Since the beginning of civilization, time measurement has continuously evolved with the development of human wisdom. The same goes for aviation, with early adventurers pioneering a way forward with amazing air-heavy machines. Watches are their natural companions.
Without navigation, the extraordinary achievements in the development of aviation are nothing but miracles; if you do n’t have the time, crossing the strait or flying across the ocean is nothing more than delusion. Positioning can be done through time and space. If you only know one or the other, you can only rely on vision navigation. Needless to say, this is a serious constraint for the new era of aviation that was born in the early 20th century. On the vast sea, without mastering the time, conquering the sky can only stay in utopian fantasy.
Vacheron Constantin Pilot’s Watch, 1904
First flight First flight watch
Leaving aside the ancient topic of who actually completed the first powered flight, the brothers Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright must be among the pioneer adventurers rushing into the sky. According to official records, the Wright brothers completed continuous powered flight in the United States in 1903. But at the same time, they also knew that without time measuring instruments, flight tests could not be continued reasonably. A pilot watch designed by Vacheron Constantin in 1904 (in terms of specifications, this is a pocket watch, but equipped with a strap long enough to be strapped to the thigh) equipped with a chronograph movement, Arabic numerals, large onion head The crown, easily recognizable skeletonized hands, and small seconds chronograph are perhaps the first contemporary pilot’s watches.
Santos watch, Cartier Paris, 1916
Cartier Santos-Dumont large model
In the field of powered aircraft, Americans are not alone. Alberto Santos Dumont is an outstanding representative of Europe. In 1906, Alberto Santos Dumont flew 220 meters in 21.2 seconds in a 14 bis plane. This was the first flight world record approved by the International Aviation Federation. What do flight timing instruments look like? Alberto Santos Dumont had his own idea. In 1904, he complained to his friend Louis Cartier, controlling the plane with both hands, and had no time to take out a pocket watch to watch. The pilot’s lament did not fail. With the assistance of watchmaker Edmund Jaeger, Louis Cartier found the solution, which is a prototype model of the watch without a small second hand. In 1908, the prototype model became a fully functional finished watch. In 1911, the Cartier Santos Dumont watch was officially released, and a logo was born.
Zenith Pilot’s Watch worn by Louis Brillio
Zenith Pilot Montre d’ Aéronef Type 20
Pilot watches take shape
In 1909, the ‘father of aviation’, Louis Bleriot, flew from Calais, France, to Dover, England, at a speed of 74 kph in 36 minutes, completing the great feat of flying over the English Channel. For the watches that accompany his adventures, Louis Brillio made no secret of his admiration and appreciation. ‘I am very satisfied with the Zenith watch that I often wear, and I highly recommend it to people who want precise timing.’ He wrote in 1912. This 1909 Zenith Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 already has the signature characteristics of later pilot watches: large case, fluorescent hour markers and hands, large Arabic numerals and crown, bimetal balance with automatic compensation Anti-magnetic hairspring and an easy-to-remove strap (so that the watch can be fixed on the aircraft control panel). Zenith aviation watches have built a very high reputation. On the eve of World War II, the Aéronef Type 20 has become a standard feature for French fighter pilots.
Royal Ivan Mark IVA watch, 1914
German Bavarian Royal Flying Team Upside Down Pocket Watch
In those years, it was assembled on the aircraft control panel, and the certificate has become an indispensable flight instrument. The Mark IVA and Mark V watches delivered to the Royal Air Force in 1914 and 1916 were designed and manufactured according to strict military standards. The pilot of the Royal Bavarian Flying Team in Germany chose an inverted disc pocket watch that can be attached to the flight suit with a chain strap. The production of pilot watches is of strategic importance and is increasingly becoming a watch category of great importance.
Pilot’s Watch Adventure (Part 2)
Pilot’s Watch Adventure (Part 2)