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Up where they belong: The best pilot's watches

Taking to the bridge deck of your superyacht may require one of the best modern sailing watches but for time spent on your private jet only a pilot's timepiece will do. And if you're taking the controls yourself then there are certain key things to consider. Above all else a pilot's watch must be accurate so if you're buying mechanical it's important that your chosen timepiece has a chronometer certification. Timepieces used at altitude should also be resilient so look for something in titanium, steel or ceramic with scratch-proof glass and large, highly visible hands and numerals. And as for style? The bigger and bolder the better. From the latest limited edition watches to enduring classics, here are the best pilot's watches to buy now.

Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante

Case: Steel, 46mm
Strap: Rubber or steel
Movement: Breitling 21 self-winding mechanical
Waterproof: 30 metres
Limited edition: 1,884
Price: $7,150

One of the most celebrated pilot watches, the Navitimer has been around since 1952. Its “circular slide rule” around the dial allows speed, distance and fuel range calculations. This model is the first to feature a flyback, split-seconds chronograph mechanism.

Case: Steel or red gold, 45mm
Strap: Crocodile
Movement: Breitling B03 self-winding
Waterproof: 30 metres
Price: From $11,090, breitling.com

Bremont Airco Mach 2

It is now a decade since Bremont sold its first watch, and the range of aviation-inspired pieces has grown to include more than a dozen models. One of the latest is the elegant Airco Mach 2, a 40mm chronometer featuring polished hands and numerals and the brand’s hardened steel Trip-Tick case.

Case: Steel, 40mm
Strap: Leather
Movement: BE-92AE automatic
Waterproof: 100 metres
Price: £2,895, bremont.com

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special

Louis Bleriot wore a Zenith in 1909 when he first flew over the English Channel. This retro version of the Type 20, with a 45mm bronze case, giant “onion” crown and accurate El Primero movement, would have suited the cockpit of his flimsy aircraft.

Case: Bronze, 45mm
Strap: Leather
Movement: Elite 679 automatic
Waterproof: 100 metres
Price: £5,900, zenith-watches.com

Bell & Ross BR 126 GMT & Flyback

Bell & Ross made its name with its square-cased Instrument watches inspired by the gauges on modern fighter jets. This, from the more traditional Sport Heritage range, features a flyback chronograph that is stopped and reset with a push of a button.

Case: Steel, 43mm
Strap: Leather
Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.301. automatic
Waterproof: 100 metres
Limited edition: 500
Price: £5,000, bellross.com

Laco Paderborn

Laco watches, made for Second World War pilots and navigators, have become highly collectable. The German brand still makes models that are virtually identical to the originals, such as the quartz-powered, 42mm Paderborn and several versions with mechanical movements in case sizes up to 55mm.

Case: Steel, 42mm
Strap: Leather
Movement: Automatic
Waterproof: 50 metres
Price: £865, pageandcooper.com

IWC Pilot's Watch Top Gun Miramar

This modern, 44.5mm version of the 1930s Big Pilot’s Watch gets a scratch-resistant ceramic case with an anthracite finish and a green calfskin strap. The in-house movement is protected from magnetism by a soft iron cage and has an easy-to-read chronograph totaliser.

Case: Ceramic, 44.5mm
Strap: Calfskin
Movement: Calibre 30110 automatic self-winding
Waterproof: 60 metres
Price: £9,450, iwc.com

Rolex Air-King

The all-new Air-King features a 40mm case (up from the old one’s 34mm) and some vibrant Rolex green detailing. “Air-King” is written in the brand’s 1950s font and the dial layout is in the form of a “3, 6, 9” configuration, with a prominent minute scale intended for navigational time readings.

Case: Stainless steel, 40mm
Strap: Stainless steel
Movement: Calibre 3131 self-winding mechanical
Waterproof: 100 metres
Price: £4,550

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