As we approach the end of 2018 and prepare for 2019 — surely destined to be another interesting year in the world of watches — we take a look back at some of the most noteworthy timepieces that came out this year, in various popular categories. Today, we look at five watches from 2018 targeted at pilots and aviation enthusiasts.
This fall, Alpina released smoked-dial “Shadow Line” versions of its aviation-influenced Startimer Pilots, in both its three-hand Automatic and quartz-powered Pilot Chronograph Big Date editions. The steel cases of the Automatic models are 44 mm in diameter, with either a rose-gold or black PVD coating. The rose-gold-PVD watch (pictured below) features a dark gray sunray-finished dial, with large, hand-applied PVD hour markers and hands with black luminous treatment. The date display appears in a window at 3 o’clock. Behind an engraved caseback, the AL-525 movement beats at 28,800 vph and stores a power reserve of 38 hours. Like all Shadow Line models, the Pilots are available on Alpina’s specially developed “connected” strap, made of leather and housing a hidden chip in its buckle that can track steps, calories, sleep cycles, and other data and display it on a downloadable companion app called the MTT-365. Interested in other Shadow Line watches? Click here.
In his lead role in the Marvel movie Venom, British actor Tom Hardy wears a tough, stealth-look watch suitable for his black-clad, shadow-stalking alter-ego: the Bremont U-2/51 Jet, which made its U.S. debut at last October’s WatchTime New York show. The watch is the latest addition to Bremont’s U-2 range, which the British watch manufacturer originally developed for clients in elite military squadrons. The U-2/51 Jet draws design inspiration from a specific branch of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) — the RAF 100 Squadron, the first team formed for night bombing, in 1917. The resulting watch — in a 43-mm jet-black case made of DLC-coated steel, with a patented “Roto-Click” interior rotating bezel marked at the 5-minute marks and operated by the 4 o’clock crown — is a veritable stealth bomber for the wrist. The dial’s hands have been blued, heat treated, and coated with a patented, faux-patina aged luminous substance called “Vintage ’51.” Behind the smoke-tinted caseback window beats the self-winding, COSC-certified Bremont Caliber BE-36AE. More info and pictures here.
Bell & Ross, whose designs are rooted in aviation history, has in recent years entered into partnerships to produce aeronautically engineered land vehicles that the company in turn used as design templates for limited-edition timepieces. This year, the company launched an actual flying machine, called the BR-Bird, and its accompanying aeronautically inspired watches, the BR V1-92 and BR V2-94 Racing Birds (offered as either a three-hand automatic, the BR V1-92, and as a chronograph, the BR v2-94, below). The white dials take their cue from the color of the plane’s fuselage, while the blue of the hour numerals, chronograph subdial counters, tachymeter scale, and minute-track elements matches that used on the empennage of the BR-Bird, the rear part comprising the stabilizer, elevator, vertical fin, and rudder. A bright orange, used to highlight the most vital information on the cockpit’s flight instruments, appears on other dial highlights, including the chronograph seconds hands, as well as in the lining of the blue calfskin straps. The central seconds hand features a silhouette of the Br-Bird aircraft as its counterweight. More info and additional versions of the Racing Bird can be found here.
The Breitling Navitimer Super 8 takes its historical design cues from Breitling’s Reference 637, a stopwatch produced in the 1930s and 1940s that bomber pilots and their crews would strap to their thighs during missions during World War II — a placement that ensured optimal readability. Worn strapped to the thigh, Reference 637 featured a large, left-handed crown that was big enough for a pilot’s gloved hand to operate and a pusher that activated the count-up and count-down functions used to execute their wartime missions. The modern Super 8 carries on the historical design codes with its 46-mm case – the huge, notched unidirectional rotating bezel actually brings the total diameter to 50 mm — in either stainless steel with a black dial or titanium with a military green dial (pictured). Inside this titanic timekeeper is an automatic, chronometer-certified movement, Breitling’s Caliber B20, with a 70-hour power reserve. Click here for more details and live photos from the watch’s debut at Baselworld.
Germany’s Sinn derives its success from striking the hard-to-reach balance between producing reliable tool watches and offering aesthetically cool everyday timepieces. This year’s Sinn 103 Sa B E is a traditional pilots’ chronograph in a 41-mm steel case with an iridescent blue dial that sets this piece apart from the usual Sinn “look,” which traditionally leans toward more utilitarian colors such as black, gray, and a more matte blue. This dial color is contrasted by the ivory-colored, luminous-coated indices, hands, and numerals. The blue bezel is made of anodized aluminum, and the curved sapphire crystal glass was ground, using special tools made by Sinn, from a solid blank with five different curvature radii, and then carefully polished. The result not only preserves the look of the glass but also makes it highly resilient. Inside is a trustworthy Valjoux 7750 caliber. For more on this year’s Sinn highlights, click here.