Military or pilot’s watches have always been a great source of inspiration for brands, and the complication that probably makes the most sense in this context is the chronograph. Merge these two and you often end up with a great combination of robustness, heritage and usefulness. And this year didn’t disappoint, as many brands embraced the concept of the pilot’s chronograph. Brands that are known to be relevant in this specific field. All different in execution and style, but all driven by the same spirit, we’ve lined up here 5 very cool, truly recommended watches with pilot’s credentials and equipped with a chronograph function. And best of all, some are pretty accessible without compromise on functions or quality.
Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax
Fortis is at a turning point in its history. Recently, the brand welcomed new management. And who says new head means a new strategy and new collections. Meet the modernized Fortis, the Flieger reimagined, a watch that will follow you everywhere and survive to the worst. Capitalising on the brand’s assets, its reputation for purpose-built watches with superior robustness, Fortis has imagined a new collection of pilot’s watches, including this Bicompax chronograph. Large, ultra-protected and equipped with no-nonsense features, it has been created to perform and to perform only. The design, driven by the function, is utilitarian and this is exactly why this watch is cool. Powered by a solid automatic Sellita SW-510 and featuring a dial with superior legibility, the Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax won’t let you down.
Quick Facts: 43mm stainless steel case – rotating 12-hour bezel – sapphire crystal – 200m water-resistant – Sellita SW-510, automatic cam-lever chronograph – 48h power reserve – stainless steel bracelet or leather strap – as of EUR 3,350 – more details at www.fortis-swiss.com
Hamilton Khaki Aviation Converter Chronograph
Hamilton is part of the brands with great legitimacy in the aviation field. Usually, when thinking about their pilot’s watches, one has in mind vintage-inspired military models. The Converter, a brand new collection for 2020, plays on a different field, being a true cockpit instrument. The most striking element of this collection is its slide rule bezel, a feature well-known by military and civilian pilots. Modelled after the E6B “Whiz Wheel”, it allows performing calculations, in order to track speed, fuel consumption, distance, rate of climb or descent and flight time. With its classic look, not too modern, not too vintage, it is attractive, very well built and fairly priced. The chronograph model, with its automatic movement with silicon balance spring and 60h power reserve, is the most relevant of all 3 versions and its busier dial is exactly what you want in such a flight computer.
Quick Facts: 44mm stainless steel case – rotating slide rule bezel in mineral glass – sapphire crystal – 100m water-resistant – calibre Hamilton H-21 Si, automatic chronograph Valjoux-based, with silicon balance spring – 60h power reserve – brown leather strap or steel bracelet – as of EUR 1,995 – more details at www.hamiltonwatch.com
Hanhart 417 ES Reissue
When it comes to pilot’s chronograph, few brands have the legitimacy of Hanhart. Once the official watch of German pilots, the brand has an incredible reputation in this field. And the design is equally iconic. One of most emblematic watches of the brand is the 417 ES, the first pilot’s chronograph for the German armed forces and Steve McQueen’s choice. And it has just been reissued, in a slightly modernized package with 42mm case. Yet, the details, the fonts, the dial, the logo, the hands… all feels exactly how it should be and the watch, of course worn on a Bund strap, has a stunning look on the wrist. It is powered by a hand-wound Sellita SW 510 with extended power reserve. Plus, it isn’t limited in production and the price is just right.
Quick Facts: 42mm stainless steel case with fluted rotating bezel – sapphire crystal – 100m water-resistant – Sellita SW 510, hand-wound cam-lever chronograph – 58h power reserve – black “Bund” leather strap – circa EUR 1,750 – more details at www.hanhart.com
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN “SFTI”
You can’t talk pilot’s chronographs without mentioning IWC. The brand has immense recognition in this field, especially with the utilitarian Top Gun collection, designed for and worn by the pilots of the Miramar Navy Fighter Weapons School. The brand’s latest creation is a watch named the “SFTI”, or Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor. Based on a watch that was exclusive to the wrists of Top Gun graduates, IWC now offers its looks in a civilian model with ceramic case and Ceratenium pushers, crown and caseback. Small details on the dial also refer to this jetfighter’s background, while the movement is the brand’s in-house automatic chronograph with column-wheel architecture. Worn on a khaki textile strap, it makes for the perfect action watch.
Quick Facts: 44mm black ceramic case, Ceratenium pushers, crown and caseback – sapphire crystal – 60m water-resistant – calibre 69380, in-house automatic integrated column-wheel chronograph – 46h power reserve – green textile strap – EUR 9,850 – more details at www.iwc.com
Longines Spirit Chronograph
Last but not least, a brand with again superior relevance in the context of pilot’s chronograph, Longines. But here, it’s not about the Heritage collection and re-edition of past models. The brand has an all-new collection named Spirit, designed to be a future classic with undeniable qualities, such as beautifully executed cases and dial, chronometer certification and movement with modern features. Part of the collection is this very cool chronograph, with a tri-compax layout and a 42mm case. Also available in black and silver, this blue version here makes for a more modern and less instrumental look, without compromising on the resistance of the watch. Built to last and equipped with an automatic column-wheel chronograph, it adds a silicon balance spring and a 5-year warranty to this well-priced and beautifully-executed packaged.
Quick Facts: 42mm stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – screw-in crown – 100m water-resistant – calibre L688.4, automatic column-wheel chronograph – COSC-certified – 60h power reserve – available on steel bracelet or leather strap – EUR 2,930 – more details at www.longines.com