Top 13 Best Affordable Pilot Watches [List & Guide]

Top 9 Best Affordable Pilot Watches [List & Guide]

Top 13 Best Affordable Pilot Watches

Pilot watches have been a popular type of watch for more than a century. In fact, the first pilot’s watch was presented in 1904 and made by Cartier. The story about this watch goes that Alberto Santos-Dumont, a friend of Louis Cartier who was an aviator requested a watch that would make it possible to tell the time without having to reach into the pocket to take up the pocket watch.

This was during a time when wristwatches weren’t really used. Cartier listened to his friend and developed the Santos model, which came to became the first ever pilot’s watch.

A lot of things have changed since then, and today, the pilot watch is a popular type of design on watches that is greatly appreciated for a number of reasons. Not only do pilot’s watches look sporty and appealing, but they are also very functional, with an emphasis on legibility, which is crucial for a pilot. Of course, just like dive watches, chronograph watches, and many more, pilot’s watches are today worn mostly by individuals who do not necessarily crucially need them in their work or for their given purposes, but rather because they enjoy their designs and what they represent.

What is a pilot’s watch?

A Pilot’s watch is, as the name suggests, a type of watch that was originally made for pilots who needed a crucial timekeeping tool when flying.

Because pilot’s watches have come to become so greatly popular, the market is now packed with different alternatives. Pilot’s watches are available from the most famous and luxurious watch brands, but they are also available at affordable prices from other manufacturers. In this article, we will, of course, as the name suggests, focus on affordable pilot’s watches. 

Whilst it is possible to identify pilot watches quite quickly due to their distinct design, there are actually no strict criteria for what classifies a pilot’s watch. There are, however, criteria that they tend to have in common. With that said, pilot’s watches can look quite different and have many different kinds of functions and features. This is a great thing since it means that you are able to find exactly the one that suits your taste the most. And as mentioned, they are also available in a wide span of price ranges. 

Some of the criteria that pilot watches (a watch may meet some but usually not all) meet are:

  • Good legibility
  • GMT function
  • Sporty
  • Large dial
  • Additional useful functions such as altimeter, compass, chronograph function
  • Good legibility in low-lit conditions (usually luminescent hands and markers)
  • Large crown (to make it easier for pilots to operate it with gloves)

With this in mind pilot’s watches are, in general, quite big, and have a focus on a large dial with large markers. They often also have luminescent hands and markers for excellent legibility even in low-lit conditions.

Due to the environment they are made to be in, they are often quite robust and durable. Legibility is the key focus of a pilot’s watch, but there are also those that are more advanced and have numerous additional functions that may come in handy for pilots, such as altimeters, dual time, compass, and much more.

Best affordable pilot watches

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Below, we will go through the best and most popular affordable pilot watches. Since ”best” is, to a large extent subjective, and also depends on which factors you look at, there is no definition of ”best”. We will therefore focus on the most popular pilot watches that have received the best reviews and ratings. Because if the market appreciates them, chances are, you will be happy with them too.


Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Day Date H77765541

Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Day Date H77765541

The first watch on our list of the best affordable pilot’s watches is the Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Day-Date H77765541. As the name suggests, this is a watch made for aviation, and in addition to this, Hamilton is a brand that has a long and close history with aviation.

The watch is presented with a diameter of 45m and has a thickness of 12.8mm. The watch has a very sporty and tool-like design and is greatly inspired by aviation. It is presented with a stunning blue dial with a brushed sunburst finish. It is water-resistant to 100m/330 feet and has a bi-directional rotating bezel.

On the dial, it has both a day and date window and the Arabic numerals have been made large in a contrasting white color to allow for excellent legibility. The hands are large too and painted white to provide optimum contrast against the background. This watch (and many other watches from Hamilton) is also greatly appreciated by watch enthusiasts due to the fact that they are often powered by high-quality automatic movements. It also has a see-through case back which allows you to see the movement beating inside as a nice detail.

If you want a sporty pilot’s watch that works great for everyday wear but also has great performance when needed, this is definitely a great alternative.

Specifications

  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Diameter: 45mm
  • Thickness: 12.8mm
  • Crystal: sapphire

Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster GA-1100

Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster GA-1100

Next up is the Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster- GA-1100. This watch is appropriate if you are looking for a durable and tough quartz/digital timepiece, and also if you like G-Shocks.

This particular G-Shock is designed as an aviation-inspired chronograph and is packed with different functions that may come in handy for pilots. At its core, it retains the classic G-Shock design and execution with its black resin case and durable construction, and in addition to this, it has both analog and digital display, as well as a built-in thermometer, compass, stopwatch, and LED display for improved legibility.

This is obviously a watch with great performance and sportiness, so it’s not suitable for the most formal occasions, but if you want something tough that can last for a long time and handle all kinds of harsh conditions, this is definitely a great choice.

Specifications

  • Water-resistance: 200m/660 feet
  • Dimensions:  50.8×52.1×16.9mm
  • Crystal: mineral glass
  • Functions: Twin Sensor, Hand shift feature, Super Illuminator with Auto Light

AVI-8 AV-4011 Hawker Hurricane

AVI-8 AV-4011 Hawker Hurricane

The Avi-8 AV-4011 Hawker Hurricane is an aviation-inspired timepiece, and as you can hear from the name – Avi-8 (aviate), this is a brand that is dedicated to making pilot’s watches.

The watch has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 42mm and a water resistance of 50m/165 feet. It is powered by a Japanese quartz movement. The watch features a chronograph and has a classic pilot design with a large dial and a discreet case which leaves all focus on the dial. It has large white contrasting hands and large white Arabic numerals for excellent legibility.

Around the outer edge of the dial, it has a tachymeter scale which is used together with the chronograph to measure average speed.

This watch has a design that is very casual but at the same time is quite sporty. It is suitable for everyday wear but also on more formal occasions too.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Water-resistance: 50m/165 feet
  • Movement: Japanese quartz

Seiko SNN241

Seiko SNN241

The Seiko SNN241 is a popular affordable pilot-inspired watch with a classic design that works perfectly for everyday wear. It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 42.6mm with a brushed finish for a sporty appeal. The watch is water-resistant to 100m/330 feet and on top of the case, it has a Hardlex crystal.

The watch has a beautiful large brown dial divided into two sections with the center consisting of a sunburst part and the outer part of the dial is slightly angled and has large hour markers with luminescent material applied to them. The center dial has large white Arabic numerals. The hands are large and have Lumibrite applied to them. The frame of the hands is painted white to create a better contrast against the brown background. At 6 o’clock, it has a date window for convenience.

As many pilot watches do, the SNN241 is presented on a brown leather strap.

The watch is powered by a Japanese quartz movement and also features a chronograph function.

This watch offers exceptional legibility and has a great combination of sportiness and elegance which makes it a versatile pilot-inspired timepiece that is great for everyday wear. 

Specifications

  • Diameter: 42.6mm
  • Movement: Japanese quartz
  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Crystal: Hardlex

Hamilton H64611535 Khaki King Pilot Watch

Hamilton H64611535 Khaki King Pilot Watch

Many watches in Hamilton’s collection are pilot-inspired, and this is another great alternative if you are looking for a robust and sporty pilot watch.

The watch has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 42mm and has an anti-reflective sapphire crystal on top. The watch is powered by a Swiss quartz movement which, in this case, is a great feature in a pilot’s watch for perfect accuracy. The case also has a beautiful finish with polished bevels which create a nice contrast between the brushed and polished parts. This goes to show that Hamilton has paid great attention to the details.

The watch has a water resistance of 200m/660 feet which means you can take it diving and swimming without any issues.

The dial is of course the part that makes it stand out as a pilot’s watch. It has a matte black background and the case of the watch is quite thin which leaves much room for the dial. A large dial is obviously important for legibility. The dial has large white Arabic numerals with skeletonized hands and applied luminescence. At 3 o’clock, it has a day and date window. The dial has both an outer minute track and inner hour track .

Specifications

  • Water-resistance: 200m/660 feet
  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Crystal: Anti-reflective sapphire

Laco Augsburg Type A Automatic Pilot Watch 861688

Laco Augsburg Type A Automatic Pilot Watch 861688

If you want a sporty timepiece with a true and classic pilot-inspired design, the Laco 861688 is definitely a watch worth considering. This watch stays true to the design language of classic pilot’s watches from the WW2 era which is very interesting and appealing considering the fact that pilot’s watches, after all, are a classic style and type of watch.

The watch has a 42mm stainless steel case with relatively short lugs and a thin bezel which leaves much room for the dial. At 3 o’clock, it has a large, oversized crown. The watch has a large matte black dial with large Arabic numerals and markers treated with Superluminova which provides excellent legibility in low-lit conditions. The hands are large and sharp with Superluminova applied to them. With that said, the legibility is great both during daylight as well as in low-lit conditions. The water resistance is 50 meters and it is presented on a brown leather strap

It is powered by a Citizen Miyota 821A automatic (self-winding) movement. 

All of these elements come together to create a true vintage-inspired pilot’s watch.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Thickness: 12mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Water-resistance: 50m

Seiko Chronograph SND253P1

Seiko Chronograph SND253P1

The Seiko SND253P1 chronograph is a stylish and sporty pilot’s watch that has a lot going on and with lots of different functions.

It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 40mm and a thickness of 10mm which is quite a reasonable size. The water resistance is 10 ATM.

It is powered by the Japanese Quartz caliber 7T92 which ensures great accuracy. The watch features a bidirectional rotating bezel and has a chronograph function. At 3 o’clock, we find a date window. On top of the case, it has a Hardlex mineral crystal.

As a pilot watch should, it also has good legibility with applied hour markers coated with lume and rectangular hands.

This is a watch with a sporty appeal but which, at the same time, is surprisingly versatile and works great for everyday wear. It is perfect if you want a pilot watch, but want something different than the classic large dial and black dial watches.

Specifications

  • Movement: Quartz caliber 7T92
  • Water-resistance: 10 ATM
  • Thickness: 10mm
  • Crystal: Hardlex
  • Water-resistance: 10 ATM

Seiko Pilot Alarm Chronograph

Seiko Pilot Alarm Chronograph

This watch is one of Seiko’s most popular watches, and definitely Seiko’s most popular pilot watch.

It has a 42mm stainless steel case with a Hardlex window on top. On top of the case, it has a Hardlex crystal. The watch is equipped with a rotating inner bezel and a gear-edge bezel. It is water-resistant to 200m/660 feet.

The watch is powered by a Japanese quartz movement for optimum accuracy.

The dial is busy and has a lot going on. This is unarguably a very busy dial and so is not for everyone but if you want something sporty and busy, this is a good alternative. At 3 o’clock, it has a date window, and as an additional bonus, it is equipped with an alarm function.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Water-resistance: 200m/660 feet
  • Movement: Japanese quartz
  • Crystal: Hardlex

Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron BN5058-07E

Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron BN5058-07E

Last but not least, we have the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron. This watch is presented with a stainless steel case with a diameter of 46mm and has a thickness of 14.5mm. With that said, it is quite a large and bulky watch, but if that is what you are after, it is definitely a good alternative.

The watch is powered by an Eco-Drive movement for optimum accuracy and has a water resistance of 200m/660 feet. On top of the case, it has a scratch-resistant mineral crystal. It also has a number of useful functions for pilots. At 3 o’clock, it has a date window and large white Arabic numerals which provide excellent contrast against the black dial. The hands are large and have applied luminescent material as well as white painted frames for better contrast.

The watch has an altimeter measuring from 1,000ft – 32,000ft, compass, and date. Furthermore, it has a black ion-plated stainless steel case. If you want a tough, sporty timepiece with a pilot-inspired design and robust construction, this watch is for you.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 46mm
  • Thickness: 14.5mm
  • Crystal: Mineral glass
  • Water-resistance: 200m/660 feet

Citizen CA0621-05L Eco-Drive

The Citizen Eco-Drive CA0621-05L is a sporty and sleek pilot’s watch with a rugged and a bit of a vintage-inspired design. It is presented with a satin-finished case with a simple design and a thin bezel which leaves most of the room for the dial. On top of the case sits a mineral crystal.

The watch has a water resistance of 100m/330 feet which is enough for everyday wear. It also uses Citizen’s classic Eco-Drive quartz movement which is charged by ambient and solar light. The power reserve is approximately 7 months from a full charge without any exposure to light.

The dial is exactly what we expect a pilot watch to be, and puts great emphasis on legibility. The center of the dial is dark blue and the outer part of the dial is black. The blue color used and the matte finish of the dial give a toned-down look and gives it more of a sporty tool-watch impression. The hands of the watch have white frames for better contrast against the dial and are also filled with luminescence. On the dial, it also has large Arabic numerals which, together with the hands help provide excellent legibility. Positioned at 3 o’clock, you can also find a date window.

All in all, this watch has a good balance between sportiness and versatility and yet a design that instantly reminds of classic and vintage pilot’s watches. 

Specifications

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Movement: Eco-Drive quartz
  • Diameter: 43mm
  • Thickness: 13mm

Citizen Eco-Drive World Chronograph AT8020-03L

If you are looking for a pilot watch with a little extra everything, the Citizen Eco-Drive World Chronograph AT8020-03L is a watch that has a lot to offer. It’s a sporty timepiece that is packed with functions.

The watch has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 43mm and so is on the larger side, but at the same time, pilot’s watches are known to be large. Interestingly enough, despite the large size, the lugs are actually quite slim and have a nice combination of polished and brushed surfaces. For a more sporty appearance, the crown is protected by crown guards.

A clever pilot-inspired feature is its slide-rule bezel which is operated via the crown at 8 o’clock.  The slide-rule bezel works together with the scale on the rehaut which can be useful for pilots. The watch also has a slim blue fixed bezel which leaves all the room for the dial. And that is exactly what this watch needs with all its functions.

The dial has a lot going on and can be perceived as very busy for some, but at the same time, many pilot watches are known for being just that. The dial has three chronograph sub-dials, a date window at 3 o’clock, and applied metal hour markers filled with luminescence. To contrast the subtle blue color, it features sporty yellow accents. On top of the case sits a sapphire crystal.

The watch is powered by a Japanese quartz movement and of course Citizen’s signature Eco-Drive solar technology. The water-resistance of this timepiece is 200m/660 feet.

In addition to the visual features, the watch is also synchronized to Atomic Time Clock which ensures perfect accuracy at all times. The automatic time is available in 26 World Cities.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 43mm
  • Water-resistance: 200m/660 feet
  • Movement: Japanese quartz
  • Crystal: sapphire

Orient Flight Sports Automatic RA-AC0H04Y

We earlier reviewed the Orient flight in detail here but quickly summarized, this is a clean and simple watch with a classic, vintage-inspired design. The watch has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 42.4mm and a thickness of 11.6mm. The case looks just as classic as the dial and has a large crown at 3 o’clock without crown guards. On top of the case, it has a scratch-resistant mineral crystal. The water resistance is, unsurprisingly, 100m/330 feet.

The watch is powered by an automatic movement which is appreciated by watch enthusiasts. The dial has a champagne/beige color with diamond-shaped watch hands which are iconic to pilot’s watches. At 3 o’clock, it has a date window, and the watch has large Arabic numerals for both the minutes and the hours. The large markers together with the lime-filled hands ensure good legibility and give it a distinct look.

Specifications

  • Crystal: scratch-resistant mineral glass
  • Diameter: 42.4mm
  • Thickness: 11.6mm
  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Movement: automatic

Citizen Eco-Drive Avion Chronograph CA4210-41M

The Citizen Avion Eco-Drive CA4210-41M is a sporty pilot’s chronograph with a distinct and versatile design. The watch has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 44mm and a fixed bezel. On top of the case, it has mineral glass.

The watch is powered by an Eco-Drive quartz movement which is convenient and practical. The water resistance is also quite decent at 100m/330 feet and should be enough for everyday wear.

Since this is a chronograph, it incorporates a 1/5 Second Chronograph that measures up to 60 Minutes. The chronograph is presented on the dial with three sub-dials as well as a date window between the 4 and 5 o’clock position. The dial has a nice light blue color with large white markers as well as large white Arabic numerals which is a distinct element of most pilot’s watches. Combined with this, it also has large, white hands filled with luminescence. The legibility is certainly not something to complain about. The numerals are presented both in the form of minutes as well as 12-hour markers.

All in all, this is a stylish timepiece that can work great as an everyday watch and on formal occasions. Its distinct light blue dial stands out from the crowd but also works really great with the overall classic and toned-down style of this timepiece.

Specifications

  • Movement: Eco-Drive solar-powered quartz
  • Diameter: 44mm
  • Crystal: Mineral glass

Why do pilots wear big watches?

Pilot watches have historically been large and associated with a big size. It was during the second world war in particular that pilot watches became large. This wasn’t just the case, but most things, such as the markers, the crown, the pushers.

The purpose of this was not aesthetics. Instead, it was all about functionality. The key reason, why pilot watches had large dials, was to improve the legibility which is obviously very important when flying a plane. In addition, things like large pushers and crowns will make it easier to operate the timepiece whilst wearing gloves.

Why do pilot watches have a triangle?

As you may have seen, many pilot watches have a triangular index positioned at 3 o’clock. There are two purposes for this. The first purpose of this is to help the pilot know tell what is up and what is down. Simply put, it helps with reading the time quickly and correctly. In addition, the dots on each side of the triangle helped the 12 o’clock marker to be differentiated from other numbers with a quick glance. The other reason was for pilots to quickly determine the upward orientation.

Pilot watches with a triangle often have one or two dots on each side. This has become a distnict and iconic trait of many pilot watches today. This design detail came about in pilot watches during WW II  and are known as “Beobachtungsuhren” or “B-Uhren” (observation watches). The purpose of the B-Uhren watches was to work as navigation instruments during the flight.

The triangle at 12 o’clock also makes it possible to use the watch as a primitive solar compass.

What is a pilot bezel?

A function that some pilot watches have is the so-called pilot bezel. It’s important to point out that there are generally two types of bezels that are associated with pilot watches.

The first bezel type is a regular countdown bezel which is used and looks similar to a dive watch bezel. The minute or the hour hand is used as a reference. You then rotate the bezel so that the time remaining is set to the dedicated hand. When the hand reaches zero on the scale, the event is meant to occur. This bezel type can be found both on pilot watches and military watches.

The second pilot bezel usually comes in the form of an internal bezel ring, usually positioned at the very edge of the dial. It is mostly known as a slide rule bezel.

Breitling 1959 Navitimer Reissue

We have featured a few watches with the pilot bezel in this article, for example, the Seiko Pilot Alarm Chronograph and the Citizen Eco-Drive World Chronograph AT8020-03L. Breitling adopted this bezel type early on, and its purpose is to conduct military strikes, working as a countdown after launching a bomb. In other words, the bezel works

This bezel type has become iconic and perhaps most closely associated with one of the most iconic flight-associated watch brands in the world, Breitling.

A slide rule bezel can look really complex at first glance, but when you learn how to use it, it can actually be extremely practical. The slide rule bezel works almost like a wrist computer and is equipped with two logarithmic scales. It does require some mathematical knowledge to use, but if you do, you can perform complex and endless different mathematical calculations.

Different watches incorporate different scales and features in the slide rule bezel, but for pilot watches, it’s common to find the three most important units for pilots which are STAT for standard mileage, KM for kilometers, and NAUT for nautical miles. Thanks to this, pilots can calculate countless different important things such as airspeed, time, distance, convert miles to kilometers, calculate fuel consumption, and much more.

Back in the days when access to advanced digital tools was limited (or non-existent if you go back even farther), the slide rule bezel was an extremely important and useful function for pilots. But even today, those who like math or enjoy doing calculations can find the slide rule bezel really practical and interesting.

Today, computers do all of these calculations (and many more), so they aren’t really crucial for pilots, but for those who appreciate history and want to wear a watch that carries the history of aviation, this type of watch is obviously very practical.

Do pilots need a special watch?

Today, pilots don’t really need a special watch since computers take care of all the data and calculating. But with that said, most pilots still wear wristwatches today, partly because it’s a stylish accessory, but partly also because it allows them to quickly tell the time by glancing at the wrist. In addition, pilots spend most of their time outside the cockpit where they don’t have access to the instruments and clocks.

What is a Flieger watch?

Flieger is German and German for “airman”, or “aviator”. Flieger watches have become known as a particular style of pilot’s watches. Whilst pilot watches can have all kinds of different designs, Flieger watches have one distinct design style.

The Flieger watches have the design that perhaps most people associate with pilot’s watches, meaning a large case (originally measuring 55mm in diameter), a matte black dial, a triangular marker at 12 o’clock, a 60-unit track, as well as bright luminescent hands, originally painted with radium.

The German Flieger watches would obviously come to become the most iconic, and during World War II, the Germans soldiers used the so-called B-Uhren, B-Uhr, or Flieger, made specifically for the German Luftwaffe. The key highlight of these timepieces was of course their exceptional legibility.

History of the pilot watch

Louis Cartier (yes, THE Cartier) has been credited for inventing the first pilot’s watch. Cartier made a watch for this friend Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904 which would become the world’s first pilot’s watch. Alberto Santos-Dumont was a pioneering aviator.

During the time to come, pilot watches would come to change and become more popular. Pilot’s watches became particularly important during WW II. After Cartier’s watch, many other watch brands would soon follow after, and lots of different pilot watches came to the market. Rember that this was also during a time when aviation was highly regarded and lots of aviation-related innovations came about.

During WW II, the pilot became standard issue for military pilots and became a crucial tool for all pilots.

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