The tool watch that deserves a lot more love...
Tool watches are a perennial genre of horology. A multitude of watches can be described as “tool watches”, as it generally refers to any watch made to tell the time in a particular situation. Everything from dive watches to racing chronographs could be said to fit into this category.
But there’s one type of tool watch that seems to fly under the radar, and that’s the Flieger, or pilots watch. With a few notable exceptions, such as Laco or IWC, very few companies seem to be producing this type of watch right now. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the other day it struck me that Fliegers are actually pretty great everyday watches, and it’s something of a mystery as to why I don’t see more of them in the watch world.
So, I thought it was about time I wrote something as to why we should all be paying more attention to pilot’s watches.
Fliegers Are Very Legible
Firstly, Fliegers are, by design, incredibly legible. This was a crucial feature for the airmen for whom these watches were originally designed, as they’d be flying in a variety of conditions.
As such, pilot’s watches tend to have large dials with crisp, simple hands and markers. Whilst not many of us will need a pilots watch for flying today, the easy readability inherent in their design translates perfectly to our humdrum daily lives.
Whilst it might not matter to everyone, the heritage of a brand can be a big draw for some of us. Some Fliegers have the benefit of military provenance, as several brands have supplied watches to air forces. Laco is a prime example of this, as the brand supplied watches to the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. The design of their watches has remained relatively unchanged since then, so they’re a great choice for anyone looking to pick up a new watch with an authentic vintage aesthetic.
Paired with their great legible design, modern Flieger watches come equipped with all the specifications you could want on a daily beater. For example, Laco’s flagship pilot’s watches are powered by Swiss mechanical movements and have sapphire crystals. Meanwhile, Marathon’s Navigator watch features tritium tubes to guarantee readability in the dark.
Water resistance tends not to be of great importance on an aviation watch, so most pilots’ watches tend to only have a depth rating of 50m or so. However, if you want a watch that’s more suited to a dip in the sea, plenty of Fliegers come with higher water resistance.
Perhaps now you can see why I feel like the Flieger is an underrated tool watch. The genre shares a lot of similarities with field watches, and as a result are just as capable tools. They tick many of the boxes for a classic everyday watch, being legible, accurate, and durable.
So, I find it very surprising that I don’t see more of them on people’s wrists. Though hopefully I’ve managed to show a few of you what you’ve been missing out on.
You can explore WatchGecko’s full range of pilot’s watches here.