Horology, part 2 - The History of Pilot Watches

Updated: Jan 3

Pilot watches and field watches share a lot of characteristics. They are usually very resistant, easy to read under any light conditions, and have high contrast between dial, numbers, and hands.

The main difference between the two types is that pilot watches were originally bigger (the German B-Uhrs were 55mm) and had large crowns to allow operation while using gloves. Some of them also had an iron ring around the outer edge of the movement, making it anti-magnetic and preventing interference from the equipment on board the aircraft.

After World War II, pilot watches started getting attention from watch enthusiasts and new models were developed to capture the growing demand from civilians. Over time, cases had their sizes reduced and new complications were created, with the most popular being the GMT.

The first Pilot watch is believed to be the one Louis Cartier designed for his friend (and my fellow Brazilian citizen), the inventor and pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont:

Rolex created the first GMT watch in partnership with Pan Am Airways for pilots crossing many time zones on long-haul flights: