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How much does a pilot watch cost?

The most important price categories at a glance
Michael Herrmann
Bing Hui Yau / Unsplash
15 May 2024

The price range of pilot watches varies from affordable to luxurious

Pilot’s watches enjoy great popularity and are offered by a variety of renowned watch manufacturers and brands. At the same time, the price range of these iconic timepieces extends from as little as under a hundred euros for inexpensive entry-level watches to impressive five- or even six-figure sums for luxury models. But what factors influence the price of a pilot’s watch and what should be considered when buying? We reveal it.

Three price categories at a glance

Overall, pilot watches can be divided into three main price categories. In the entry-level category, you’ll usually find timepieces from brands that may not be as well-known as their more luxurious counterparts, but still produce high-quality chronometers. Prices here start at an average of a few hundred euros and still offer basic features like precise timekeeping and solid workmanship. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes snag an attractive piece for under a hundred euros. As a rule, watches in this price range use quartz movements, which are less expensive to manufacture. Affordable pilot watches are often an excellent choice for those who appreciate the classic and robust design of a pilot watch at an attractive price.

The mid-price range includes pilot watches from well-known brands with established reputations. Here you can find watches with additional features such as chronograph, tachymeter and world time display. Prices are usually in the range of several hundred to a few thousand euros. Pilot watches in this price range have both mechanical and automatic movements. Mechanical movements are often considered to be of higher quality and can affect the price of a pilot watch in this category. Models in the mid-range price range are equally popular with watch enthusiasts and pilots looking for reliable and feature-rich pilot watches.

The high-end price range features pilot watches from renowned luxury watch manufacturers known for their outstanding craftsmanship, high-quality materials, and technical innovations. Prices in this category can be several tens of thousands of euros and even higher. Limited editions can often be found here, offering special features and refinements in particular. Pilot watches in this class are aimed at collectors, watch enthusiasts and buyers who are looking for exclusive and high-quality timepieces. The movements in this price range are mostly mechanical and are usually made by hand.

The price range of pilot watches is extremely diverse and can range from a few hundred euros to several tens of thousands of euros – and even beyond.

Seiko / Solar Pilot Watch SSC081
Seiko / Solar Pilot Watch SSC081
Seiko / Solar Pilot Watch SSC081

These factors influence the price

A pilot watch is not only a symbol of precise timekeeping. It is much more, namely an expression of style and personality. In this respect, as a coveted statement on the wrist, it embodies in particular the captivating history of aviation – a tribute to daredevil men and women in flying crates. But what influences the price of such a watch? A variety of factors contribute to the appeal and value of a pilot’s watch. Here are some of the most important aspects that determine the price of these iconic chronometers.

Brand and reputation – Watches from well-known and reputable brands tend to be more expensive because they have a long history of watchmaking and an established reputation. Such brands often have a large following and enjoy strong demand, which is reflected in higher prices. Luxury brands such as Breitling, IWC Schaffhausen, Omega, Rolex and Zenith, for example, are known to a wide audience for their attractive pilot watches and offer models in the higher price range.

Materials – The use of high-quality materials such as stainless steel, gold, ceramic or titanium can have a significant impact on the price of a pilot’s watch. Stainless steel is the most commonly used material for watch cases due to its durability and corrosion resistance. Pilot’s watches with cases made of precious metals like gold and platinum are naturally more expensive, as they offer higher value and exclusivity. Titanium is a popular alternative to stainless steel as it is lighter yet durable.

Movement – The type of movement, be it mechanical, automatic or quartz driven, has an impact on the price. Mechanical movements, depending on the quality and number of functions implemented, are considered by experts to be the highest quality and most complex timepieces, which is reflected in the price. They often consist of an almost infinite number of small parts, springs and gears, which are masterfully assembled in hours of manual labor. Their production requires a high level of craftsmanship and expertise, which increases the price of a mechanical pilot’s watch. Automatic movements – a special form of mechanical movement – are wound by the movement of the wrist and are often found on mid- to high-priced pilot’s watches. Electromechanical or fully electronic quartz watches tend to be more affordable.

Features – Additional features such as displays for the date, day of the week, current moon phase, world time or additional time zones, chronograph and alarm functions, barometer and altimeter to GPS receivers and emergency transmitters are very popular with pilot watches. The integration of these diverse features requires elaborate and sometimes years of development, as well as additional components and mechanisms, the implementation of which, of course, affects the price of the timepiece. However, for watch enthusiasts and adventurers, these advanced features are often a deciding factor in choosing their ideal pilot’s watch.

Limited Editions – Pilot’s watches that are produced as limited editions often have a higher price tag, as they are considered coveted collector’s items. Limited editions are limited to a certain number of pieces and often feature special characteristics that distinguish them from regular models. Such editions, which are contingent in quantity, may, for example, be made of special materials, have unique dial designs, or represent a historical model. Limited edition models are often particularly prized by collectors, as they offer the rare and exclusive opportunity to own a piece of very special watch history.

Craftsmanship – The masterful skill of watchmaking, including the art of applying intricate engravings, refined decorations and other elaborate finishes to these little ticking companions, can have a significant impact on the price of a pilot’s watch. The production of handmade luxury pilot watches and the loving design of outstanding details require a large number of additional working hours as well as exceptional precision, which are of course reflected in the exclusivity of the timepiece – but are also particularly appreciated by discerning watch lovers.

Historical significance – Pilot’s watches that have a significant historical connection to famous aviation pioneers or historical events may command a higher price. Some models were designed specifically for certain aircraft squadrons, air forces, or pioneer flights and carry a unique history that makes them sought-after collectibles. Such historically significant pilot watches fascinate everyday wearers, watch enthusiasts and collectors alike, as they not only represent a piece of aviation history, but also have an emotional value that is usually reflected in a higher market price.

Rarity Value – The exclusivity and rarity of a model can greatly influence the price of a timepiece. To the extent that a pilot’s watch was produced in only a limited number of pieces or is rarely available on the market, it may command a higher price as demand increases, in accordance with the laws of the market. As a result, pilot watches with limited availability have the potential to become valuable investment pieces as well.

Pilot’s watches are available in various price categories, from affordable models for beginners to luxurious timepieces from renowned watch brands.

Longines / Avigation Bigeye
Longines / Avigation Bigeye
Longines / Avigation Bigeye

Choosing the right pilot watch

Which pilot’s watch suits me? Good question. When buying a pilot’s watch, it’s important to consider individual preferences, style, and budget. The diverse price range of these popular timepieces offers an option for every taste and budget. Whether you are looking for an affordable everyday watch, want a high quality and functional watch for professional use, or want to purchase an exclusive luxury watch as a statement and collectible piece, there are numerous choices.

For casual buyers and newcomers, watches in the affordable entry-level category are a good choice. They offer a robust design, solid craftsmanship and reliable timekeeping at an attractive price. Brands such as Citizen, Hamilton, Seiko and Tissot woo customers with a wide selection of affordable pilot watches with a wide variety of functions and styles.

For watch lovers who value high-quality craftsmanship and technical sophistication, pilot watches in the mid-price range are an interesting option. Here you can find watches from renowned brands such as Breitling, IWC Schaffhausen, Longines, Oris and Sinn, which offer a fair combination of sophisticated design, functions and quality.

For collectors and watch enthusiasts looking for an exclusive and rare model, pilot watches in the luxury class are the best choice. Here you can find limited editions from brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex and Zenith, which impress with special features and complications, high-quality materials as well as the most elaborate craftsmanship.

The price of a pilot’s watch is significantly influenced by factors such as the brand, the materials used, the movement type and possible additional functions.

Rolex / Air-King
Rolex / Air-King
Rolex / Air-King

Pilot watches as an investment

Pilot’s watches are not only considered aesthetic timepieces, but also a worthwhile investment, as experience has shown that certain models can increase in value over time. Limited editions and watches with historical significance in particular have the potential to increase in value, provided they are well cared for and highly sought after by collectors. Careful research and a thorough understanding of the watch market and current trends are essential if a pilot’s watch is being considered as an investment.

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