Three of the best - pilot watches

Crafted by Cartier in 1904 for Brazilian aviator Santos Dumont, the original pilot wristwatch was designed as an alternative to the pocket watch, which was tricky to check without letting go of the controls. These days, what was once a means of telling the time in-flight has transformed into the timepiece of choice for men wanting to make an on-wrist statement without looking like Lil Wayne.

Defining characteristics include a robust shape, light titanium casing, luminous hands (for reading the time on night flights) and an extra long strap (to reach over your aviator jacket). Though previous years have seen pilot watches swept up in the trend for clownish, outsized styles, this season’s big story is that manufacturers are beginning to eschew larger shapes in favour of smaller, wearable (and much more desirable) pieces.

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Here are a few of this year’s top-flight (get it?) pilot watches to give you a taste of the trend. Tally Ho!

From top:

Bell and Ross Vintage WW1-97 £2700

IWC Pilot Chronograph Automatic £3500

Breitling Transocean Chronograph Caliber 01 £6120

Photograph by Andy Barter