Charlotte's Top 5 Pilot Watches under £2,000 in 2023

Charlotte's Top 5 Pilot Watches under £2,000 in 2023

5 min read
Charlotte Harris


WatchGecko Top Choice Series

Charlotte Harris


WatchGecko Top Choice Series

A genre of watch that is never in short supply is the pilot’s watch. This popular style is coveted by more than just real-life aviators, but lovers of travel and adventure and those with a simple love of aviation-inspired design. This also means that every watch brand and their dog has experimented with the genre at some point, so figuring out which pilot’s watches on the market are true gems can be a difficult task.

Before we reveal our top 5 pilot’s watches under £2,000, we should first question exactly why pilot’s watches are so popular. There are only a handful of talented men and women in the world capable of flying an aircraft, so why do so many of us want the functionality of a pilot’s watch? Is it because all our intrigue and excitement surrounding the lifestyle of a pilot can be satiated by wearing an aviation-inspired timepiece? Or is it that pilot’s watches are as equally useful on land as they are in the air? We think it’s a combination of the two. And thankfully, most of the best pilot’s watches these days keep that in mind, serving as reliable companions in the sky while exuding charm on the ground.

What Defines a Pilot’s Watch?

So what exactly defines a pilot’s watch? Since “pilot” is literally in the name, it makes sense that these instruments are useful for those working inside a cockpit. For example, pilots need to have their eyes on many devices and instruments at the same time, so a clean, high-contrast dial that is easy to read at a glance is essential. For night time flying, a touch of glow in the dark lume on the dial is also helpful for reading in low light.

Aviators also typically wear gloves during flight for easy manipulation of the controls and for protection against fire and cold temperatures. Because of this, it’s useful for pilot’s watches to be equipped with an oversized winding crown for easy manipulation of the movement, in the instance it needs winding or the complications on the dial need reviewing. It’s also beneficial for pilot’s watches to have durable cases and straps to withstand the rigours of aviation and to be equipped with dual-time or GMT function for reading multiple time zones.

Charlotte’s Top Five Pilot Watches

No5 - Laco Stuttgart Pro 

Laco Stuggart ProLaco Stuttgart Pro - Credit WatchGecko

Us watch snobs can be a picky lot. We tend to complain about the tiniest details; it could be a case one millimetre too big, a misplaced date window or a lack of straps available. That’s why the Laco Stuttgart Pro is one of our all-time favourite pilot’s watches. This watch can be customised with over 14,000 permutations so you can literally create your perfect aviation instrument. You can choose from 37mm, 40mm or 43mm cases, two dial styles with or without the Laco logo, brushed or polished surfaces and a range of leather straps. You can even select the crown on the left or right side of the case. It’s a really innovative concept and ideal for those of us who are unapologetically picky about their wristwear.

Laco Stuttgart ProLaco Stuttgart Pro - Credit WatchGecko

No4 - Seiko 5 Sports Flieger

Masters of affordable automatic watches, Seiko thankfully do their own range of pilot’s watches. The Seiko 5 Sports Flieger forms part of the Japanese watchmaker’s 5 Sports line which is named as such for its five key traits: an automatic winding movement, day and date display, a healthy water resistance, a recessed crown and a case built especially for durability. The Seiko 5 Sports Flieger watch is no different, but compared to its sportier counterparts, it elects an aviation-inspired aesthetic. The range of coloured dials have large minute numerals like the original WWII Flieger watches going from 5 to 55 and luminous pipette-shaped hands for the hours, minutes and seconds. There’s also 39mm cases, in-house automatic movements and a range of textile straps all for under £300.

No3 - Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph
Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph - Credit WatchGecko

Hamilton is no stranger to the aviation world, having created field watches for American soldiers during both WWI and WWII and creating timepieces for the British RAF during the 1970’s. These very watches continue to serve as inspiration for much of the Hamilton Khaki Aviation collection you see today, including the popular Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph. Its beautifully executed dial recalls the vintage stylings of the original RAF models with a black matte backdrop and beige-coloured lume on the numerals and hands. It also has a vintage barrel-shaped 40mm stainless steel case and a manual winding movement within. The H-51-Si movement alone is good for the price point, offering an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring and a power reserve of 60 hours

No2 - Sinn 356 UTC

Sinn 356 Sa Pilot III Automatic Chronograph Watch - Silver Dial - Solid Bracelet
Sinn 356 Sa Pilot III Automatic Chronograph Watch - Credit WatchGecko

Almost making it onto our top spot is the Sinn 356 UTC. German watchmaker Sinn is another brand with an extensive aviation history, beginning its story in 1961 when Helmut Sinn, an instructor for blind flight and former World War II pilots decided to create his own range of navigation clocks and pilot chronographs. The Sinn 365 was originally launched in 1996 and has remained a flagship design in their portfolio ever since – and for good reason. There’s a 38.5mm stainless steel case, sapphire crystal glass and plenty of lume on the black dial. The display is littered with useful features, including chronograph complication and a second time zone hand, all powered by the Valjoux 7750 automatic winding movement. It’s really hard to find a pilot’s watch with this much bang under £2,000, trust us.

No1 - Bulova Lunar Pilot

Bulova Lunar Pilot - Credit WatchGecko

Our first-place pilot’s watch is the Bulova Lunar Pilot. Why? Because this watch has everything you want in a cockpit instrument plus a story to back it up. We all know the Omega Speedmaster as the original “moon watch” but unbeknownst to some, Bulova also played a huge part in the Space Race. The Bulova Lunar Pilot was worn by Apollo 15’s mission commander David Scott when he became the seventh man to walk on the moon, replacing his Omega with the Bulova when the crystal popped off under the pressure of the atmosphere. The Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph is a faithful re-edition of this model, offering a sleek black chronograph dial with a tachymeter flange, 45mm steel case and Bulova’s proprietary UHF quartz movement at its core. This movement offers an extremely high rate of accuracy beating at 262 Hz, losing just seconds per year.

Bulova Lunar PilotBulova Lunar Pilot - Credit WatchGecko

That concludes our third feature of the Top 5 Series, do you agree with our opinions, or would you have chosen a different model for your number one spot?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Charlotte Harris

About the Author: Charlotte Harris

Writing and watches are two of my biggest passions in life so being able to unite them on a daily basis is a wonderful thing. I hope through my writing that I can bring a fresh, feminine perspective on the watch space and encourage more men and women to get excited about all that’s happening.

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