From fashion statements and genuine historical artefacts to state of the art, life-saving gadgets designed for professionals operating in extreme conditions; aviation watches are as complex and diverse as the field they serve. (Promotional feature.)

Indeed the history of the two is closely entwined. When the Wright Flyer first took flight in 1903 it was closely followed by the development of the first aviation watch in 1904: The Cartier Santos. Ever since, the astounding progressions enjoyed in aviation have been closely paralleled by horology’s innovations as watches seek to complement and exceed the needs of modern pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

Far from the Santos or the Wright Flyer, models of today afford a rich and diverse array selection – the extent of which can be somewhat baffling. To clear things up, this guide focuses on a compilation of the best pilot’s watches which cater all, from the perfect first purchase through to professional timepieces for those operating in adverse conditions.

Best for: heritage – Bremont Wright Flyer

Bremont’s acute appreciation of all things aeronautical has seen the brand develop some of the most sophisticated pilot’s watches ever seen. The brand’s close ties to the British and American militaries are testament to this; but it is in their prodigious pursuit of creating the ‘ultimate aviation-inspired timepiece that has placed the brand at the top of this list. Indeed, with the Wright Flyer timepiece the brand have perhaps come as close to achieving their insurmountable task as humanly possible. Each of these limited edition timepieces contains part of the original canvas from the 1903 Wright Flyer, which can be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal case-back of the watch. Distinctly classic and refined in aesthetic, this is befitting tribute to one the 20th century’s greatest innovations.

Best for: performance – Breitling Emergency

Breitling design their timepieces for professionals operating in extreme environments. Aptly named, the emergency is quite literally a life-saver. Featuring an array of functions – that sound more akin to a Star Trek gadget than the Wright Flyer- the Emergency is the first wristwatch capable of transmitting a dual-frequency distress beacon. Meeting the requirements of the Cospas Sarsat international satellite alert system, the Emergency allows the wearer to be located at all times. The watch is also a multi-function electronic chronometer, which contains a super-quartz movement providing it with flawless reliability. Completed with a robust titanium case and bracelet and an easily legible dial, the Emergency combines all the hall-marks of a traditional aviation watch with technical innovations that far surpass conventional wisdom.

Best for: first purchase – Bell & Ross BR0194-BL-ST

Featuring a sleek contemporary design inspired by instruments located in a cockpit, Bell & Ross’ Aviation range features a wealth of sophisticated timepieces at an accessible price point. Clarity is key to the brand and any pilot will appreciate the over-sized and luminescent features of the dial which marks these timepieces out as the ultimate reference for legibility. Perfect for those looking for a modern, high performance pilot’s watch.

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