Pilot watches, or aviation watches, are the aerial counterparts of dive watches. As tool timepieces, pilot watches are known to offer great utility. They are equipped with various handy complications meant to help pilots navigate safely through the skies. There may already be measuring devices on a plane’s control panel, but having a small, convenient pilot watch that instantly shows you the important data is definitely a huge plus, even for veteran pilots.
Like dive timepieces, pilot watches carry a certain prestige in the watchmaking industry. With that in mind, many people believe that pilot watches are bound to come at exorbitant prices. Indeed, some pilot watches do have price tags that go above $5,000 USD—specifically those from luxury brands like Rolex and Omega. That said, for those on a tight budget, there are excellent pilot watches available on the market for less than $1,000 USD. It might still seem like quite a lot of money, but for a high-functioning aviation watch, it is actually quite a reasonable bargain.
With that in mind, let us go over some of the best pilot watches that you can get for under $1,000 USD. These pilot watches may not be as lavish as those from luxury brands like IWC, but you can be sure that they are just as reliable, hardy, and far more affordable.
25 Best Pilot Watches Under $1000
1. Seiko Brightz Flight Expert Ref. SAGA261
Seiko is home to some of the most affordable pilot watches with amazing features on the market. The Seiko Brightz Flight Expert Ref. SAGA261 is an aviation watch that is packed with functions such as dual time zones, a day-of-the-week indicator, a date aperture, and a GPS function. It uses a 43.2mm stainless steel case with a blue bezel that is marked with cities across the globe. In addition, it is equipped with a quartz movement that has a solar power cell embedded in its mechanism. This allows the watch to last for over 9 months when fully charged. This Seiko watch retails at $939 USD. It allows users to check through various time zones with remarkable efficiency and is a worthy investment for both experienced pilots and the average jet setter.
2. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Ref. H76522131
Hamilton is a renowned watch brand that manufactures promising pilot watches at very affordable prices. The Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Ref. H76522131 is Hamilton’s stylish pilot watch designed for young pilots. It boasts a classic 41mm stainless steel case, and a sleek black dial with eye-catching bronze accents on the hands and indices. This $645 USD pilot watch uses a quartz calibre movement and has a 100m water resistance rating.
3. Fossil Pilot 54 Ref. FS5146
Fossil might not be the first brand that comes to mind when thinking about aviation watches. That is because Fossil primarily focuses on stylish timepieces that cater to those who are on a tight budget. That said, Fossil does have a diverse catalog, including some excellent watches that can be used for aviation purposes too. The Fossil Pilot 54 Ref. FS5146 is an outstanding pseudo-aviation watch that offers simplicity, utility, and style. While not specifically designed to be an aviation watch, it can still serve pilots and other individuals in the aviation field well. The watch’s 44mm stainless steel case pairs well with its cream dial and classic brown leather strap. As a chronograph piece, it also has three sub-dials scattered across its dial. Like the other pilot watches on this list, this aviation timepiece is also equipped with a quartz movement. The Fossil Pilot 54 Ref. FS5146 retails at a budget-friendly price of just $129 USD.
4. Alpina Startimer Ref. AL-371BB4FBS6
Alpina has had over a century of experience in making pilot watches, which makes them quite the authority when it comes to crafting high-quality watches of the same genre. While some watches offered by Alpina do go over our price limit, there are a few contenders in their Startimer Automatic collection that cost less than $1,000 USD. The Alpina Startimer Ref. AL-371BB4FBS6 is a sleek all-black pilot watch that bolsters its stealthy design with a sturdy 42mm black stainless steel case. It also has 100m of water resistance, which makes it a great choice for outdoor recreational activities. The jet-black dial contrasts against sleek white hands and indices, ensuring great legibility while still maintaining the watch’s understated look. It also features three sub-dials, which includes a day-of-the-week indicator. This Alpina Startimer Ref. AL-371BB4FBS6 retails at $895 USD.
5. Fossil Pilot 54 Ref. FS5203
The Fossil Pilot 54 Ref. FS5203 is yet another entry by Fossil in the world of pilot watches. This time, this Fossil watch dons a stainless steel bracelet and a fresh, eye-catching blue dial. It uses a 44mm stainless steel case that matches perfectly with the bracelet. It has luminous rose gold-tone hands and markers along with three sub-dials, of which two of them are highlighted with rose gold accents. That said, despite its durable, anti-corrosion steel case, this watch only has a water resistance rating of 50m. This $139 USD timepiece is meant for those who want an affordable and straightforward pilot watch that can take them to the skies.
6. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Day-Date Ref. H64725531
The Hamilton Khaki Aviation Day-Date Ref. H64725531 offers a more rustic design compared to the Pilot Pioneer model mentioned above. Its stainless steel case is much larger, weighing in at 46mm in width with a height of 12.3mm. This watch boasts a black dial with silver-tone hands and striking bronze hour markers, which makes for a nice blend of colors. The biggest selling point of this aviation timepiece is its automatic caliber movement. It is equipped with the Hamilton Caliber H-30 and comes with a power reserve of a whopping 80 hours. It is quite rare for watches under $1,000 USD to have automatic movements. However, in this case, the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Day-Date Ref. H64725531 can be purchased for just $995 USD, giving you a truly top-notch pilot watch at a relatively accessible price.
7. Citizen Promaster Sky Ref. CB5850-80E
Citizen has always been one of those amazing watch brands that pride themselves on their aviation expertise. Not only that — their pilot watches are on par with those from some luxury brands in terms of versatility and utility. One of the best aviation watches on this list is none other than the Citizen Promaster Sky Ref. CB5850-80E. It is jam-packed with all the features you need in a top-notch aviation watch such as chronograph sub-dials, multiple time zones, a date aperture, and a World Timer. It has a 43mm titanium case and bracelet, giving the watch a lightweight yet sturdy and shock-resistant profile. It is powered by a quartz movement and has a water resistance rating of 200m. This watch is also equipped with Citizen’s signature Eco-Drive technology, which allows it to be charged using solar power. The price of the Citizen Promaster Sky Ref. CB5850-80E starts at $669 USD, which is relatively cheap for such a high-functioning aviation watch.
8. Seiko Prospex Eco-Drive Ref. SSC737P1
Citizen is not the only brand to make use of the Eco-Drive technology for their pilot watches. Seiko also employed the Eco-Drive calibre movement to create the solar-powered Seiko Prospex Eco-Drive Ref. SSC737P1. This watch has a 44mm stainless steel case with a bezel that has detailed compass indications and markings. The blue dial is home to three sub-dials and a date aperture at the 3 o’clock position. With the Eco-Drive movement, this watch can last up to 6 months when fully charged with solar power. It is a very convenient and versatile watch that proves to be useful on any occasion. It retails at an affordable price of just $449 USD.
9. Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium Ref. AT8195-85L
The Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium Ref. AT8195-85L is another impressive aviation watch that was introduced by Citizen. This watch uses a 44mm grey titanium case and bracelet, giving it a more sleek and stylish aesthetic. Its blue dial is packed with three chronograph sub-dials, a date aperture, luminescent sword-shaped hands, and time zone markings for different cities from all over the world. Compared to other pilot watches, the Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium Ref. AT8195-85L is definitely focused on catering to pilots rather than ordinary folk. As such, this watch might be a little difficult to read and understand for the average user, but it is perfectly outfitted with everything the experienced pilot needs on their next flight. This pilot watch can be purchased for $750 USD.
10. Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster Time Sync Ref. GPW-2000-1A2JF
Since Seiko was already included on the list, it is impossible not to include its fellow Japanese watchmaker, Casio. The Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster Time Sync Ref. GPW-2000-1A2JF is an innovative aviation watch that is equipped with Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity features. These features are a staple of all Casio G-Shock watches, and adding them to this pilot watch is a step forward for G-Shock. The Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster Time Sync Ref. GPW-2000-1A2JF has a rugged black and blue resin and stainless steel case, with dimensions of 66mm x 57mm x 18.2mm. It is an oversized watch that is equipped with optimal durability, while also possessing great accuracy. The price for this particular Casio timepiece is $799 USD.
11. Bulova Special Edition Moon Apollo Lunar Pilot Ref. 96B251
Image courtesy of Bulova
Bulova has a rich history when it comes to creating pilot watches. A prominent milestone for Bulova was its involvement in the 1971 Apollo 15 mission. In honour of that historical event, Bulova created the Bulova Special Edition Moon Apollo Lunar Pilot Ref. 96B251. This watch stands out with its 45mm tonneau-shaped stainless steel case and a floating seconds hand. It is equipped with a quartz movement that has a 262 kHz vibrational frequency for precise timekeeping. You can dress this pilot watch up with a textured black leather strap, or down with a simple black nylon band. This iconic watch has actually been discontinued and is now part of Bulova’s Archive series. That said, it is still available on the second-hand market for a price of just $550 USD.
12. Avi-8 Hawker Hurricane Ref. AV-4011-0E
Homage watches are quite prevalent in the world of watchmaking. In this case, the Avi-8 Hawker Hurricane Ref. AV-4011-0E pays tribute to the Hawker Hurricane jet used during World War II. This Avi-8 pilot watch uses some of the design aspects of the iconic fighter plane to create a true vintage classic. It has a 42mm stainless steel case with a 50m water resistance rating. Although it is not the most powerful watch on this list, it still does its job well as an aviation model with the guise of a commemorative timepiece. The retail price for this watch starts at $235 USD.
13. Laco Augsburg 42 Ref. 861688.2
If you are looking for an affordable aviation watch with a simple design, the Laco Augsburg 42 Ref. 861688.2 might be the one for you. It does not have any flashy design schemes or overly complicated features. Instead, it boasts a clean and straightforward black dial with the standard hours, minutes, and seconds indicators. It uses a 42mm stainless steel case with a classy brown leather strap that gives it a bit more style. Another great thing about this pilot watch is that it is equipped with a powerful automatic caliber movement. The Laco 21 caliber provides this watch with features like a 42-hour power reserve and the hacking seconds function. This timepiece is priced at $400, which is a very affordable price for an automatic pilot watch.
14. Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Ref. CB0240-88E
Ever since its debut, the Citizen Promaster series has never disappointed. In this case, the Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Ref. CB0240-88E is a stylish aviation watch that balances both utility and aesthetics. It has a 43mm stainless steel case, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and a 200m water resistance rating. Much like its fellow Promaster watches, it is also equipped with the Eco-Drive movement, which enables it to run solely on solar power. When fully charged, it can last for up to 6 months. The price for this amazing pilot watch is just $349 USD.
15. Citizen Attesa Eco-Drive Radio Clock Ref. AT8040-57L
The Citizen Attesa Eco-Drive Radio Clock Ref. AT8040-57L has a perfect balance of luxury and utility. It is a great choice for those who are looking for a multi-purpose watch that has a semi-luxurious vibe to it. This watch is not a full-time pilot watch, but it can still fit the part with its radio-controlled clock which can sync up with radio wave receptions from all over the world. It uses a 40mm titanium alloy case and has a 100m water resistance rating. This is a versatile aviation watch, retailing at $719 USD, that caters not only to pilots but travellers as well.
16. Orient Pilot’s Sport Watch Ref. RA-AC0H04Y10A
Image courtesy of Orient
Orient goes for a more classic look with its Orient Pilot’s Sport Watch Ref. RA-AC0H04Y10A. With its straightforward yet still sleek dial, timekeeping as a pilot has never been easier. It has a 42.4mm stainless steel case that ensures durability and protection from scratches or drops. It also has a 100m water resistance rating, making it possible to go for a short swim while wearing this watch. This timepiece is equipped with the Caliber F6722 which has a power reserve of approximately 40 hours. It is a classic pilot watch that is both affordable and stylish. This watch can be purchased for $310 USD.
17. Stuhrling Original Aviator Ref. 3916.1
Flieger (which means “airman” in German) watches are oversized timepieces that have case sizes larger than 55mm. Developed by the German Air Force, the Flieger watch is highly recognizable due to its large steel case, oversized crown, sword-shaped hands, and a signature triangle marker at the 12 o’clock position. The Stührling Original Aviator Ref. 3916.1 stays true to that classic Flieger design. This traditional pilot watch has an elegant, vintage feel that makes it suitable for both formal occasions as well as a pilot’s cockpit. Its dial, which has playful hints of yellow and red accents against a black backdrop, also adds a bit of modernity to the watch, making it a huge hit with younger generations. The price for this versatile aviation watch starts at $415 USD.
18. Stuhrling Condura Aviator Ref. 908.01
The Stuhrling Condura Aviator Ref. 908.01 offers a more sophisticated design compared to the aforementioned Stuhrling Original Aviator. It has a 45mm stainless steel case with an alloy bezel that provides great durability. Unfortunately, this watch only has 30m of water resistance, making it unsuitable for use in the water. It is a chronograph watch that boasts a unique dial design. At first glance, you might be led to believe that this watch possesses a skeleton dial, but this is not the case. It is simply an intriguing optical illusion, created by a design of overlapping sub-counters. Indeed, this pilot watch has a beguiling watch face that simply invites people to take a second or even a third look. The price for this watch starts at $995 USD.
19. MK II Cruxible Type-A11
The MKII Cruxible Type-A11 celebrates aviation history with vintage flair. This timepiece has managed to build a reputation as a fine American-made tool watch under the helm of master watchmaker Bill Yao. It has a simple design that boasts sizable numerals as well as a large crown, with teeth edges for a better grip. It has a 39mm satin-finished 316L stainless steel case that is paired with a double-domed sapphire crystal. The rough-textured dial, and the delicately engraved brand name under the 12 o’clock marker, give the watch an aura of sleek luxury which is hard to replicate. This quintessential pilot’s watch can be purchased for $649 USD.
20. Archimede Pilot 39 H.S.LS Ref. UA7969-A4.1S
The Archimede Pilot 39 H.S.LS Ref. UA7969-A4.1S is yet another German-made aviation watch that took the market by storm. It is a very simple pilot’s watch. It boasts a straightforward dial with the necessary hour and minute indicators and luminous blue hands. It uses a 39mm stainless steel case that is manufactured by ICKLER, a watch manufacturing company in Germany, ensuring that the most premium, high-quality materials are used to craft this watch. After all, German watches are often known for their durability, and this hardy timepiece is no different. This pilot’s watch is also equipped with an ETA 2824-2 automatic caliber, which has a power reserve of 38 hours and a water resistance capacity of 100m. The price for this aviation watch is $900 USD.
21. Casio Edifice Ref. EF527D-1AV
Aside from the G-Shock, Casio also has the Edifice collection. It is home to several multi-functional watches that can be used for a variety of purposes, including in the aviation field. The Casio Edifice Ref. EF527D-1AV is a prime example of what Casio can do in terms of innovative technologies like wireless connectivity and exceptional durability. This watch has a 45.5 stainless steel case and bracelet, giving it a classic look that is perfect for an aviation watch. The black dial is filled to the brim with time zone indicators, chronograph sub-dials, and a date aperture to ensure that pilots will get the most they can out of this watch. This pilot’s timepiece is also extremely budget-friendly, retailing at just $175 USD.
22. Seiko Brightz Flight Expert Ref. SAGA205
The Seiko Brightz collection is home to a few impressive and affordable pilot watches. Each of these watches offers amazing features that will surely help both seasoned and young pilots. For instance, the Seiko Brightz Flight Expert Ref. SAGA205 has a 42.3mm stainless steel case and a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel that features a tachymetric scale. It also has a 100m water resistance rating, which allows the wearer to easily take it into the shower or for a brief swim. This watch boasts a black dial with three chronograph sub-dials. On the rim of the dial, you can find a range of time zone indicators for various cities across the globe. Plus, the date aperture is also located between the 4th and 5th-hour markers. This aviation watch which is packed with handy complications can be purchased for $899 USD.
23. Seiko Brightz Solar Radio Ref. SAGZ091
Although it is not a dedicated pilot watch, the Seiko Brightz Solar Radio Ref. SAGZ091 is still useful to frequent travellers and professionals in the aviation industry. This is because of its multiple time zone feature, which allows this Seiko Brightz to sync its time to any of the cities indicated on its bezel. It may not have the same handy chronograph sub-dials as other pilot watches, but it offers a more straightforward form of timekeeping, which is perfect for those who are always on the go. This watch boasts a 39.5mm titanium case and bracelet, which gives it a boost in terms of durability. Furthermore, it has a water resistance rating of 100m. It is also equipped with a solar-powered caliber which allows it to last for over 6 months when fully charged. This Seiko Brightz Solar timepiece can be purchased for $619 USD.
24. Marathon Black Pilot’s Navigator w/ Date Ref. WW194013-S-BK-B
The Marathon Black Pilot’s Navigator w/ Date Ref. WW194013-S-BK-B is a stealthy aviation watch that provides a lightweight, all-black exterior. This is paired with a straightforward black dial, which features a quintessential layout of 12 numeral hour markers, luminous hands and indices, and a date aperture. Its case, which measures 41mm in diameter, is made of composite 316L stainless steel. For frequent jet setters, this watch also comes with a rotating bezel for time zone purposes. The price for the Marathon Black Pilot’s Navigator w/ Date Ref. WW194013-S-BK-B starts at $450 USD.
25. Seiko Brightz Wave Solar Radio Ref. SAGA197
Last, but certainly not least, we have the Seiko Brightz Wave Solar Radio Ref. SAGA197. This watch has a 43.6mm titanium case with a high-quality scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. On its sleek grey dial, you can find luminous sword-shaped hands, indices, three chronograph sub-dials, a date aperture, and a list of cities on the outer rim which allows users to keep track of different time zones. As the name suggests, it is also equipped with a solar power cell which allows it to run for over 6 months when fully charged under the sun. This Seiko Brightz pilot watch has a water resistance rating of 100m, and it retails at a reasonable price of $819 USD.
History of Aviation Watches
In 1904, Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian aeronaut and renowned figure in the aviation world asked his good friend, Louis Cartier to make him a suitable watch to wear while manning an aircraft. This historical exchange paved the way for the first aviation watch to be used during a flight. The watch Carter crafted for Santos-Dumont featured a distinct square-shaped case with visible screws on its bezel. This design quickly gained traction, which led to its official launch in 1911 as a bonafide aviation watch named the Cartier Santos-Dumont. It was said to have been a great help in terms of calculating fuel consumption, take-off speed, airspeed, and much more. The Cartier Santos-Dumont marked the start of a massively popular genre of watches that remains iconic to this day.
Over the years, pilot watches have shifted away from the Santos-Dumont square-shaped look to round chronographs that are more familiar to us today. Rolex and Breitling were two of the foremost brands in the pilot watch field. They recognized the vast potential of pilot watches, and mixed passion for aviation and expertise in watchmaking to create catalogs of impressive, reliable aviation timepieces. The Breitling Navitimer was so successful that the international pilot organization AOPA recommended making the Navitimer the official watch for pilots. This incredible feat led Breitling to create more pilot watches that would go on to achieve popularity and status in the watchmaking industry. Rolex, on the other hand, entered the competition with their GMT Master. They made use of the existing blueprint of their renowned Submariner but innovated the addition of a GMT function to cater this watch to aviation professionals. With the GMT Master, pilots would no longer have a hard time in timekeeping whenever they landed in a new time zone. Rolex also had the foresight to target the GMT Master at both travelers and pilots, as a way to expand interest in pilot watches. It was an impressive, high-quality aviator watch that helped Rolex cement its legendary status in the horological world today.
Pilot watches are sought after by many watch enthusiasts, to the point where vintage aviation pieces are probably considered treasures of the olden ages. One consequence of this prestige is that aviator watches tend to be priced more highly, just like dive watches. That said, there are still affordable and high-quality pilot watches to be found on the market. We have come up with a list of 25 excellent affordable pilot watches that you can get for less than $1,000 USD. It is not an exhaustive list, but we hope that it will serve as a good start in helping you find the perfect budget-friendly aviator watch just for you.
If none of these watches suits you, check out our review on the Seagull 1963 vintage watch. It might match your style.
Image courtesy of WatchShopping, unless stated otherwise.
Featured image courtesy of Stuhrling.