Air Force and Navy pilots regularly subject themselves to conditions far more severe than those experienced by the average person. High altitudes, low temperatures, tight quarters, perilous missions, these are all daily circumstances for fighter pilots. To compete with these perilous situations military pilots have to be outfitted with hardwearing flight suits, helmets, and equipment. One of these special accouterments is a watch that can withstand the elements at over fifty thousand feet where the extraordinarily high air pressure, and complex flight instruments have a tendency to cause normal watches to become grossly inaccurate.
IWC (International Watch Company), the illustrious Swiss watchmakers, was the first to develop a flight-ready watch in 1936 with the “Special Pilot’s Watch.” One of the earliest models of this piece was the Big Pilot Watch, IWC’s largest watch ever and a true testament to the size of Pilot Watches and the unprecedented amount of features packed into one timepiece. Beginning with the face of the watch, the Pilot Watch’s dial is reminiscent of the look of a cockpit with bold clear numbers and dashes for easy readability, a crucial attribute for pilot’s who did not have time to waste trying to read a cluttered dial. This face is protected by a dense, airtight piece of glass that is designed to shield the watch’s movement from any debris that could potentially float in mid flight. Below the dial is the movement itself, an unbelievably precise arrangement that is still to this day a marvel of modern watch manufacturing. The movement is encased in a layered multi-component structure that protects it from any magnetic waves or atmospheric interference that might disrupt the watch’s accuracy.
The Pilot Watch was expertly designed as the optimum watch for flight personel, and it certainly lived up to its claim. Thanks to its unrivaled accuracy, the watch has been adopted by the venerable British Royal Air Force and the United States Navy as well as countless other commercial, private, and military pilots for over a half century. Today the Pilot Watch comes in an array of different models, each maintaining the original characteristics of the watch, such as the legible face and the trademark triangle at twelve o’clock, but also adding in various other dials, stopwatches, and unique details. For more information on this momentous timepiece, you can visit Hodinkee, the upmost source for anything watch related or IWC’s own website.