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.
The watch we’re looking at today does have an El Primero, but it’s not the A273. It’s the new Timeless Chronomaster Heritage Chronometer limited edition. It’s closely inspired by that A273, of course, but it is not a reissue or a new version. Instead, it takes a leap forward, and not only in terms of the movement as we’ve made subtle updates throughout the watch. Let’s take a close look at the Timeless Chronomaster Heritage Chronometer and learn more about both its predecessor and the limited edition.The aesthetic heart of any watch is its dial. Almost everything that defines a model as a unique, distinctive piece can be found there. For this watch we wanted to use a dial that was extremely understated and clean, yet never boring. That meant removing almost everything that was superfluous. I find that the need for simplicity is greatest in chronographs, and other watches with intrinsically busy dials. This watch, therefore, would have no date and it would have no “El Primero” or “36,000 VPH” writing on it. It had to be reduced to the essence of what a chronograph must have while nonetheless balancing some of those traits that defined its ancestor.
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
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.