Chronograph Wristwatches: A Lifeline for Aviation Pilots: The Pilot's Chronograph

A chronograph born from a desire to take to the skies

To be able to fly freely across the endless blue sky, as you please, as you please. Humans have long cherished this desire.

After many failures, setbacks, and great expense, finally, in 1891, German aviator Lilienthal succeeded in flying a glider.

Then, in 1903, the Wright brothers from the United States became the first to successfully complete a powered flight.

The Wright brothers' flight lasted just 12 seconds.

It is said that the distance was only 36.5 metres.

However, this distance was also the distance where humanity's dreams had finally come true.

The record for the longest flight was set four years later in 1907.

It was founded by Brazilian billionaire Santor Dumont.

During this flight, Dumont asked his friend Louis Cartier, the third head of Cartier, for a watch that he could read while flying the plane.

The model used at this time was the one that was later named "Santos."

It was the world's first truly practical wristwatch.

The development of aviation has been remarkable.

Before long, aircraft had become not just a dream of mankind, but a means of transportation.

With that came some necessities.

In order to fly an aircraft safely, a need arose for time gear to know the remaining fuel and to know the exact flight time.

For this purpose, the previously basic three-hand style was inadequate.

That's why the chronograph was adopted, which could start measurement with one push of a button and also tell the elapsed time.

The year was 1915, 12 years after the Wright brothers achieved their first successful powered flight.

Breitling introduced the world's first wristwatch chronograph with a 30-minute counter and a central chronograph hand.

This first chronograph was a model created by Gaston, the son of Breitling's founder, Léon Breitling.

This model was so good that it allowed pilots to accurately measure the flight time it would take to reach their destination.

There is another person we must not forget.

This was the presence of Captain Philip Van Horn Weems, a U.S. naval officer and commander of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and of Lindbergh, who in 1927 successfully completed a solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic.

Colonel Weems could be called Lindbergh's mentor.

In 1929, Colonel Wemyss invented the circular slide rule with a rotating bezel.

In addition, they commissioned Longines to develop a system that allowed pilots to determine their exact location using a watch, known as the Avigation watch (a term coined by Longines and Colonel Weems).

This is the model that became the basis for the later "Lindbergh" model.

Demand increased with the outbreak of World War I

The history of practical clocks is said to have begun with the South African War, which took place from 1899 to 1902.

It was a movement started by Dutch Boers who had immigrated to South Africa in order to seek independence.

It is said that the Time Roots worn by the officers and soldiers of the British Army sent to suppress the Boers at that time became the basis of the original wristwatch.

In the days before wristwatches like we have today, there are documents that show how pocket watches, which were common at the time, were placed in leather holders, with a strap attached and worn around the wrist.

The wristwatches "invented" by the army soldiers at this time were recognized as useful and became widespread.

Later, pilots also began to request wristwatch-type chronographs.

In 1915, the world's first wristwatch chronograph was developed.

This happened during the First World War.

Since the war placed great importance on aerial combat in the skies, chronographs for pilots saw rapid development.

In 1923, Breitling invented and successfully patented the push button that was separate from the crown.

In addition, "Premier" was sold in 1934.

This is a model that uses two push buttons.

In 1936, Breitling became the official supplier to the Royal Air Force.

Breitling then began producing cockpit clocks.

Meanwhile, in 1935, IWC released the Mark.

This was a three-hand pilot's watch equipped with an anti-magnetic escapement, an essential feature on an airplane.

To accommodate the strong sunlight that would shine into the cockpit, this model featured a black dial and bright fluorescent indexes, a shatter-resistant crystal that could withstand strong gravity, and even a rotating bezel that could mark the elapsed flight time.

This would become the basis for future military and pilot watches.

By the time the Second World War began, the chronograph had become an indispensable tool for pilots.

The former West German Ministry of Defense used Heuer chronographs.

The problem then becomes how to deal with the strong magnetic fields that are generated inside the cockpit.

Although some capable brands such as IWC were making them, it was Rolex that was equipped with the most excellent anti-magnetic chronograph.

This anti-magnetic feature was used in Rolex chronographs before the Daytona.

The rapid evolution of the chronograph

In 1942, a major event occurred for aviation pilot watches.

This was the introduction of Breitling's Chronomat, which featured a circular logarithmic slide rule built into the bezel.

In addition, the Navitimer, which can be considered an evolved version of the Chronomat, will be released.

The Navitimer incorporated an aviation slide rule.

Both the Chronomat and the Navitimer used slide rules to make calculations necessary for flying, such as distance, speed, and fuel consumption.

The Navitimer has even become a chronograph officially recognized by the International Pilot Association.

In this way, the chronograph continued to evolve and deepened its bond with the sky, but it took a further leap forward in the 1950s.

That was the birth of the Speedmaster.

The Speedmaster was produced by Omega in 1957.

It uses the case and hands of the Seamaster 300, which was previously used by the British military.

The Speedmaster ensures a high level of confidentiality.

This is made possible by triple-shielding the case and installing an O-ring.

This led to the Speedmaster becoming standard equipment for NASA astronauts.

Later, it also supported the first moon landing in human history.

In 1969, the "Flightmaster" was born as a variation of the Speedmaster.

This is said to have also been used by the Pakistani Air Force.

Fortis developed the world's first automatic wristwatch, the "Harwood," in 1926, and has continued to work hard to produce Cosmo watches.

In 1961, he assisted Russian Yuri Gagarin in becoming the first human to fly in space.

The current Fortis Official Cosmonaut Chronograph is also one of the pieces of equipment officially approved by the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia.

Furthermore, Japan is also doing well, not wanting to be outdone.

Seiko, a Japanese manufacturer, released the world's first quartz wristwatch, the Astron, in December 1969.

Later, they developed the world's first quartz chronograph movement, Cal. 7A28.

It was manufactured for approximately ten years, from 1983 to 1993, and supplied to the British Army.

Meanwhile, Swiss quartz watches were not far behind.

The watch that became a hot topic was the "Emergency" released by Breitling in 1995.

This emergency watch is equipped with a highly accurate quartz chronograph that is capable of transmitting an SOS on the international aviation evacuation signal frequency of 121.5 MHz.

In 1999, Breitling announced to the world that it would make all of its watches chronometer-compatible in the 21st century.

True to that declaration, Breitling will continue to evolve its models that use mechanical movements into ones of even higher quality.

Evolution of the Pilot Chronograph

The appeal of a chronograph is undoubtedly its bold dial face that evokes a cockpit.

This is probably because it is a machine that has evolved along with its history of supporting aviation pilots.

Therefore, we have selected models that are based on proven technologies that have supported the aviation industry.

Recently, IWC's "Mechanical Flieger Chronograph" and Breitling's new "Navitimer" have been gaining in popularity.

and the Newcomer, named for Colonel Weems, etc.

We will introduce some of the items that you can still get at the store.

IWC Mechanical Flieger Chronograph

IWC's reputation for making pilot's watches dates back to the 1930s.

This model is fully equipped with the specifications of a genuine aviation watch.

The incase is soft iron.

This achieves a magnetic resistance of 40,000 A/m.

It also has a sapphire dome-shaped windshield.

It is an automatic watch and is equipped with Cal.7922.

The price is 545,000 yen.

Navitimer Breitling Fighters

The price of the stainless steel case and bracelet type is 410,000 yen.

The price of the genuine leather strap type is 330,000 yen.

It is an automatic watch, and the names of six fighter planes are engraved on the back.

It is based on the "Old Navitimer".

This is a new work from the "Fighters" project, inspired by six fighter planes that were active in World War II.

Weems Chronograph

This is a slightly unusual model with a skeletonized back.

This is a reproduction of a model created in 1930 to honor Colonel Wemyss for laying the foundation for navigation watches.

It's automatic and has a stylish mineral crystal design.

It has a stainless steel case and crocodile leather strap, and is priced at 165,000 yen.

Pilot Chronograph Professional

The photo shows a model for aviators.

The dial design is bold and highly legible, even during high-speed flight.

Fortis makes the Klonov watches certified for use by astronauts trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia.

It is an automatic watch with a stainless steel case and bracelet, and is priced at 144,000 yen.

Megapod Chronograph

A GMT made for pilots.

There is a chronograph push button on the left side.

It is an automatic watch with a titanium case and rubber strap, and is priced at 620,000 yen.

The design was done by interior designer Marc Newson, known to be a favorite of Michael Jordan.

Airspeed Chronograph

This model offers a power reserve of 42 hours.

The price is 165,000 yen.

Non-reflective coated windshield for high visibility.

This is a masterpiece from Revue Thommen, a brand also well-known for producing precision aircraft equipment.

It is equipped with full specs and is equipped with a Valjoux 7750.

Uses a stainless steel case and bracelet.