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Three Pilot's Watches Worthy of Any Collection
Words by Windup Watch Shop

Of all the archetypal sport watches that have so gripped our ever-growing community, the pilot’s watch might be the most enigmatic. It’s not as singularly focused or popular in the mainstream as the dive watch, and it doesn’t revel in the romance of travel or flaunt a colorful bezel like a GMT does. Its function is ostensibly straightforward enough – tell the time legibly in the air – yet the how and with what is so undefined that no singular complication or model is the obvious poster child from which all other designs are merely descendents. With a pilot’s watch, you can truly understand how brands flex their creativity and interpret what they see as an aviator’s invaluable tool. The three watches in the spotlight today may all fall under the same broad category, but each takes such a different approach that it wouldn’t be farfetched to have all three in a collection. It might even be a good idea.

Propilot Altimeter

The most hardcore and feature-packed watch of the three, the Oris Propilot Altimeter is a tool watch through and through. Its 47mm case and fluted bezel are made fully of carbon fiber in a process called “additive manufacturing and molding” in which layers are printed (think of it as a fancier version of 3D printing). This may be the only mechanical altimeter found on any mechanical watch, anywhere, and it doesn’t disappoint. Users have the option to use the second crown to set a reference altitude and simply let the watch do the rest. Oris has even engineered a special venting system to protect the internals from external moisture as you climb. For the most intense explorers or those interested in a unique complication, the Propilot Altimeter is an easy choice.

Ollech & Wajs P-104

Bringing things back to earth a little in size and price, the Ollech & Wajs P-104 moves closer to what we’d consider a “typical” pilot’s watch. It features distinct orange accents on the hour markers, hands, and date window that contrast nicely with the rest of the dial elements while maximizing legibility. The P-104 is an approachable 39.56mm x 49.5mm x 12 mm and proves that you don’t need a flying saucer on the wrist to have a true pilot’s watch. It trades a working altimeter for a more approachable (yet equally practical) slide rule bezel, which can be used to calculate velocity, distance, and other critical measurements. A reliable ETA 2824-2 inside makes this an approachable and reliable pick – oh, and water resistance is a dive watch-worthy 300 meters.

Fortis Flieger F-41

The Fortis Flieger F-41 distills the concept of the pilot’s watch to its purest end: make it time-only and indestructible. Fortis has long had a history of making and sending watches to the frontiers of human endeavors – it’s even been the official watch for Russian cosmonauts. The formula here is simple: stainless steel case and bezel, clear hour and minute markers on a radially brushed rehaut, excellent lume, and large legible hands. Of the three watches highlighted, the F-41 is the easiest watch to wear daily as it perfectly straddles the line between dress and sport watches. For those who prefer a slightly smaller watch, Fortis also has you covered with the F-39. Throw it on, go about your day, and forget about it. The sky’s the limit.