The 5 Best Pilot Watches Under $300: Soar in Style
You don't have to be a real pilot to feel as cool as one.
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My mom always told me I could do anything. Except when I told her I wanted to become an astronaut.
“Honey,” she said, “you barf when you’re in the car for more than thirty minutes.”
She showed me the montage scene from Armageddon where they spin around like crazy and asked me if I think I’d be able to do that.
No, of course not. She was right—I don’t have the stomach for space travel.
So instead I settled on a fascination with airplane cockpits—all the dials, knobs, levers. So much complexity.
I was side-tracked on my dream to become a pilot by my dream to become a firefighter, movie star, and a professional basketball player.
Still working on those.
But one thing is true. I’m still fascinated with complexity. And I like to show it by wearing my favorite timepiece: the pilot watch
Pilot watches range from super simple to wildly crowded and complex.
To celebrate my favorite timepiece, we’ve put together our list of the five best pilot watches under $300.
What Are Pilot Watches?
When we talk about watches, we’re almost always talking about wristwatches. We forget they started in people’s pockets.
In 1904, Cartier designed something that would help the Brazilian navigator Alberto Santos-Dumont keep track of his flight while keeping his hands on the controls.
That timepiece, the Cartier Santos, was the first pilot watch and the first wristwatch.
So really, without pilot watches, I’d be writing about the best pocket to put your timepiece in, and how well it pairs with a monocle.
Three Features Distinctive to all Pilot Watches
1. A Large Crown
Because pilots always wore gloves, the crown needed to be large enough to use without taking the gloves off.
2. Large Dial
Pilots are worried about flying (we hope). They can’t be squinting and trying to make out numbers on the dial.
Because of that, the dial for pilot watches is fairly large. For today’s models, that means pilot watches are usually at least 40mm.
3. Bezel Markings
True pilot watches have detailed bezels that can help aviators calculate fuel burn and other piloty things.
3 Things to Consider When Buying a Pilot Watch
Pilot watches are generally larger than most other watches due to the amount of information the dial packs in. Chronographs, pilot watches in particular, are usually 40mm and larger.
Even with the oversized case, some of these watches are still difficult to read with all the details and complications (just take a look at the Seiko Flightmaster ).
For average wrists, a 38-42mm watch is an ideal size. Not too small, and not in-your-face large. You can branch out into the 44mm size if you want that “oversized watch” look.
For gents with a smaller wrist, 36-40mm is the way to go. Double-check to see that your pilot watch comes in a 40mm case size—anything bigger and your wrist will look smaller and smaller in comparison.
2. How Complicated Do You Want It?
There are some straightforward pilot watches out there like the Vincero Altitude. They have a few subdials, understated bezels—just classic, good looking watches.
And then there are more technical watches like the Citizen Nighthawk .
It looks like a piece of graph paper and a flight simulator had a baby (to be clear, I love the look of the Citizen Nighthawk, it’s fun and over-the-top).
Something gives me the feeling that most of us aren’t pilots here.
If you’re actually a pilot, you’ll want something specific to your job. But if you’re someone who, say, writes blog posts, having a fuel burn calculator is less critical.
When your top concern is style, you have a lot more choices.
The 5 Best Pilot Watches Under $300 in 2020
Get the Timex Fly-Back Chronograph
Last update on 2020-04-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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This year will be the 5th year anniversary of owning and enjoying the beloved “Flighty”. Well actually, truth be told, I have owned it even longer as it was technically a re-buy. So many watches have come and gone in that time, but the unpretentious allure, functionality and toughness of the SNA411 keep me coming back. Certainly not everyones cup of tea, but different strokes right!? What has been the most consistent “keeper” watch in your collection? Please share in the comments! Ps. The strap is from @ndcstraps #seiko #flightmaster #chronograph #aviation #watch #theurbangentry #tgv #seikoflightmaster #flightmaster #mensaccessories #mensstyle #style #ndc #wristwatchcheck
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That's what I call a stunner! The Citizen Promaster Nighthawk BJ7008-51E. Priced at $395. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ By @_the_jack⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #dailywristwatch #citizennighthawk #citizenpromaster ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #citizenwatch #BJ700851E #citizenwatch #citizenwatches⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #practicalwatch #pilotwatch #watches #watch #watchoftheday #gshock #braceletsoftheday #armcandy #timepiece #wornandwound #braceletstacks #casio #womw #gmt #breitling #watchesofinstagram #instawatches #originalwatch #vintagerolex #ablogtowatch #divewatch #watchforsale
Get the Citizen Promaster Nighthawk
Last update on 2020-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Let’s Land This Thing
Minimal, masculine, over-the-top complicated—we’re confident there’s a pilot watch on this list that’s perfect for you.
But hey, we don’t know it all. Is there a time piece we missed? Let us know in the comments, captain.