Top Gun – battle of the 5 most legible Pilot’s watches of recent times

Top Gun – battle of the 5 most legible Pilot’s watches of recent times

On this lazy Sunday morning in Sydney when we can’t fly being isolated, we can still dream about it. We figured, let’s take a gander at the 5 most legible watches that take to the skies.

Flying the often treacherous skies can sometimes be dangerous. When electronics fail, sometimes a watch can come in real handy. One of the main things you need in such times is the ability to tell time quickly and by simply a glance. In short, the legibility has to reign supreme. 

Today we are looking at watches that are relatively new that fit the criteria of 5 most legible watches. If there are any other recent watches you reckon we should include in our list, please let us know and we’ll do our best to include those. 

Pilot’s watches can come in different variations. We are listing the watches according to different versions. Simple to most complex. 

The variations for 5 most legible watches

1. Traditional, plain dial version – Zenith Pilot Type 20 Rescue 

2. Pointer Date version – Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date 

3. Date window version – Bell & Ross BR03-92 Grey LUM

4. Day date version – Oris 40th Squadron Limited Edition  

5. Worldtimer / chronograph version – IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner 

Let the battle of the most legible Pilot’s watches of recent times begin.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Rescue 

This watch was launched this year at the inaugural LVMH Watch Week in Dubai. The most striking feature of this release is that it adds a great deal of interplay of textures in the form of the oversized crown and bezel being polished while the lugs being brushed. For a detailed review of this one, please head here

Quick Tech Specs: The reference 03.2434.679/20.I010 features the calibre Elite 679 which is a self-winding automatic movement. The movement beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h) and is encased inside a 45mm diameter brushed stainless steel case. The watch face shows the functions of hours, minutes, and central seconds. The watch offers a decent 50-hour power reserve and impressive water resistance of 100m (10 ATM).

Legibility: The high legibility of the dials is hard to miss and as an added bonus for the brand lovers, the watches also include Zenith’s Pilot’s signature oversized Arabic numerals. These Arabic numeral hour markers and the rhodium plated & faceted cathedral-style hands also contain Super-LumiNova SLN C1 for added legibility. Rescue collection presents a good looking utility watch that can also transform into a sports watch. Above all, it’s extremely legible, even in its chronograph variant.

Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date 

Behold the bronze master! Over the years Oris has come to be known as the brand with the Big Crown Pointer Date. Given Oris made its first pilot’s watch in 1910, and introduced the big crown look in 1938, it is safe to assume that this has become one of their emblematic design features. To wrap up 2019, the brand released this iconic look in a revamped avatar: they encased it in solid bronze with bronze crown and bezel, and used a bespoke finish to create unique dials again in bronze colouring.

Quick Tech Specs: The reference 754 7741 3166 5 20 74BR features the  calibre Oris 754 automatic movement with bi-directionally rotating Red RotorTM that has been derived from Sellita SW-200. The movement beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h) and comprises of 26 jewels. The movement is encased inside a 40mm diameter multi-piece bronzed case. The bronze dial showcases a centre hands for hours, minutes and seconds, date centre hand, and instantaneous date. The watch offers an okay 38-hour power reserve and water resistance of 50m (5 ATM).

Legibility: Featuring an oversized crown — for use while wearing gloves — and large Arabic numerals & hands that feature Super-LumiNova®, the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date is as good as a fauxtina watch can get when it comes to legibility. Plus, it’s one hell of a handsome watch that costs only 1’900 CHF. Measuring in at only 40mm, who says legible pilot’s watches need to be oversized? 

Bell & Ross BR03-92 Grey LUM

This Bell & Ross watch was supposed to be released as part of Baselworld 2020. For a watch that is named LUM — short for ‘lumière’ (light) — its pretty impossible to not have great legibility. Bell & Ross’ BR03-92 Grey LUM is the latest addition in the LUM collection — BR03‐92 HOROLUM, BR03‐94 HOROLUM, BR03‐92 NIGHTLUM and the BR03‐92 FULL LUM — that had first come to light in 2017. Legibility is in Bell & Ross’ DNA: the iconic “circle in a square” — emblematic of an aeroplane cockpit clock — is the definition of minimalist design. In this version the brand has used green Super‐LumiNova® C3 on the numerals, indices and hands on the dial. Extremely powerful, Super‐LumiNova® C3 recharges quickly in terms of photoluminescence and has exceptional light intensity qualities.

Quick Tech Specs: The reference BR0392-GC3-ST/SCA features the calibre BR‐CAL.302 which is essentially a modified Sellita SW-300 automatic movement. The movement beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h) and comprises of 25 jewels. The movement is encased inside a 42mmx42mm satin‐finished polished steel square case. The anthracite grey sun-ray dial showcases hours, minutes, seconds and date at 4.30. The watch offers an okay 42-hour power reserve and impressive water resistance of 100m (10 ATM).

Legibility: Extreme levels of legibility is achieved on this due to the combination of an anthracite grey sun-ray dial with metal skeletonised Super‐LumiNova®‐filled hands and green Super‐LumiNova® coated decal numerals (3, 6, 9, 12) and indices. And the tiny round date window at 4.30 somehow manages to not hamper the otherwise exceptionally clean look of the dial.

Oris 40th Squadron Limited Edition 

The Oris Big Crown ProPilot 40th Squadron Limited Edition is a silent killer. Just like the appeal of this watch, this one was a stealth, almost under the radar release for the brand. The watches are known for their restrained look. This one is a limited edition release — 500 pieces only — launched to mark the new partnership between Oris and the 40th Squadron Heli, the Belgian Air Force search and rescue team. The watch thus naturally has a fair amount of military inspiration: the detailing reflects the orange, green and beige livery of the Sea King helicopters the 40th Squadron operates. 

Quick Tech Specs: The reference 01 752 7698 4274 features the calibre Oris 752 which is essentially a modified Sellita SW 220-1 automatic movement with a bi-directionally rotating red rotor. The movement provides for instantaneous date and day, date and day corrector, fine timing device and stop-seconds, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h) and comprises of 26 jewels. The movement is encased inside a 45mm diameter multi-piece stainless steel case with gun metal grey PVD coating on top. The black dial showcases centre hands for hours, minutes and seconds, enlarged individual date and day windows at 3’o clock. The limited edition watch offers an okay 38-hour power reserve and impressive water resistance of 100m (10 ATM).

Legibility: The black dial with beige and red printed numerals and indices with Super-LumiNova® P-467C A-Grade is a stand out feature. Though not very new — the watch was released in the second quarter of 2019 — it is still a shining example of how a watch with day/date complication can still manage to look incredibly clean and legible. 

IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph Edition “80 Years Flight to New York” 

This IWC limited edition offering of only 80 pieces from the end of last year is a stunner of a worldtimer watch. In partnership between IWC Schaffhausen and the Antoine de Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation, the watch has been released to mark the 80th anniversary of Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s trip aboard the French flying boat Latécoère 521 across the Atlantic. The Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph Edition “80 Years Flight to New York” features the patented timezoner function. What this means is that if you press down and rotate the bezel, you can change the time zone. As a nice tribute to the journey, the brown ceramic bezel has “Paris” and “New York” marked in red. 

Quick Tech Specs: The reference IW395003 features a manufacture calibre 89760 mechanical movement. The flyback function movement beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h) and comprises of 39 jewels. The movement is encased inside a 46mm diameter and 16.8mm wide stainless steel case. The case features a unidirectional rotatable bezel in bronze with 60-minute graduated disc in matt slate-grey anodised aluminium. The brown dial showcases a 24-hour display for worldtimer function, a chronograph function with hours, minutes and seconds, hour and minute counters combined in a totaliser at 12’o clock, and a date display at 3’o clock. The watch offers an impressive 68-hour power reserve and water resistance of 60m (6 ATM).

Legibility: The rhodium-plated hands on the oversized sepia-brown dial provide for clear visibility. But it is the luminescence filled Arabic hour markers that steal the show: big, bold and loud. Incorporating world timer and chronograph complications only helps the travelling charm of this watch.

There you have it: 5 most legible watches that take to the skies of recent times. Which one is your favourite?

For more information on these and other watches, please head to their respective websites: Zenith, Oris, Bell & Ross, IWC.