On January 15th, 2019, at the SIHH 2019, IWC has officially presented the Bronze Pilot 36mm Special Edition: a beautiful homage to a timekeeper that was introduced over 70 years ago and was worn by the British Royal Air Force pilots for many years to come. Featuring a deliciously compact and surprisingly -for a watch powered by a self-winding caliber- slim case machined from a bronze alloy, it looks stunning new and has a great potential to age graciously together with its owner.
Earlier this year, Steinhart has issued their new take on the concept of a “vintage-modern pilot”. Successfully blending vintage exterior with a classic caliber and modern CNC machinery, the 2018 Nav.B-Chrono 47 Baumuster B Grey Edition (ref. 106-0877) offers, perhaps, the best “value for money” ratio for those interested in buying a relatively affordable brand new “aviator”.
Looking at our stats, I see that demand for recommendations regarding diving watches is a seasonal thing with most visitors coming in summer and then gradually declining till Christmas only to start growing again in early January. “Pilots” are different animals: I have an impression that people are always interested in “aviators” regardless of the time of season. So, for your reading pleasure, a choice of fifteen timekeepers from under $200 to more than $10,000 as priced by online retailers that I find worthy of being considered while shopping for your new (or maybe your very first!) pilot’s watch this year.
The 2016 Alpina Startimer Pilot chronograph (refs. AL-725B4S6, AL-725GR4S6 & AL-725N4S6) is available in three colors of its laconic, extremely sober dial and two colors of the genuine (*sigh*) leather strap. It is a bit expensive, many people may (and probably will) call it boring, and it is not a match to majors like IWC and Omega in terms of mojo and perceived value, yet the combination of a highly ergonomic design, reliable mechanism, and an acceptable price make it a nice everyday watch for a person who can afford one.
In less than two months, Christopher Ward will start selling the 2016 C8 UTC Worldtimer. Styled as an “aviator” and featuring an appealing combination of a robust Swiss-made movement with their new distinctive approach to design, the new timekeeper is well worth the serious chunk of cash that the watchmaker plans to charge for it.
Presented at Baselworld 2016, the new Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Mach 9 Automatic Limited Edition (ref. 241732) somehow manages to combine more or less adequate pricing (especially after all the usual discounts that the Swiss-based brand is known for) with a fairly small lot of pieces destined to be manufactured and sent to select stores around the world.
Citizen Promaster Navihawk Satellite Wave GPS (ref. CC9030-51E) is a fine example of how you can get a lot of know-how, a block of high-grade steel, and a handful of silicon parts and create a wonderful object that can be a watch, a gadget, and even a surprisingly low-priced fashion statement as well!
The 2016 PROSPEX Radio Sync Solar World Time Chronograph features exterior design cues similar to other “aviators” released by Seiko during the last five or six years (those including not only relatively expensive members of their higher-range Prospex family like this ref. SSC279, but also a lot more affordable ones like their older SND253P1). The chronograph is available in three different finishes fully covering the niche of XXL-sized timekeepers designed with the price-conscious public in mind. While a lot of prospective customers will only wince looking at this 48 mm monster, I am sure that the model will be successful in the long run. I mean, look at this watch! This watch is amazing!
Officially revealed at the SIHH 2016 show, the IWC Top Gun Miramar Chronograph (ref. IW389002) brings everything you loved about the original Miramar collection, albeit in a smaller package. With a touch oversized case crafted from dark grey scratch-resistant ceramic and a high-contrast, yet discreet dial layout, this new model looks like an interesting choice for a person who always wanted a dressy “aviator”, but wasn’t quite satisfied with earlier models and their Gargantuan proportions.
The Glashutte Original Senator Observer 100-14-07-02-30 brings you an impressive mix of a perfect self-winding mechanism, a dial that is easy to read in any circumstances, and a nicely sculpted case inherited from an earlier iteration, all seasoned with that attention to even most minuscule details that only German watchmakers exhibit regardless of the price tag that comes with their timekeepers.
The 2015 Bell & Ross WW1-97 Heritage (ref. BRWW197-HER-ST/SCR) delivers the familiar mix of a well-calculated design, which is both elegant and masculine, and a bullet-proof mechanism, which is both reliable and accurate. All of them are offered at a relatively affordable price which makes this new creation one of the best choices in the “Value for Money” category.
The 2015 Oris Big Crown ProPilot (ref. 01 111 7711 4163-Set 5 22 14FC) is powered by the new Caliber 111 hand-wound movement. Developed and built on their own premises, the beautiful mechanism not only makes this new timekeeper even more exclusive but also shows that Oris has enough resources to design and put on the production line a wonderful caliber. Their new Cal. 111 is an in-house mechanism that, at least in terms of functionality and efficiency, rivals those recently introduced by a lot more established watchmaking houses.
Patek Philippe has first unveiled the self-winding Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (ref. 5524) collection during the Baselworld 2015 show. Combining in the same package a ‘historic’ dial layout of a 1930s pilot’s watch with a meticulously sculpted white gold body that only the modern tech makes possible, this is one of the most notable timekeepers presented at the trade fair. Also, there is an in-house self-winding movement that makes one drown in his own saliva while searching for one’s credit card.
Inspired by a model that was commissioned by the US Air Force around 70 years ago, the Bulova AccuSwiss Type A-15 (ref. 63A119) can be a nice option for a person looking for a vintage-styled “aviator” but not willing to opt for a “standard” German Luftwaffe B-Uhr-style timekeeper. Some may find the combination of a black dial with bright orange luminous compound on hands with dirty lemon 24-hour numerals a bit, well, tasteless, but it is in fact how the original watch looked, so just get used to it.
The new Fortis Blue Horizon features an appealing color scheme with its bronze-toned dial (that the brand actually prefers to call “Metallic Brown”) nicely matched by a cognac-brown leather strap. Although the blue accents on the timekeeper’s face look a bit ahem controversial, I must admit that this is one of the dressiest “pilot’s chronographs” that the Swiss brand has ever produced. Just don’t forget to get yourself a complementary set of good brown shoes.