With the new age of aviation in the 20th century came the need for a specialized timepiece that was very precise, reliable, and technologically advanced. Enter the aviator watch, also know as the pilot watch. This specialized timepiece is typically easy to identify — they usually have a sporty aesthetic, flybacks, oversized crowns, and integrated protection against gravitational force chances and magnetization. In short, these watches are made for flying and have grown right along with the aeronautics field.
Legendary watchmaker Louis Cartier designed the world’s first aviator watch for Alberto Santos-Dumont, an aviation pioneer. Once it was put on the market for sale in 1911 to public acclaim, other top watchmakers followed with their own aviator timepieces including the Omega Speedmaster and Breitling Navitimer. Today, aviator watches are more precise than ever, and some models are also quite luxurious. What was once a tool that was all about functionality has taken a fashionable turn, and they’ve become a very hot commodity. It’s not uncommon for pilot timepieces from top brands to cost several thousand dollars each.
Here are ten of the most expensive aviator watches that you can buy.
10. Zenith Lady Pilot Type 20 – $41,400
The sole women’s watch on this list is notable because it’s what most women’s watches today are not: technologically advanced and not merely focused on aesthetics. The Zenith Lady Pilot Type 20 proves that it really is possible to have extraordinary function and good looks.
9. IWC Vintage Collection Limited Edition Hand-Wound Pilot – $41,600
The IWC vintage collection pays homage to some of the company’s most noted timepieces of the past, and the Limited Edition Hand-Wound Pilot watch is simply stunning. It has a platinum 44 mm case, black leather strap, unidirectional rotating bezel, and a white dial. The hand-wound mechanical movement has a 46 hour power reserve, and the transparent case back allows its wearer to get a peek at the incredible engineering inside.
8. Breitling Transocean Unitime Pilot (RB0510U8-C881 LC) – $43,715
Breitling continued its tradition of making watches as impressive on the inside as they are in appearance with the Transocean Unitime Pilot. It has a chronograph that displays quarter seconds, 30 minutes, and 12 hours, as well as a self-winding mechanical movement with 56 jewels and a minimum 70 hour power reserve. The sapphire crystal display protects a deep blue dial, and the watch is water resistant to 100 meters.
7. IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Limited Edition – $45,500
The IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Limited Edition aviator watch is bold and incredibly designed. Its black dial is complemented by a black alligator leather strap, 46 mm 18 carat rose gold case, and a rose gold buckle. This high tech timepiece displays a host of functions including small seconds, minutes, hours, the day, date, month, and moon phase. It also has a perpetual calendar and an automatic movement. Just 250 pieces of this model were produced.
6. Joe Rodeo JMP18 Master Pilot Diamond Watch – $52,000
Joe Rodeo’s Master Pilot Diamond Watch has a Swiss movement and chronograph that are highly precise. It’s water resistant to 100 meters, has a stainless steel case, and contains 26.70 carats of gorgeous diamonds.
5. Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (5524G-001) – $58,750
Patek Philippe’s Calatrava Pilot Travel Time watch is much like the brand’s other timepieces: attractive, superbly engineered, and beautifully crafted. However, this model also has the tech needed to stand the test of flight. Its design takes some of the best elements of Patek Philippe’s pilot watches from yesteryear and adds a big splash of modern features such as a fully adjustable GMT hand, Silinvar Gyromax balance, and Spiromax spring.
4. Breitling Chronomat 44 (JB0110AE) -$59,750
Breitling’s Chronomat 44 series has earned acclaim for its style and excellent functionality, and this iteration of the series shows just why it’s one of the most sought after aviator watches on the market. A 44 mm case made of polished 18 carat white gold, unidirectional white gold bezel studded with diamonds, and sapphire crystal display give this watch an upscale look. The black mother of pearl dial has diamond set indexes and hour markers, and a 70 hour power reserve and water resistance up to 500 meters adds even more functionality.
3. Zenith Pilot Type 20 Tourbillon – $192,500
This watch effortlessly combines distinguished style with precise engineering. Its dial and case are flecked with round and baguette cut diamonds, and the 44 mm case is made of white gold. An El Primero column wheel chronograph on this model has a tourbillon that displays the date. The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Tourbillon has an automatic movement with 35 jewels, 381 components, and a frequency of 36,000 beats per hour.
2. Zenith Pilot Skeleton Type 20 -$221,100
Zenith’s Pilot Skeleton Type 20 has a striking design, and each watch takes more than 200 hours just to hand craft the skeletonized elements alone. Its sapphire case, rubber lined alligator strap, and touches of 18 carat white gold make the watch even more luxurious. It has a hand-wound Swiss made movement with 134 component, 19 jewels, and a minimum 48 hour power reserve.
1. Richard Mille Tourbillon Aviation E6-B Flyback Chronograph (RM 039) – $600,000
Richard Mille has a reputation for creating extraordinary aviator watches using high tech materials, including those traditionally used in aeronautics and aircraft manufacturing. The Richard Mille Tourbillon Aviation E6-B Flyback Chronograph is a great example of this. It combines carbon nanofiber, titanium, and tungsten carbide and is made to exceed the needs of aviators in flight. The watch is supremely accurate and displays the exact same information displayed on the pilot’s E6-B flight computer.
For even more functionality, the flyback on this timepiece allows pilots to made quick calculations, and the slide rule and tourbillon on the model take it to another level. The Richard Mille 039 is a limited edition edition watch, and only 30 units were made.