First up, I love mechanical watches, particularly automatic mechanical watches. There’s something about the look and feel of a mechanical watch that quartz watches just don’t do for me. I love the way the second hand sweeps smoothly on a mechanical watch, compared with the tick-tick of a quartz watch second hand. And in my experience, the battery on quartz watches always goes dead when you’re miles from anywhere with a facility to change it.
Next, I want a really clear, easy to read dial – this is probably due to my advancing years and (allegedly) retarding eyesight, the need to see the time quickly at a a glance, even in bumpy air, and a love of the simplicity and elegance of an uncluttered watch face. Too many so-called pilot watches are cluttered up with numbers, extra dials and functions that you may use once in a blue moon, and when you do need to use them you can’t remember how!
Finally, as most of the times for pilots are quoted as UTC – that’s basically the same as GMT and Zulu – and here in Australia we are anything from 8 to 11 hours ahead of GMT (depending on state and season), a dual-time or GMT indication is very useful.
But when I factor in the price, that’s when things get difficult…
Possibly one of my all-time favourites is the Rolex Explorer II with a white face. It meets all my criteria – except the main one: price. At around $7,500 it’s way out of my budget and even secondhand examples (if you can find one) are still very expensive.
Another is the Steinhart Aviation GMT. It’s a lot less expensive at around $550 but seems almost impossible to find. At the lower end of the price scale are Torgoen watches – in the main they have quartz movements but they seem to be reliable and have some nicely designed faces. Their T25 GMT series starts at about $250 – of these, the T25104 with the white face would be my choice but the T25103 with a black face comes a close second, although reading the black-hand GMT pointer can be tricky until you know where to look.
My own watch is a Christopher Ward C11. This is an automatic mechanical watch with a lovely clear face. It doesn’t have a GMT indication, so I’ll have to make do with my OzRunways navigation app on my iPad. Unless my fairy godmother comes up with a Rolex…but who believes in fairies?