Best Watches for Pilots

If you're looking for a digital watch with all the latest features and functionality, or you're looking for a statement piece inspired by an historic aircraft, we have options.

When shopping for the perfect watch—whether it is a gift for yourself or you’re shopping for a pilot—there are many things to consider before you make the purchase. Are you looking for a digital watch with all the latest features and functionality, or are you looking for a statement piece inspired by an historic aircraft? In this gift guide, we’ll show you some of our favorites in both categories that would make excellent gifts for pilots. Looking for more gifts to give other than a watch? Check out our guide on the best gifts for pilots.

Quicklook: Pilot Watches to Give

  1. Garmin D2 Mach 1:  Best for piloting and everyday use
  2. Garmin D2 Air X10: Best for those looking for a watch only for aviation
  3. Apple Watch Series 7: Best for active pilots who don’t need full integration
  4. Avi-8 Matador Chronograph Bronze Carbon: Best for exposed watch movement
  5. Timex x Pan-Am Chronograph: Best for a pilot watch on a budget
  6. Citizen Promaster Skyhawk A-T: Best for pilots who want to honor the Blue Angels
  7. Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph: Best for those wanting to make a statement

Digital Watches for Pilots

Many aviators are looking for the ultimate functionality in their pilot watches. From navigation to altimeter settings, even measuring oxygen levels and pulse during flight, the ultimate pilot watch must suit your  mission. Most are looking for a watch to perform well even when you’re not flying—or need the watch for navigating—such as during exercise or while golfing. We’ll break down our top choices for digital watches for pilots. 

Garmin D2 Mach 1

Garmin’s Mach 1 includes a touchscreen to make navigating between features faster and easier. [Courtesy: Garmin]

Garmin D2 Mach 1 is a top of the line pilot watch that offers a robust feature set for aviating, as well as for everyday life. One of our favorite features of the D2 Mach 1 is the moving map and radar overlay. The D2 Mach 1 has standard smartwatch connectivity including text, phone, and calendar alerts. For the aviator that also plays golf, the Mach 1 also has golf course maps available. This timepiece would make an excellent gift for any pilot. 


  • Case size: 47 mm x 47 mm x 14.5 mm
  • Screen: 1.3-inch diameter AMOLED
  • Weight: 70 grams
  • Battery life: up to 11 days in smartwatch mode; up to 24 hours in fly mode (GPS + pulse oximeter)
  • Water resistance: 10 ATM (100 meters)
  • Band material: titanium, silicone, or leather options available

Digital: Yes

GPS: Yes

Pulse Oximeter: Yes

Cell Phone Connectivity: Yes

Special Features

  • Detailed health and wellness tracking
  • More than 30 built-in sports apps
  • Animated workouts
  • Topo and golf course maps
  • Smartphone notifications for text messages, calendar appointments, and more
  • Store all your music on your watch, including Spotify playlists

Why We Chose This: Garmin has a long history of creating watches specifically for pilots, and the Garmin D2 Mach 1 is the ultimate in pilot watch technology. It automatically logs your health and wellness data as a part of your flight tracking when paired with the Garmin Pilot App, which can be great for situational awareness and learning from previous flights. It also has many features you would expect out of a modern smartwatch when you are not flying, making this a very compelling timepiece for any pilot, whether a professional pilot or a recreational pilot.

Pricing: $1,199 for the Leather Band

 $1,299 for the Titanium Band

Garmin D2 Air X10

The D2 Air X10 connects with users’ compatible phones. [Courtesy: Garmin]

The Garmin D2 Air X10 is the second Garmin watch to make the list, and it has some of the same features for pilots as the D2 Mach 1, with a lower price tag and fewer lifestyle features. Missing on this edition is the moving map and some of the built-in workout features—but it still automatically logs in-flight health data and automatically syncs with the Garmin Pilot App. This watch retains many of the D2 Mach 1, and it should be considered as a good gift for any pilot. 


  • Case size: 43.2 mm x 43.2 mm x 12.4 mm
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Battery life: up to 7 days in smartwatch mode or 20 hours in GPS/pulse oximeter mode
  • Fits wrists with a circumference of 125 to 190 mm.
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM (50 meters)

Digital: Yes

GPS: Yes

Pulse Oximeter: Yes

Cell Phone Connectivity: Yes

Workout Features: Yes, but requires other fitness applications

Why we chose this: The D2 Air X10 is far lighter than the previous generations of pilot watches, and it has a feature set that any pilot will find helpful when flying. The automatic takeoff detection and syncing to the Garmin Pilot App make this a seamless accessory, and it can be useful in a pilot’s tool kit. Coming in at less than half the price of the D2 Mach 1, this watch is a great alternative and makes a good gift.

Pricing: $549 at Sporty’s

Mechanical Pilot Watches

Pilot watches are specifically designed for aviators. First created in the early 1920s, there are a few different features that make pilot watches unique. They typically have large cases so that they can be easily seen in flight, and often have color schemes making them legible to read during the day or at night. Many pilot watches have 24-hour scales on the dial, which allow pilots to keep track of time in multiple time zones simultaneously. Before the digital era, the pilot watch was often used as a tool for navigating, but today these watches are more often about fashion, history, and making a statement. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite pilot watches, ranging in price and complexity, to help you choose the perfect gift for a pilot or yourself.

Avi-8 Matador Chronograph Bronze Carbon

The AVI-8 Matador Chronograph [Courtesy: AVI-8}

The Matador Chronograph is a part of the company’s Harrier series of watches, paying tribute to the Hawker Harrier Jump Jet (read a synopsis of Hawker company history here), an iconic aircraft known for a deep history in the late 19th century and flying in many military fleets. This watch is specifically named for the Spanish Naval version of the aircraft, which shares the nickname Matador.  


  • Movement: Japan quartz chronograph with 1/20 second and big date functions
  • Case material: Stainless steel
  • Case size: 45 mm x 52.6 mm x 15 mm
  • Lens: Mineral lens with anti-reflective coating
  • Band material: Leather
  • Band width : 22 mm
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM (50 meters)
  • Weight: 100 grams

Warranty: Yes, 2 Years 

Digital: No

Why we chose this

This timepiece goes beyond eye candy with an exposed movement that simulates the aircraft that it is named for—the Matador—which was flown in the Spanish Navy. It is also great for those looking to stay within a lower price range compared to other watches with similar features.

Pricing: $330

Timex x Pan Am Chronograph

[Courtesy: Timex]

Timex x Pan Am Chronograph is a limited edition watch that honors the partnership between Timex and Pan Am. The history of the two companies intersects in many ways, with both brands iconic in their respective industries. Watches have always been an important part of pilot gear, and Timex has a long history of making watches for pilots. Pan American World Airways was founded in 1927 (the same year as FLYING), and quickly became one of the most successful airlines in the world. 


  • Watch movement: Quartz analog
  • Case size: 42 mm x 20 mm x 12 mm
  • Case material: Stainless steel
  • Band color: Brown
  • Case color: Stainless steel
  • Strap width: 20 mm
  • Attachment hardware color: Stainless steel
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM (50 meters)

Digital: No


Special Features

  • Day and date window
  • Stainless steel watch case

Why we chose this:

Pan Am operated the Douglas DC-3, which is a classic aircraft that holds a special place in many pilot’s hearts.

Pricing: $219 on Timex.com

Citizen Promaster Skyhawk A-T

[Courtesy: Citizen]

The Citizen Promaster Skyhawk A-T is a pilot’s watch that was inspired by the Blue Angels, making it an ideal gift for any pilot or aviation enthusiast who holds the U.S. Navy demonstration team in high regard. 


  • Movement: Eco-drive (powered by any light source—no need for batteries)
  • Band length: 228.6 mm
  • Case diameter: 45 mm
  • Lug width: 23.81 mm
  • Case material: Two-tone stainless steel with the Blue Angels insignia replicated on the caseback
  • Water resistance: 20 ATM (203 m/666 ft)

Digital: No


Why we chose this:

The Blue Angels have advanced aviation and inspired the next generation of aviators through their aerial performances. This watch celebrates the heritage and skill displayed by those pilots. 

Pricing: $750

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph

[Courtesy: Breitling]

The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph has a long-standing aviation history. Designed in 1952 with a circular slide rule in order for pilots to be able to make necessary calculations in the air, this timepiece is loved by pilots all over the world. This watch has even made it to space in 1962. There are few other watches that host the variety of features this one does—while also making a statement—which is why the Navitimer has been placed in FLYING’s gift guides for many years.


  • Movement: Self-winding mechanical
  • Case material: 18k red gold
  • Case diameter: 46.0 mm
  • Product weight (approx.): 153 grams
  • Water resistance: 3 ATM (30 meters)

Digital: No


Why did we choose this:

The Breitling brand has a long history in aviation, including their sponsorship of the now-discontinued Breitling Jet Team, their partnership with AOPA, and their support of many efforts to promote aviation. The Navitimer is also a beautiful watch with a long history of use by pilots around the world.

Price: $3,800 to $25,000

Selecting The Perfect Gifts for Aviation Lovers

Whether you are looking to buy a watch for yourself or for someone else, it is important to understand all the factors before you make the purchase. Pick a watch that best fits your needs and budget. For more information about pilot watches and all things aviation, subscribe to FLYING Magazine. 



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