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100% Certified Authentic

Bob's Watches
100% Certified Authentic

At Bob's Watches, your trust is very important to us. We believe that buying a pre-owned Rolex watch online should be simple, honest, and straightforward. To that end, we guarantee that every Rolex watch on our site is 100% authentic, comprised entirely of Rolex parts. Our mission is to be the leading trusted online source for selling and buying authentic pre-owned Rolex watches. We stand behind this authenticity guarantee with a full money back refund on any watch not found to be completely genuine.

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ROLEX BLOG

Top 14 Pilot Watches – Everything You Need To Know Before Buying

August 3, 2020

BY Paul Altieri

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Watches developed for use while flying date back to the early 1900s when Louis Cartier created the “Santos” for his friend and Brazilian aviation pioneer, Alberto Santos Dumont. In addition to being the first pilot’s watch, the Cartier Santos also holds the very coveted title as one of the first wristwatches. Before the release of the Santos, early aviators relied on inconvenient pocket watches to tell time while flying.

Pilot watch history is extensive, with the Cartier Santos paving the way for such icons as the Rolex GMT-Master series, Breitling Navitimer, and Omega Speedmaster. Our guide will break down the best pilot watches for nearly any budget and lifestyle. 

Rolex GMT-Master II

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Rolex GMT-Master II

Key Features:

  • 40mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Additional 24-hour hand
  • Rotating GMT bezel
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn more about the history of the Rolex GMT-Master.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Everything You Need To Know Before Buying Shop Rolex GMT-Master

We’ll start our guide with an absolute icon, the GMT-Master series. Rolex developed this watch specifically for aviation and travel. The first edition came to market in 1955 in the form of the ref. 6542. It sported the now-iconic 24-hour bezel, a dedicated GMT hand on the dial, and a self-winding movement. Today, these features remain, giving the Rolex GMT-Master series a very nostalgic design that continues to top many collectors’ must-have lists.

The reference 16710 was introduced in the late 1980s. It’s a member of the Rolex GMT-Master II collection, which includes independently adjustable hour hands on the dial, a higher-beat movement that beats at a rate of 28,800bph, a sapphire crystal over the dial, and a water-resistance rating of 100 meters. In addition to offering the durability that many avid travelers need, the ref. 16710 Rolex automatic pilot watch also includes the ability to read up to three time zones at once. The independent hands offer two time zones on the dial, leaving the 24-hour bezel available to reference a third time zone. Timeless style, multiple time zones, and a reliable movement make the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 more than worthy of a spot on our list of best pilot watches.

 

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Tudor Black Bay GMT

Key Features:

  • 41mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Additional 24-hour hand
  • Rotating GMT bezel
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn how to use the Tudor Black Bay GMT.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Shop Tudor Black Bay GMT

The Black Bay GMT is Tudor’s version of the Rolex GMT-Master series. It features a similar design with a rotatable 24-hour bezel, luminous display on the dial, and a self-winding movement. What sets it apart from its cousin (the Rolex GMT-Master) are a few slight design nuances and the movement that powers the watch itself. The ref. 79830RB is a modern watch and is powered by a COSC-rated Cal. MT5652 movement. It features self-winding technology and a 70-hour power reserve. The Tudor Black Bay GMT also showcases a unique vintage-inspired design with rivet links on the bracelet and a domed sapphire crystal. Like the GMT-Master II, the Tudor Black Bay GMT displays multiple time zones and is highly durable – both of which are vital features for an exceptional pilot’s watch.

 

Oris Big Crown ProPilot GMT 

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Oris Big Crown ProPilot GMT 

Key Features:

  • 45mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Additional 24-hour hand
  • Small running seconds indicator
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn more about Oris Big Crown ProPilot watches.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Shop Oris Big Crown ProPilot

If you’re in the market for an automatic pilots watch that is a little easier on the wallet, the Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot GMT ref. 01 748 7710 4063-07 5 22 17FC might suit your wrist. For less than $1,500, you can add one to your watch box in excellent pre-owned condition. It runs on an Oris cal. 748 self-winding movement, which includes both a date mechanism at the 3-hour marker and GMT functionality. The second time zone is presented along the perimeter of the dial. The Oris ProPilot also sports a big crown, which offers both immense aesthetic appeal and practicality, as it’s easy to grip – even while wearing thick pilots gloves. Equal parts dress watch and tool watch, the Big Crown ProPilot is ideal for professional pilots and collectors alike. 

 

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Key Features:

  • 47mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Built-in analog altimeter
  • Adjustable altimeter and barometer scales
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn interesting facts about Oris watches. 

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Oris

Also offered within the Big Crown Pro Pilot collection is the impressive Altimeter ref. 01 733 7705 4134-Set 8 23 19, complete with a built-in mechanical Altimeter. The first of its kind, the Oris Altimeter, has since garnered much adoration among pilot watch enthusiasts for its functionality and sleek styling. The Altimeter and barometer scales surround the dial. As the barometric pressure changes, the altimeter hands move to reflect the current altitude. The Altimeter scale is presented on the outermost portion of the dial, while barometric pressure is located on a scale just below the altimeter display. The ref. 01 733 7705 4134-Set 8 23 19 is powered by an Oris cal. 733 self-winding movement based on the Sellita SW200 and is a worthy contender for the title of “Best Pilot’s Watch.”

 

Breitling Navitimer

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Breitling Navitimer

Key Features:

  • 46mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Additional 24-hour hand
  • Chronograph functionality
  • Slide rule bezel
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn how to use the slide rule bezel on the Breitling Navitimer.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Breitling Navitimer

The Breitling Navitimer owes its distinct design to an innovative slide rule bezel, robust size, and chronograph pushers. The slide rule can be manipulated by the wearer to make various calculations while in the air, such as fuel consumption and climbing speeds. Of course, it has countless other applications for use while on the ground as well. However, it’s legacy as a groundbreaking pilot’s watch remains. The first edition released was powered by a hand-wound movement. This version of the Breitling pilot watch (ref. A24322) includes a reliable self-winding Breitling cal. 24 movement with a 42-hour power reserve.

 

Tissot PRS 516 

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Tissot PRS 516 

Key Features:

  • 45mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Chronograph functionality
  • Tachymeter bezel
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn more about the history and heritage of Tissot watches.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Tissot

While the Tissot PRS 516 has origins in the world of motorsport racing, it also has applications for flight and travel with a chronograph movement, ceramic tachymeter bezel calibrated to 400 units, and a luminous display on the dial. The watch is functional, easy to read, and sophisticated, making it ideal for any globe-trotting individual. This Tissot also includes an attractive price point, with the T100.427.11.051.00 selling for around $1,200 on the secondary market.

 

Breitling Chronospace Military

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Breitling Chronospace Military

Key Features:

  • 46mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction (DLC coated)
  • Analog/digital hybrid multifunction movement
  • Digital display backlight
  • Compass bezel
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to discover some of the best affordable Breitling watches.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Breitling

The BreitlingChronospace Military M78366 is perfect for aviation because it was built tough, and it includes the ability to read multiple time zones at once. The case is presented in resilient DLC-coated stainless steel and features water-resistance up to 5 bar with a glare-proof sapphire crystal. It features a convenient compass scale on the bezel and houses a Breitling cal. 78 SuperQuartz movement with dual time, a digital display, alarm function, chronograph, and UTC world time. It’s robust, measuring 46mm in diameter and approximately 15mm thick, and it exudes the functional tool watch aesthetic that many luxury watch enthusiasts desire.

 

Rolex Air-King

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Rolex Air-King

Key Features:

  • 40mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Internal antimagnetic shield
  • Antimagnetic movement
  • Fixed smooth bezel
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn more about the history of the Rolex Air-King.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Rolex Air-King

When the Rolex Air-King debuted in the 1940s, it showcased a design that was more in-line with a casual dress watch. Today, the current generation ref. 116900 exudes classic sports watch design with a larger case size, luminous Arabic hour markers, Mercedes-style hands, and green accents. The Rolex Air-King collection has always been a pilot’s watch at heart, having been developed by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf as a tribute to British Royal Air Force pilots. It was initially a member of the original “Air” series and is the only model from the collection that still remains in production today. It pairs Rolex’s legendary Oyster case and Perpetual movement with sleek styling, making it an ideal pilot’s watch.

 

Rolex Sky-Dweller

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Rolex Sky-Dweller

Key Features:

  • 42mm case diameter
  • 18k Everose gold construction
  • Dual time display
  • Annual calendar functionality
  • Ring Command Bezel
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn how to set the Rolex Sky-Dweller.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Rolex Sky-Dweller

The past few years have seen some of the most impressive innovations from Rolex yet, including the launch of the Sky-Dweller. The polarizing timepiece is powered by a brand new 380-part Caliber 9001 movement. It boasts more than just GMT functionality. In fact, the Caliber 9001 also includes a dual time display and an annual calendar complication, the latter of which displays the month using a series of windows positioned above the coordinating hour markers on the dial. By rotating the bezel into position, the wearer can adjust either home time, reference time, or the date to keep perfect time in any time zone. The Rolex Sky-Dweller is also incredibly resilient, boasting a 100-meter depth rating and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal over the dial. It’s ability to keep time while traveling the globe earns the 18k Everose gold ROlex Sky-Dweller 326135 a spot on our list of the best pilot watches.

 

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

Key Features:

  • 42mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Chronograph functionality
  • Manual-wind movement
  • Tachymeter bezel
  • Hesalite crystal

Click here to learn more about the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Omega Speedmaster

Buzz Aldrin famously wore an Omega Speedmaster on his suit as he took his first steps on the Moon. Now lovingly referred to as the Moonwatch, the Omega Speedmaster Professional is, perhaps, one of the most collectible and sought-after tool watches in the world. It earns its place on our list because, let’s face it, if it’s good enough for space travel, it’s good enough for flying. It features an external tachymeter bezel surrounding the dial, a luminous display, and a manual-wind movement with chronograph functionality. The Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch ref. 311.30.42.30.01.005 is the current version of the original NASA-certified model that includes a Caliber 1861 movement and a Hesalite crystal.

 

Panerai Luminor GMT

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Panerai Luminor GMT

Key Features:

  • 44mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Additional 24-hour hand
  • Crown protecting bridge
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn about the different case styles of the Panerai Luminor.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Panerai Luminor

Panerai, while more well-known for its collection of reliable dive watches, also produces a GMT edition of their famed Luminor timepiece. The PAM00297 features a cal. OP VIII movement based on the ETA Valjoux 7750, complete with dual-time capabilities and a jump hour mechanism. The PAM 297 is also equipped with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and iconic cushion-shaped waterproof case in stainless steel, complete with the Luminor’s signature crown-protecting bridge. No matter where your travels take you, the Panerai Luminor GMT will remain accurate. At 44mm in diameter and 16mm thick, it’s also one of the bigger pilot’s watches featured in this guide, guaranteeing at-a-glance legibility. 

 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 

Key Features:

  • 44mm case diameter
  • Forged carbon construction
  • Chronograph functionality
  • Tachymeter scale inner bezel
  • Date display
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn the difference between the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Royal Oak Offshore.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Everything about this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore is spectacular, from its forged carbon case to its matching black Méga Tapisserie dial and its iconic octagonal bezel. If you’re in the market for a luxury watch that is suitable for flight and boasts immense style and presence on the wrist, the ref. 26400AU.OO.A002CA.01 is the watch to buy. It features a self-winding cal. 3126 movement with chronograph functions and a 50-hour power reserve. The internal tachymeter bezel is displayed around the dial’s perimeter, allowing the ceramic bezel to keep a sleek, clean design. Pressure proof up to 100 meters and outfitted with a sapphire crystal, the AP Royal Oak Offshore is ready for any adventure.

 

Patek Philippe World Time

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide Patek Philippe World Time

Key Features:

  • 38.5mm case diameter
  • 18k white gold construction
  • Worldtime functionality
  • Day/night indicator
  • Micro-rotor movement
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn more about the Patek Philippe World Time.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop Patek Philippe Watches

As with every watch that emerges from the Patek Philippe factory, the Complications 5230G World Time is truly exceptional. From the hand-guilloched dial to the exquisite 18k white gold finish of the bezel and case, this impressive traveler’s watch exudes high-style as only a Patek Philippe wristwatch can. It features a cal. 240 HU movement that operates on automatic winding via a solid gold micro-rotor. The movement includes an incredible 24 time zones as well day/night indications and a 24-hour track. It’s waterproof up to 30 meters and includes a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal over the dial, offering users a reliable reading in every corner of the globe.

 

IWC Big Pilot Perpetual

Top 14 Pilot Watches Ultimate Buying Guide IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar

Key Features:

  • 47mm case diameter
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Perpetual calendar functionality
  • Dual moonphase display
  • Power reserve indicator
  • Sapphire crystal

Click here to learn more about the IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar.

Top 14 Pilot Watches Buying Guide Shop IWC

The IWC Big Pilot Perpetual 5026.19 more than earns its place on our list of best pilots watches with an innovative 54-jewel self-winding movement. It features a perpetual calendar programmed to run uncorrected for up to 577 years – a feat that it achieves thanks to a smart design that accounts for the different numbers of days in each month and even accounts for leap years. A dual moonphase indicator is also built within the movement and displays the current phase of the moon as seen from both the northern and southern hemispheres.

The highly-impressive movement also includes month, day of the week, date, year, and power reserve indicators. An oversized winding crown is easy to grip while on-the-go, and the time is presented with a stunning luminous display. The IWC Big Pilot also features a sapphire glass designed to stay in place during varying air pressures, protecting the advanced movement within. A smart design inside and out, the Perpetual IWC pilots watch is a must-have for any globe-trotting individual.

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One Response to “Top 14 Pilot Watches – Everything You Need To Know Before Buying”

  1. DEAN A BAKER says:

    Hello Paul,
    In the introduction to his book, “The Great Planes”, author James Gilbert writes “One man’s choice is one man’s opinion.” As I prepare to close the logbook on over four decades as a professional pilot, both as a Naval Aviator and an airline captain, I can say that for the majority of that time my choice has been the Rolex GMT Master II. It is my opinion that it was and still is the quintessential pilot’s watch. As you point out, it has the ability to display up to three time zones. It’s easy to read at a glance in any lighting condition (increasingly important to pilots of a certain age). The jumping hour hand makes it simple to adjust and of course there’s Rolex reliability. I have never flown an aircraft that did not have at least a basic clock in the panel, so while in the cockpit I’ve never really “needed” a wristwatch. Back in the days before flight management computers I certainly did not have the time (or free hand) to do some kind of calculations on a rotating slide rule bezel of a Navitimer. For me, where a pilot watch proves its worth is reminding your sleep-deprived mind that although you are getting ready for dinner in Shanghai, it would be a big mistake to call home to Seattle to check on the family. Now that’s an important safety feature.
    I enjoyed the article, thanks.

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