aside from that the watch also receives radio signals with atomic time.

So with the Atomic Timekeeping feature on, the watch will adjust itself based on the world’s most accurate time.

Powering all of this is the light-powered Eco-Drive movement, which gets its energy from a solar panel on the dial.

A truly convenient watch, made for people on the go.

Pros:

  • 26 different timezones available
  • 200m of water resistance
  • Atomic timekeeping
  • Solar-powered movement

Cons:

  • The design might be too loud for some

Seiko SND255P1

Seiko SND255P1

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This is another piece that has a more classic pilot’s watch look.

It has a deep blue dial, which contrasts the silver-toned stainless steel case and bracelet, while also serving as a great background to the white details.

The watch has a slide-rule bezel and a compass scale, which can be very useful when doing calculations, as well as a three-dial chronograph.

The watch runs on Japanese quartz, so accuracy should really be no question.

On top of that, the watch has a date window and a hundred meters of water resistance.

So all your timekeeping needs are covered with this watch.

For those who need a great pilot’s piece, you can wear every day, Seiko has you covered with this model.

Pros:

  • Japanese quartz movement
  • Slide rule bezel with compass scale
  • Three dial chronograph
  • 100m of water resistance

Cons:

  • Only has a Hardlex crystal

Timex TN700

Timex Intelligent Quartz Fly-Back Chronograph Watch

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Sometimes, pilot’s watches tend to be overloaded with sub-dials that make reading the watch very difficult.

Timex recognizes that and simplified the dial on this awesome-looking pilot watch.

Instead of complex dial and sub-dial layouts, the watch uses curved semi-circles on the dial that either display the chronograph or a second timezone.

It uses the classic fly-back chronograph that was designed for easy use and inspired by aviators.

The chronograph is incredibly easy to use, and when you aren’t using it, one of the “sub-dials” displays the hours from a second timezone.

So if you’re flying out for a couple of days, you can display your “home time” right on your watch.

Or if you’re a student pilot and still in your training, I highly recommend this user-friendly model.

Oh, and it’s pretty cheap compared to other options here, also.

Pros:

  • Easy to read dial
  • Simple and minimalist design
  • Displays two timezones
  • Fly-back chronograph

Cons:

  • Only has a mineral crystal

Hamilton H64715535

hamilton H64715535

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With all the technology available to us today, sometimes all those complications associated with a pilot watch aren’t necessary.

Sometimes all you need is a simple and stylish piece to wear while on the job.

That’s exactly what this Hamilton timepiece is.

It doesn’t even have a chronograph, so if you’re looking for a function packed watch, you’re barking at the wrong tree.

It has a very simple gray on black dial design with a date window.

It has a nice vintage look, and reading the time is a breeze.

It also has a Swiss Automatic movement, so you can expect the watch to keep ticking as long as you wear it regularly.

Aside from that, there isn’t much more to discuss with this watch.

So for those who want a minimalist and straight-to-the-point watch to wear on flights, you might have just found it with this Hamilton piece.

Pros:

  • Simple, laid back design
  • Swiss-made automatic movement
  • Date window
  • 200m water resistance

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a lot of complications

Hamilton H77616533

hamilto H77616533

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While the last Hamilton model was a toned-down simplistic timepiece, this one is more faithful to the classic pilot watch.

It has a three-sub dial chronograph, a unidirectional bezel, and a bunch of conversion numbers on the outer dial to make calculations much easier.

While some of these calculations may be easier to do on more modern technologies, it’s still a nice addition that gives the watch a professional look.

It also has a Swiss automatic movement, so you don’t really have to worry about manual rewinding as long as you wear the watch regularly.

On top of that is has a strong synthetic sapphire crystal and a brown leather strap that matches the black dial very well.

For those who want a more “classic” pilot’s watch should definitely check out this watch.

Pros:

  • Dial packed with functions
  • The large case looks great on any wrist
  • Synthetic sapphire crystal
  • Chronograph and day/date window

Cons:

  • Only has 50m of water resistance

Alpina AL-372B4FBS6

alpina AL-372B4FBS6

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For those who want a modern and minimalist look for their watch, this Alpina piece is worth your attention.

It has a very minimalist look, with a simple black and white dial with three sub-dials for the chronograph.

The dial has large markers to make reading the time easier for you, and the chronograph is easily controlled by the two buttons above the crown.

The watch also has a nylon strap that’s very comfortable, especially when worn for extended periods of time.

It’s also water-resistant up to a hundred meters, so it can handle multiple environments with no issues.

Powering the watch is a Japanese quartz movement that only loses or gains a couple of seconds a month.

So as long as your battery’s working fine, this watch will be a great tool for day-to-day use.

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to read dial
  • Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
  • Chronograph
  • Japanese quartz movement

Cons:

  • The strap takes some getting used to

Breitling Transocean Unitime

breitling AB0510U6-BC26-152A

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If you’re looking for a quality luxury pilot’s watch with a luxurious look, you may have just found it.

This might probably be the best Breitling watch for pilots out there.

It features a large, silver-toned stainless steel case and a mesh bracelet.

This looks very classy on its own and is supplemented even more by the black dial.

On the watch are all the timezones available at the press of the button, a function very useful for people who need to fly around a lot.

The watch also has a chronograph and is powered by a Swiss Automatic movement.

So as long as you wear this watch regularly it’ll keep ticking, which is especially important in a job where time is of the essence.

It also has 100m of water resistance to add to its durability.

A highly functional watch in a very stylish package.

Pros:

  • Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
  • Swiss-made automatic movement
  • Classy design
  • Chronograph

Cons:

  • Only has 100m of water resistance

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What to Consider When Buying Pilot Watches

best watches for pilots

Weight

Flying can be strenuous at times.

The last thing a pilot wants is to deal with a watch that seems to bog/ weigh him down.

A good timepiece will be relatively large for easier viewing of the many functions.

However, it will be moderately light.

To achieve this, manufacturers try it use lightweight material.

Another approach is to make it thinner.

For instance, you will find most men watches having a diameter of between 40-44mm.

However, they will feel lighter than normal watches.

Visibility

Lighting in a cockpit is normally not as bright as in a normal setting.

The darker settings allow the aviator to see the controls and consoles better just like in a car.

In such a situation, it is essential for the watch to be readable even in a low-light situation.

A good choice will have shiny or bright hands, and markers while the background or dial will be dark.

The higher the contrast the more visible the functions.

A good example is white or silver-tone hands against a matte black dial/ background.

Incorporating glowing lume on the sticks and markers is also a step in the right direction.

Durability

The pressure inside a cockpit or the airplane, in general, is higher than normal.

This due to the pressurized nature.

A weak watch is likely to develop leaks, crumble under pressure, and lose its effectiveness.

A good watch for pilots will handle extreme pressure well.

The case will be made of tough materials such as stainless steel.

The crystal will comprise hardwearing and shatterproof material such as sapphire.

The seams around the crystal will be airtight to prevent entries of moisture.

Just like the case and mineral, the strap/band, bracelet and buckle are also made of tough materials.

Accuracy and Precision

A pilot needs to have accurate information about the position, time, flight path, changing time zones, and other things.

It’s essential for a watch to be highly accurate to prevent the chances of miscalculation.

Top watches have fine clocks that lose only a few seconds in a month.

The frequency will be high and this improves precision.

Japanese and Swiss movements are the most common.

FAQ’s

What are pilot watches?

Pilots watches are the watches that the manufacturers specialize and design only for aviators on aircraft.

Due to the unique conditions of work, there are some special features of a pilot watch.

A large and bright face

Every aviator needs a watch that they can see clearly and quickly in any condition of weather, daytime, or nighttime.

As for this reason, their specialized watches are designed with large and dark dials, while the numbers and indices have high contrast. 

Night vision

A pilot watch allows users to see and read the time even at the lack-of-light condition.

It gives luminosity to enhance the night vision.  

Extra icons on the bezel

Pilots need more information than just the time on a watch: fuel consumption, wind correction angles, etc.

So, they want the bezel to have more markings on it like a small computer for calculation. 

Dual time

This feature is the last but not the least of a pilot watch.

An aircraft aviator must be well-aware of the time between two countries he’s going to arrive and depart.

It also helps pilots track multiple time zones. 

Do pilots use Apple watches?

Yes, they do, well, usually when they are out of duties. 

Indeed, every flight restricts the uses of electronic devices such as laptop, mobile phones, or other devices which can transmit signals.

You must turn off or set all the tools in airplane mode when taking off/landing.

And the Apple Watch is not an exception. 

Regularly, aviators don’t bring the Apple Watch when they are on duty.

They often use pilot watches instead. 

Why do pilot watches have a triangle?

This feature is also called the “orientation triangle” and is the most distinctive thing in pilot watches that no other watches have.

What is the meaning of it?

The orientation triangle is located at 12 o’clock position with two dots on each side.

It’s a luminescent indicator that is contrasting and legible at night.

Thus, in any condition, this triangle allows pilots to know the time with just a glance at the watch.

He can navigate the position of 12 o’clock, and then he can read the time easily.   

Do pilots use military time?

Yes, they do. Some pilots are interested in military time, and indeed, it’s very helpful and necessary. 

First, the military time format helps you avoid the confusion between A.M (morning hours) and P.M (evening hours).

Then, it’s easy to know what time it is whether the sky is dark, bright, or blur.

You don’t have to check your watch twice to see if it’s 9.00 am or 9.00 pm as for 9.00 pm, it’s 2100 in military format.

Second, military time helps pilots stay chronologically grounded.

Due to the specific job, you have to fly and be in the sky most of the time.

However, the time inland is a bit different from that on the sky, and so you need a tool to give accurate time. 

What watches did RAF pilots wear?

RAF (Royal Air Force) is an institution of aviation, which gathers the best pilots from all around the world.

With its long history, this force is also famous for the timepiece that became legendary – Newmark Chronograph. 

In 1980, the institution offered the Newmark Chronograph to its crew, including Tornado, Harrier, Vulcan, and Sea-King crew.

However, there were only 500 of these classic watches, and they have never been built more till 2018.

Kickstarter was the unit to bring Newmark Chronograph back to everyone as an everyday watch. 

Why can’t pilots wear polarized glasses?

Pilots should not wear polarized glasses when they are flying in the sky, and here are the reasons why.

First, polarized glasses have a function to reduce glare, and well, this is the point.

Essential information and instruments in the cockpit are incorporated with anti-glare filter, and so, pilots will find it hard to read instruments with polarized glasses.

Moreover, LCDs bring out the polarized light that you can read the information easily with polarized lenses. 

Second, the glare could help pilots identify an airplane coming in front by reflecting on the windscreen of the plane.

Wearing polarized will reduce glare and then makes it hard to see another aircraft on traffic. 

Who made the first pilot watch?

It was a Brazilian aviator – Alberto Santos-Dumont and his friend – Louis Cartier, who both made the very first watch, especially for pilots.

On those days before a historic flight, Santos-Dumont asked his friend to make a timepiece that allows him to use both hands on the airplane.

In 1906, his friend finished the first watch designed exclusively for pilots. 

What watch do Navy pilots wear?

Navy pilots have been equipped with a Garmin watch for each other.

This plan is attributed to the issues of the environmental control system and cabin pressurization. 

Garmin watch is here to help pilots with this problem as it can measure the air pressure and altitude.

It indicates the highest altitude that pilots can stand inside the cabin as the altimeter is challenging to read because of its size and location. 

Do pilots actually need to wear watches during flights?

Yes, of course, they do.

Moreover, they had better wear pilot watches, which are designed especially for aviators.

But do you know why?

A pilot wears a watch to calculate time-lapse, distance, and fuel consumption.

He will also know the time of the two different time zones (from the departure place to destination). 

What are the best watch brands for pilots?

There are many great watch brands in the market, but let’s take a look at below list for the best watch brands that pilots should wear:

  • Citizen
  • Seiko
  • Bulova
  • Timex
  • Hamilton

All of them are the greatest watch brands in the world, which make the greatest, coolest, and glossiest watches.

They also put the quality and durability on the top to make the products, why their designs are exceptional.

You can feel rest assured when purchasing these watches as they will never disappoint you at all.