It was during this critical time that manufacturers really focused on defining the vital features of a pilot’s watch and these are the characteristics that remain in place today:
The Dial – This must be both large enough and clear enough for a pilot to tell the time in varying conditions and sometimes under extreme pressure.
The Lume – In order to be read at a glance in the dark, the lume on the large legible dial needs to be very clear and bright.
The Crown – When these watches were designed it was normal for the pilot to fly wearing large leather gloves that made it impossible to work a standard crown. Consequently, they were designed with oversized ‘onion’ crowns on long stems that they could use without removing their gloves.
The Bezel – Some pilot’s watches have more complicated bezels (Breitling Navitimer for instance), to allow the pilot to make extra calculations while flying.
GMT Functions – Nowadays, many pilot’s watches have a dual time or GMT feature allowing the wearer to tell the time in two over even three time zones simultaneously.
Since 2016 there has been an internationally recognised standard specification for pilot’s watches. Launched in Germany, DIN 8330 was designed to ensure a very high standard of specification ensuring that the watch can be read quickly and accurately both during the day and at night, as well as being operated while wearing gloves. It also established a standard for resistance to changes in temperature, resistance to shock and G-forces, as well as accuracy in a variety of changing conditions.
DIN 8330 also defines more precise criteria, including for vibration resistance, magnetic field protection, resistance to liquids commonly encountered in the aviation industry (fuel, lubricants, cleaning fluids and de-icer) and compatibility with night-vision equipment.
It’s interesting to see that all of the criteria defined 100 years previously made it onto the DIN 8330 list.
The first manufacturers to pass the DIN 8330 tests and produce certified watches were German brands Sinn and Stowa
Our next instalment takes us away from war time and introduces the most famous postman ever…