Greg Simonian: Aviation Watches Take Flight


You don’t have to man the controls of your own airplane in order to appreciate the sporty style and great legibility of a pilot’s watch.  Also known as aviation watches, today’s versions are often based on timepieces that were made for military and commercial pilots from the early part of the 20th century.  Those watches had to perform—it was an era before autopilot and GPS, after all!—and the flyers relied on their watch functions to complement the controls of their own dashboards. The following five aviation watches are available at Westime’s boutiques in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and La Jolla. Each puts a unique spin on classic pilot watch style, making them perfectly modern accessories for today’s high-flyer.


Zenith, Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT
Part of Zenith’s illustrious history in aviation watches includes the manufacture of altimeters and onboard watches, or montres d’aéronef, for military and civilian airlines.  Its most famous design was the Type 20 from 1938, and now today’s Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT is a most worthy successor.  Like its namesake, the new Type 20 meets the following technical specs that were required of French military timepieces in 1938:  must withstand sudden fluctuations in temperature, magnetic fields, violent vibrations, humidity and atmospheric pressure changes, and provide a distinctive crown, luminous hands and a large matte black dial for readability. The new 48-mm Type 20 GMT in steel also features an automatic movement that drives GMT functions and a small-seconds dial at 9 o’clock.



Bell & Ross, BR01 Heading Indicator
Bell & Ross’s aviation watches are inspired by the instrument panels found in aircraft cockpits.  The new BR01 Heading Indicator references the gyrocompass that pilots rely on during both manual flight and autopilot to assess the plane’s course. The 46-mm black PVD steel case houses an automatic movement.  Hours, minutes and seconds are displayed via an innovative three-disc dial.  Seconds are shown on the center disc; minutes are read from the middle disc; and the hour reading is indicated by a yellow triangle on the outer disc that also mirrors a compass heading.  The graphic image of a plane as seen on the original heading indicator is engraved under the sapphire crystal.


Richard Mille, RM 39-01 Automatic Aviation E6-B
Richard Mille’s RM 39-01 is not just a pilot’s watch; it is a flight navigation instrument. This highly technical timepiece is a reinterpretation of a device that every experienced pilot knows well:  the E6B slide rule.  Thanks to its fixed and its bi-directional rotating bezels, this timepiece can be used to calculate fuel consumption, flight times, ground speed, density altitude, wind influence, and unit conversions, which together allow a pilot to determine required fuel load and density altitude.   Additionally, the automatic watch features UTC and countdown functions, a flyback chronograph, oversized date and month.



Breitling, Transocean Unitime Pilot
Breitling has a prestigious history creating timepieces for aviators, and today private pilots such as John Travolta and the aerial daredevils of the Breitling Jet Team proudly wear the watches mid-flight.  The new Transocean Unitime Pilot is designed with ease of legibility and adjustment in mind.  Time-zone hoppers will especially appreciate its entirely crown-adjustable world time system, which makes a correction of time and date forwards or backwards possible with just one move.  The automatic watch also features a chronograph, and 70-hour power reserve.  The 46-mm case is available in steel or 18K red gold, presented on a steel mesh bracelet or leather or crocodile strap.



Longines, Avigation Watch Type A-7
Watches made for US Army pilots during the 1930s had to be large, easy to read, and easy to manipulate by pilots wearing thick gloves.  As a result, the “Type A-7” model featured an angled black dial that was specially designed to be worn on the inside of the wrist, making the dial visible in line with the aircraft’s instruments without the pilot moving his arm or letting go of the controls.  Longines’ new steel Avigation Watch Type A-7 employs the same dial dramatically angled at 45 degrees.  The 49-mm automatic watch also features a single push-piece column-wheel movement, which allows all chronograph functions—start, stop and reset to zero—to be operated by pressing a single pusher set in the fluted crown.

For more information, please call (310) 289-0808, or email