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What is an Aviator Watch?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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An aviator watch is a watch that is in theory designed specifically for aviation, although such watches have also become a trendy fashion statement in some regions of the world. They often have a large, clear display, and provide the time for several locations. These watches are typically designed to withstand a range of moisture and temperature extremes. Many stores sell an assortment of such watches, from rugged timepieces approved by aviation agencies for use by pilots to more ornamental versions that are inspired by watches designed for pilots.

Pilots have a number of specific needs that are met by an aviator watch. It is often necessary to know the time in multiple time zones, for example, so many have multiple dials or a digital display that can easily be toggled. Very good visibility is also necessary, with most watches having a black background to contrast with the hands. This style of watch also tends to be large to ensure good visibility.

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In many cases, an aviator watch can also be used as a chronograph, meaning that it can be used as a timer or stopwatch. Because pilots rely on accurate timing for navigation, a good watch will be extremely accurate, with clockwork that is designed to be extremely reliable in a wide range of conditions from extreme heat to freezing temperatures. These watches can also typically operate in high humidity and they are sometimes water-resistant as well. Watches designed for astronauts have special features that allow them to function reliably in space.

Pilots have long been a topic of fascination and interest for people, ever since the Wright Brothers took off at Kitty Hawk. As a result, objects associated with aviators have often carried social cachet, with people wearing things like aviator glasses, bomber jackets, and an assortment of other accessories. The “aviator watch” sold in many stores bears little resemblance to the those used by pilots, and in fact some pilots don't even wear a watch, taking advantage of the extensive displays and controls in their aircraft to meet their needs.

The rise of this and other luxury watches may also be attributable to moves by watch manufacturers to heavily market their products, making them more appealing to consumers. Many modern watch companies make an assortment of collector's watches with a range of features designed to make them more appealing and desirable.

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anon985587
Post 7

What if the plane's displays stop working? The watch will come in handy to prevent crashing in the mountains. Just saying.

anon353642
Post 6

All pilots wear a watch - period.

anon164513
Post 5

I am looking for a leather strap for my aviator watch. In Sri Lanka there are no agents. Please help.

recapitulate
Post 4

You can find many of these "collectors'" watches in magazines or in newspaper ads on Sundays. Many are probably not very well-made, though thankfully there are watchmakers and jewelers who can help someone interested in them to find a genuine and well-made aviator wrist watch.

hyrax53
Post 3

In addition to collectors' pieces, a lot of people like to find the many vintage aviator watches hidden around in thrift stores and antique shops. Some of these can be found for far less than they are worth, and are great as either attractive timepieces for actually use or just to display.

anon23085
Post 1

The rule generally is, the more complex the aircraft, the less likely the pilot is going to use his/her watch for anything but telling time. Watches are very important for little airplanes with basic instrumentation, especially during Instrument Procedures.

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