This year’s Baselworld saw some interesting new renditions of aviation-inspired watches that will make their way to stores, and wrists, beginning next month. Pilot watches have been around almost as long as planes have been flying. Early pilot watches offered slide rules and methods for calculating such important information as fuel consumption, distances and speed.
Today’s aviation watches continue to offer similar useful data, as well as other pertinent functions, including world time, GMT and chronograph modes. Interestingly enough, though, many of today’s finest designs harken back to yesteryear styles. Vintage looks combined with mechanical precision and extra features make for a very strong aviation watch.
Generally, though, a good pilot’s watch should be glare-proof, have a big dial and large, easy-to-read numerals, offer Super-LumiNova hands and markers, and, where possible be a COSC-certified chronometer. Examined by the Swiss observatory, Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC), chronometer watches undergo rigorous testing over a period of time for such influences as extreme temperatures, changes in gravitational forces and other stringent conditions, and are certified if they pass within certain precise standards.
Longines has a lot to celebrate in aviation this year, as 2017 marks the 90th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s historic non-stop flight across the Atlantic – flying in the famed Spirit of St. Louis plane in 1927. During that flight, which Longines timed, Lindbergh wore a Longines watch and at the end of the flight, he approached Longines with a design for a new watch for pilots. That watch became the Lindbergh Hour Angle watch, first released to the world in 1931, and the brand has produced it on and off over the decades. The watch was unique because of its rotating bezel that allowed for calculations of longitude.
This year, to celebrate, Longines unveils the Longines Hour Angle 90th anniversary watch, with just 90 pieces being made. The new watch marks the first time an Hour Angle watch is being offered in titanium. The 47.5mm case features a rotating bezel made of black PVD steel. A center disk on the dial allows the wearer to synchronize the seconds, and the watch offers a 180-degree scale for calculating longitude. A self-winding Caliber L699 movement powers the watch and the piece is finished with a vintage-looking brown leather strap.
Price: CHF 5,000
The watches themselves are a large departure from FC’s lines, with quite aggressive styling, big instances, and bold, contemporary dials.They have several themed ranges, but the many vast is their lineup of Aviation Watches. With models which range from quartz chronographs into a 50mm hand-wound remake of a watch from 1926 to a clean, classic 40mm automobile and much more, they have got their bases covered. Most interesting to us, though, is the Startimer Pilot Manufacture: Little Date Automatic. Using their attractively decorated in house Swiss made automatic, this big contemporary pilot watch is visually striking, and also a great value for a manufacture watch, coming in at $2,550. When you consider that many of the very popular and much better known sports brands currently out there have off-the-shelf automatics and the same starting price or higher, the value proposition is quite apparent. That said, their is certainly a bulge in price to opt for the manufacture motion. Luckily, they’ve essentially the exact same watch in 40 and 44mm instances with Selitta automatics, including a brand new version for 2014 known as the “Sunstar”. So if the look does it to you, however, the price doesn’t, you got options.Before we reach the review, I really do think it’s worth bringing up exactly what I would deem as the biggest negative of the opinion. It does not affect the caliber, the ending, the style, the value or how pleasurable it is to wear. They differ in many ways, clearly, in the ribbon to the palms, of course the movement, and various minutia, but at the close of the day, at-a-glance, it appears like an IWC. No, of course not, unless they’re an IWC die-hard. And on one-hand, they’re making a watch of this design more accessible, while beating the other brand on value greatly. It’s just when I visit a new with the capabilities that Alpina has making something that feels somewhat derivative, I get frustrated as I think they are hindering their own prospective.
At Baselworld, Zenith unveiled new aviation timepieces in its Heritage Collection. Easily top among them is the Pilot Extra Special Chronograph with a bold bronze case. The watch features a ratcheted easy-to-adjust crown and pushers, as well as large luminescent numerals that are actually made from blocks of white (with green emission) Super-LumiNova SLN C1.
The Pilot Extra Special Chronograph features a sandblasted black dial and is finished with a khaki green nubuck leather strap. The 45mm bronze case will garner its own patina over time as it touches the skin and makes contact with the air and other elements. The watch features a railway minute track and offers two chronograph counters on the dial. Beating at the heart of the automatic watch is the El Primero chronograph high-beat Caliber 4069. The column-wheel chronograph caliber beats at 5Hz and enables 1/10th of a second display.
Price: CHF 7,400
Alpina has also added to its Startimer Pilot collection this year with four new watches that offer new dials and case options. The 44mm Startimer Pilot Automatic is offered in steel with a gray dial, in steel with a matte blue or white dial and in rose-gold plated steel with a matte white dial. The watches feature an oversized crown for easy use, and the dial offers minutes via an outer track and the brand’s signature red triangle-tipped hand. The watch is powered by the automatic caliber AL-525 movement, based on a Sellita SW200. It offers 38 hours of power reserve and is being offered at a highly affordable price.