What kind of watches do airline pilots wear?

Many manufacturers sell watches that they associate with pilots in their advertising. But do real airline pilots actually wear them?

With names such as ‘Aviator’, ‘Pilot’ and ‘Altitude’ the manufacturers certainly want you to think so, but what is the real story?

Since the earliest days of aviation pilots have indeed worn watches. The reason is that for much of the 20th Century working out how much fuel you had and where you actually were, entailed performing calculations requiring a reliable timepiece.

However today’s pilot certainly doesn’t spend much time with a map compass and wristwatch to calculate their location. Electronics are far faster and more accurate, although a good pilot is still expected to know how to navigate in the blind.

Zenith Pilot Wristwatch

You often see aviator watches with a dark face and white numerals and hands. This harks back to the night flying pilots whose watch numerals were painted in glow-in-the-dark paint. Unfortunately for British WWII pilots the glow was caused by radioactive radium and these old watches are still pumping out dangerous levels of radon, so consider that before purchasing a true antique. Better to choose a modern watch that has those classic old style looks.

So, back to our original question. The answer is that modern pilots wear wristwatches as items of jewellery just as civilians do.

However, when picking a watch, many pilots do opt for watches associated with the history of aviation. Well, when a watch looks as good as these, why wouldn’t you?

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About the author

Loves to learn new things and make stuff...properly. Born and living in the Thames Valley west of London, England. I have an office job during the day, but evenings and weekends are all about making.