After a long hiatus of 36 years, we are finally rewarded with a much anticipated sequel to the original Top Gun movie, Top Gun: Maverick.
The original Top Gun movie was a classic, and it perhaps is a reason behind why children and young adults back then had the ambitions to be a fighter pilot. For watch collectors, this is also perhaps why some people are into pilot watches, especially for those who want to partially realise their dream (since most of us do not end up becoming a pilot anyways, let alone a fighter pilot). The uber-cool pilot’s watch is perhaps the closest we can get to this crazy aspiration of ours.
Six pilot’s watches buy after watching the new Top Gun movie
In this week’s article, as one saunters towards the cinema to catch the long-awaited movie (if you have not watched it yet), here are some pilot’s watches that you might want to consider for your next purchase – especially if you have been “poisoned” after leaving the cinema.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI”
We begin the article with perhaps one of the most interesting partnerships between a movie franchise and a watch manufacturer. Cue the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “SFTI”.
Since 2007, the two entities have produced some pretty cool timepieces – especially with the signature matte black ceramic cases that IWC uses for this series of timepieces. This particular edition takes its inspiration from the “Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor“ watch, which was available only to the Top Gun graduates. Notably, for this watch’s caseback and chronograph pushers, it also features the new material named Ceratanium – a special titanium alloy that is extremely durable and allows the coating to bond on the material indefinitely.
The 44mm timepiece is fitted with the IWC-manufactured Caliber 69380, which is a self-winding movement that is not unfamiliar to many IWC collectors. Finally, the watch is priced at S$14,100, and it will be limited to a production of 1,500 pieces.
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition
When it comes to pilot’s watches (or aviation-themed timepieces), the Breitling Navitimer is perhaps one of the watches that will surely come to mind.
Since the original Navitimer was released in 1959, it has cemented Breitling’s position as the timepiece of choice for pilots. This is partially thanks to the slide rule, which is a useful device for pilots to calculate a variety of items, including fuel consumption, distance, and simple multiplication/division. Now, even though pilots have electronic devices to do these tasks, the allure of the Navitimer still remains.
Amongst the many incredible pieces, the Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition is definitely a timepiece that is placed very high up on our list. We really like the originality of this piece, with of course the reliability of a modern movement. The watch retails at S$11,750, and it is a limited-edition of 1959 pieces.
If one is interested in classic pilot’s watches from the yesteryear, the Laco Leipzig, which is based on the historical B-Uhr, is certainly a great timepiece that is worth a look.
The Leipzig follows the B-Uhr closely, both in its form and the use of a hand-wound movement. The only major difference for the modern variant lies in its case size, which at 42mm is definitely much more palatable than the massive 55mm behemoth of the original variant.
Powering the Leipzig is the Sellita SW210, a movement that many should be familiar with. The watch is priced at €980 (approximately S$1,430), and we reckon it is perhaps one of the best options around if one is looking for an iconic B-Uhr timepiece with a sterile dial.
Breguet Type XXI 3815
Either as a chronograph or a pilot’s watch, the Breguet Type XXI 3815 has often been forgotten by many collectors. We think the watch deserves so much more recognition than that.
Originally produced as a commissioned piece for the French Naval Air Army, Breguet’s interpretation of the pilot’s chronograph is an incredibly functional timepiece that stood the test of time. Similar to most of Breguet’s watches, the watch is one that remains true to its roots – with an appropriately sized case (39mm, an increment of a mere 1mm from the original piece), fly-back chronograph function, and a classic dial layout with the “Breguet” logo in cursive font. Timeless is an apt word to describe the aesthetics of this timepiece.
The Type XXI 3815 is powered by the 232-part, 26-jewel Calibre 584Q/A, a self-winding movement that has a power reserve of around 48 hours. It features an additional piggy-back fly-back chronograph module (on top of the Lemania 1350 movement), and it is decorated as per Breguet’s superlative standards. The watch retails at S$21,400, and this version – with bright orange (or green) lume – is limited to a run of 250 pieces each.
Hanhart 417 ES
Continuing with the theme of classic pilot’s watches, we have the Hanhart 417 ES. This is also known as the first pilot’s chronograph for the German armed forces.
The new iteration is the remake of the classic, which Hanhart had produced for the German military in the 1950s for over a decade. This watch offers a faithful reproduction with reliable and modern mechanics. The 42mm timepiece, notably, features all the original touches, such as the fluted bezel and classic typography on the dial.
The watch is fitted with the humble and robust Sellita SW 510 M movement. This is a manual-winding movement, with an autonomy of around 58 hours. Overall, at a price point of €1,840 including VAT (approximately S$2,685), we are hard pressed to find such a solid and good-looking piece that offers as much value as this.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time
Finally, we round up the article with the haute horlogerie interpretation of a pilot’s watch: Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time.
When Patek Philippe introduced this series of timepieces in 2015, it was met with polarising views. On one hand, collectors are glad to see Patek Philippe going out of their comfort zone to produce a rather bold timepiece. On the other hand, there are some that lamented this watch is out of Patek Philippe’s character, since the Geneva-based brand is not known to have strong roots in aviation (sans the pilot watches that they have produced in the 1930s). Either way, after more than half a decade, we can say that any doubts with the Calatrava Pilot collection are rather unfounded, given its sheer popularity with collectors.
The 37.5mm Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (Ref. 7234R) is perhaps the best version available, in our opinion. We love its modest size, as well as the combination of a warm rose gold case and brown dial. It is also highly practical, with the ability to adjust the local-time hour hand easily via the two pushers on the left side of the case. All these, combined with the use of a well-finished automatic 294-part Calibre 324 S C FUS, makes this a rather compelling timepiece. An elevated pilot’s watch, if you may.
The Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (Ref. 7234R) retails at S$65,500.
There are certainly many options out there that allow one to channel their inner Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, although some pilot’s watches are certainly better (or at least, cooler) than the others.
Interestingly, even though the overarching theme is pilot’s watches, there are still many different variations and design notes that differentiate the watches altogether. On one hand, we have the classics, such as the B-Uhr timepieces from Laco, while on the other hand there are the modern interpretations such as the IWC and Patek Philippe pilot’s watches. There is certainly something for everyone, across different price points as well.
There are also some notable mentions as well, such as the incredibly well-priced Sinn 356 SA Pilot III, and the rustic yet charming Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze. H. Moser & Cie. also offers an elevated version of the pilot’s watch too, in the form of the tantalising Heritage Centre Seconds.
We are surely great fans of pilot’s watches, as it offers a great option in any watch collection given its versatility. It also works very well with both casual and smart casual setting, and for our friends who have the chance to wear bomber jackets, the pilot’s watch is the perfect complementary item with the attire.
There are a tonne of watches that should be on this list.
Sinn 104 (count down timer) 103 etc..
Not to mention the 2000 boutique pilots watch manufacturers.
Watches are excellent but
What are price sir.
Please consider Damasko in future articles of German tool and pilot watches. I think you will find a connection to these nearly indestructable watches.
We will need to be familiar with it first. We will attempt to write them for a loaner sample to evaluate. Thanks for the suggestion.
You realise that the iwc isn’t a collaboration with the move franchise but the actual Top Gun (STFI) program with the US Navy. That’s cred.
Where is the Bremont Martin Baker, a watch actually worn by fighter pilots as apposed to lots of marketing spend
Andrew, in my last corporate job, I worked in the aviation industry. I have met many many pilots, and truth be told, they are like the rest of us…they wear all kinds and brands of watches. From Casio to Rolex, to Patek to Lange, and even independents like Urwerk and MB&F.