Pilot watches can be a costly expense.
On top of that, finding pilot watches with top-notch design and a combination of style & functionality make it all the more difficult.
After talking with my aviation buddies and 6 hours of research, I've been able to select the top pilot watches manufactured by reliable, high-quality brands such as Bulova, Seiko, Citizen, and more!
These best pilot watches under $500 offer superior build quality, comfortable wear, and great style.
Bulova Men's Moonwatch: Best Overall
The Bulova Men's Moonwatch is a classic, elegant timepiece that combines sophistication and functionality.
Its scratch-resistant sapphire crystal window not only guarantees your watch's protection but also provides beauty to its design.
Paired with the six-hand calendar chronograph, silver-tone finish, and black dial, the Bulova Men's is a pilot watch with a design that would amaze anyone.
More importantly, the Bulova Men's Moonwatch stands out for its precision timing and accuracy. Although it lacks the convenience of an automatic-wind watch, it's no short of quality in its mechanical movement.
Bulova uses a unique UHF quartz movement mechanism [R] that ensures precision timing by 1/1,000th of a second. You won't find many pilot watches with precision timekeeping at this price.
Furthermore, the watch features a water-resistance of 300 meters, luminous hour & minute hands, and interchangeable straps in either black nylon or black leather.
For $385.98, it's no surprise the Bulova Men's Moonwatch deserves to be the top pick.
NanaDC Badass Rating: 5/5
- This watch features a Bulova tuning fork logo engraved at the top and a sealed design for durability.
- This Bulova Lunar Pilot watch boasts a highly accurate quartz chronograph movement that operates at 262 kilohertz, ensuring precise timekeeping.
- The Bulova Lunar Pilot watch comes with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal featuring an anti-glare treatment, as well as a beautifully designed box set that celebrates its rich history.
NanaDC Suave Rating: 4/5
- The Bulova Lunar Pilot watches design is simple yet elegant, featuring a black dial with a chronograph, applied indices, and a tachymeter bezel that adds to its timeless appeal.
- The matching black strap with a cross-stitched pattern complements the watch's design beautifully, making it a great addition to any outfit.
- Sophisticated design
- Comfortable fit
- 300 meters water-resistant
- Stainless steel case ensures durability
- Sapphire crystal window provides maximum scratch-resistance
- Luminescent hands for easy readability
- 1/1,000th of a second for precise timekeeping
- Some units arrived with scratches & marks
Seiko Men's SND255P1 Flightmaster Watch: Best Value
For more than a century, Seiko has manufactured quality and reliable watches that any practical consumer can own at an affordable price.
The Flightmaster model is a pilot watch you can also wear as a dress watch, adding versatility to this elegant timepiece.
However, one of its most significant benefits is its ability to calculate flight data such as fuel consumption and speed of the plane, provide arithmetic conversions, and a compass scale for flight orientation and navigation.
Wait, there's still more.
The Flightmaster watch features a 12-hour totalizer, providing you with a stopwatch function that can measure a total of 12 hours in 1/20 increments. Although it's not as water-resistant as the Bulova Moonwatch, a 100m rating isn't half-bad.
Finally, the Lumibrite markers provide superior readability even in extremely dark areas and use Hardlex crystal for durability and protection. However, Hardlex crystals are not as scratch-resistant as sapphire crystals. [R]
The Seiko Flightmaster is even cheaper than the Bulova Men's Moonwatch at a price of just $264! For all the features, functionalities, and benefits, the Flightmaster is a superb pilot watch with excellent value.
- Professional & luxurious appeal
- Can also be worn as a dress watch
- Stopwatch function
- Lumibrite hands for superior readability
- Great value
- Excellent push-button deployant clasp
- Stainless steel for improved durability
- Flight calculation, navigation, and orientation functions
- May be too small for some
Seiko Men's SNN241 Watch: Best Budget Pick
Two words that best describe the Seiko SNN421 pilot watch would be: functional and practical.
With easy to use features and high functionality, this is an excellent pilot watch if you're looking for the right balance of style, sophistication, and functionality.
The Seiko Men's SNN241 also boasts a meticulous design from its dial window down to the luminous white markers, which improves the watch's personality and makes it easy to read the time.
Its brown contrast-stitched leather band contrasts well with its brown dial, adding even more sophistication to its design.
Like its big brother, the SND255P1, it also features a Hardlex crystal for scratch-resistance. All in all, this gorgeous timepiece is a versatile pilot watch that won't break the bank.
- Highly affordable
- Meticulous design
- Includes two sub-dials for enhanced performance
- Good durability
- Japanese quartz movement for accurate timekeeping
- Great readability in lowly-lit areas
- Easy operation
- Chronograph function up to 60 minutes of activity
- Battery issues
Laco Augsburg Type A Dial German Automatic Watch
If you're looking for a watch that sports the original World War II appeal, the Laco Augsburg is for you. Using 21 jewels automatic self-winding movement, Laco Augsburg offers great accuracy and performance.
Design-wise, the Laco Augsburg is an authentic German classic. A riveted brown leather strap, stainless steel case, and black dial all come together beautifully.
The SuperLuminova hands [R] and markers also give it a distinct luminescence that sets it apart from most pilot watches mentioned here.
As for the dial window, Laco features a sapphire crystal material for maximum scratch-resistance. With a case measurement of 42mm, this historic pilot watch should comfortably fit your wrist.
At $396.63, it's slightly pricier than the Bulova Men's Moonwatch.
After all, this pilot watch carries a piece of history with it. For well-renowned performance and a simple, classic appeal, the Laco Augsburg is an excellent watch under $500.
- Comfortable wear
- SuperLuminova luminescence for great readability
- Accurate timekeeping
- Minimalist appeal and high functionality
- Great quality
- Watch band might be too thick and stiff for some
The Citizen Men's Navihawk pilot watch caught my eye at an instant. The complexity of its features and functions is a prized jewel you won't appreciate just by glancing at it.
This pilot watch deserves an intricate study and attention. It probably wouldn't work well at a watch auction. Looking through the glass isn't the kind of treatment the Navihawk is built for.
Here's why I believe the Navihwak pilot watch is worth mentioning.
First, solar technology allows it to function through both natural and artificial light; thus, you'll never need to use batteries.
Its atomic timekeeping technology [R] provides a Universal Coordinated Time Display available in 43 cities worldwide, and just to note, this only scratches the surface.
The Navihawk pilot watch also comes with a perpetual calendar, a timer with a 99-minute countdown, 2 alarm settings, and a rotating slide dual ring, making it useful for pilots.
I understand how vital a chronograph watch or accurate timekeeping can be for pilots; however, if you fancy any water activities like snorkeling, jet skiing, or even rock climbing, the
Navihawk can handle it all.
Now, here come the drawbacks. Although it has luminous hands, it's not as bright. Compared to other pilot watches mentioned here, the Navihawk also uses a mineral crystal, meaning it's not as scratch-resistant as the other models.
Finally, the complexity of its design and features can be confusing and feel too "stuffy" to read.
- Uses solar energy to function
- Atomic timekeeping for excellent precision
- Great chronograph functions
- A great balance of aesthetics, precision, & affordability
- Water-resistant up to 200m
- Displays time digitally in 43 cities worldwide
- Versatile wear
- Luminescence isn't very strong
- Quality of watch band is subpar
- Complex to use
- Digital display can be too small for some
Casio Men's EF527D-1AV "Edifice" Watch
If you're looking for an affordable mechanical watch with great durability and performance, I'm more than happy to include the Casio Men's Edifice pilot watch in this review.
Features-wise, the Casio Edifice doesn't have any complicated features or steep learning curve. It's comfortable, stylish, durable, and easy to use.
Of course, being a pilot watch, it allows you to calculate fuel consumption, time, speed, etc. More importantly, this chronograph watch has three sub-dials with 60-minute, 60-second, and 12-hour displays.
Paired with the stainless steel case and deployant closure design, the Casio Edifice watch provides durability and safety for your pilot watch.
NanaDC Badass Rating: 5/5
- This pilot watch is built to last, featuring a screw-down crown and 100-meter water resistance.
- The slight rule function on this Casio Edifice watch is incredibly useful, allowing quick calculations such as converting nautical miles to kilometers or multiplying numbers.
- This watch's miota movement ensures reliability and accuracy for accurate timekeeping.
NanaDC Suave Rating: 4/5
- The unique finish on the middle links of the bracelet sets this watch apart and adds a touch of elegance to its design.
- The loom on this watch is impressive and makes it easy to read in low-light situations.
- The polished edges of the bracelet's middle links add a touch of class to the watch's design.
- Great balance of durability, performance, and affordability
- Easy to use
- Chronograph functions
- Deployant closure for safety
- Great appeal
- 100m water-resistant
- Chronograph function can be glitchy
Seiko Men's SSC007 Stainless Steel Watch
The Seiko Men's SSC007 may not be as extravagant or as widely popular as Seiko's Flightmaster model; however, this stainless steel pilot watch isn't going to take a back seat.
Pilots will love the rotary slide rule bezel [R] and stopwatch functions of the SSC007. If you don't own a pilot watch yet, the SSC007 couldn't be any more exceptional to choose as your first aviators watch.
Rather than have to figure out how to program the watch and its features, the SSC007 model offers a straightforward operation and is effortless to use.
Design-wise, the SSC007 features a stainless steel case and black ion-plated bezel for enhanced durability and protection.
Before I forget, this pilot watch is also solar-powered! Paired with its luminous markers, beautiful date window design, and 100m water-resistance, it's hard to imagine the SSC007 costs under $500!
The best part about this pilot watch? It's so versatile you can wear it for nearly every occasion. Take it with you diving or swimming, wear it as a casual everyday watch, or even as a dress watch. The choice is yours.
- Comfortable wear
- Versatile to wear for multiple occasions
- Easy operation
- Reliable build and quality
- Solar-powered technology
- 100m water-resistance
- Many pilots recommend this watch
- Some users experienced solar-power functioning issues
Torgoen T9 Blue Pilot Watch
This may be your first time hearing about the Swiss brand Torgoen. Whatever the case, the Torgoen T9 is a stunning and gorgeous piece that's hard to resist.
If it weren't for the brown leather strap, it might not have caught my eye; however, a closer look at the Torgoen T9 convinced me why it deserves to be part of the top air watches under $500.
First, the Torgoen T9 uses a Ronda 515.24H movement, which is excellent timekeeping, by the way.
The additional GMT hand also makes it useful, especially for pilots, since pilots always communicate with Air Traffic Control in GMT terms. [R]
With a mineral crystal window, the scratch-resistant rating of this pilot watch isn't half bad. Most watches typically use mineral crystal; however, sapphire is currently the strongest material to go for.
Drawbacks aside, the Torgoen T9 watch sports a high-grade stainless steel case build for reliable durability. The dark blue dial, silver bezel, and brown watch band all contrast one another beautifully.
Finally, the Torgoen T9 has exceptional readability. Most watches have their strengths, and while some offer in-house movements or sophisticated features, the Torgoen T9 watch emphasizes readability above all.
The hour markers and 3, 6, 9, and 12 numerals are large enough to tell time even from a considerable distance.
- Gorgeous timepiece
- Parts and color blend well beautifully
- Exceptional readability
- Great accuracy and precision
- High-grade stainless steel case enhances durability
- Solid price value
- Luminous hands aren't very bright
AVI-8 Men's AV-4011 Hawker Watch
Being the last on our list, the AVI-8 AV-4011 Hawker is one of the few vintage watches for aviators inspired by a fighter aircraft design in World War II.
For its relatively affordable price, the AVI-8 Hawker watch comes with a genuine-leather and classic-looking strap, a white dial, and stainless steel case.
So far, so simple, right? And that's precisely what makes the AVI-8 Hawker an ideal choice for pilots who prefer high functionality and vintage style in their watch.
Like the Torgoen T9, the numbers on the watch dial are fairly large, making it easier for you to tell the time.
If you're looking for a watch that offers high-functionality and something you can wear as a pilot watch or everyday wear, the AVI-8 Hawker is an excellent pick.
NanaDC Badass Rating: 3/5
- The watch's stainless steel case is impressively sturdy, with a tight seal that keeps it well-protected.
- The chronograph functions are incredibly precise, with quick start and stop features that work seamlessly.
- The leather strap has held up incredibly well, without any signs of wear or cracking.
NanaDC Suave Rating: 3/5
- The cream-colored dial boasts a sharp and eye-catching design, with inner chronograph dials that feature brightly colored accents.
- I love the watch's classic and easy-to-read layout, which makes it a joy to wear and use.
- The well-proportioned elements under the watch's glass lend it a refined and polished look.
- Great balance of functionality and style
- Excellent readability
- Japanese quartz movement
- Effortless to use
- Works well as an everyday watch
- Vintage appeal
- Some users received defective batteries
What Makes a Pilot Watch Different?
As far as the trend goes, a pilot watch isn't merely a watch worn by pilots. These aviator watches carry a specific set of features that make it the kind of watch we call today. [R]
If you take away the sunglasses, leather jacket, and flashy items, pilots have an immense responsibility to guide a 300-ton chunk of metal meticulously constructed together to various destinations worldwide.
For this reason, a pilot's watch should be as reliable and responsible as its captain.
Some of these features include a second 24-hour hand that allows pilots to track their flight time, chronograph functions, tachymeters, compasses, altimeters, and any other navigation tool.
One particular feature, the circular slide rule, is specifically made to help pilots calculate fuel consumption and distance while in mid-air.
How to Choose a Pilot Watch
Now that you have a basic understanding of what separates a pilot's watch from other watches found today, choosing the right timepiece for your wrist can't be done with haste.
These 4 features should help you choose the best pilot watch:
First, consider the bezel markings. Not all watches will feature bezel markings, and some will carry a simple design without much functionality.
For pilots, bezel markings are vital because these help pilots make fuel consumption calculations, unit conversions, and wind correction angle measurements properly.
The bezel markings are what separates a pilot's watch from common watches you find elsewhere.
You don't have to go for anything fancy when it comes to the watch dial. What's important is the size of your watch dial.
For this reason, it always helps to choose a bigger watch dial compared to a smaller one. A larger watch dial will make it easier for pilots to read the time and provide better readability for the watch than other watches.
Choosing the right watch strap/bracelet is a matter of personal preference. Whether you opt for a watch with a leather strap or watch bracelet, this will reflect your personality as the wearer.
Of course, don't forget to check the quality firsthand. If you're choosing a watch bracelet, make sure the metal quality is high-grade and durable. The same goes for a leather watch strap.
Indeed, you wouldn't want to wear a watch with a strap or bracelet that's uncomfortable or causes an allergic reaction. [R]
Even if you weren't shopping for a pilot's watch, you should always choose a watch with a solid build quality. A stainless steel case is a great option because it's inexpensive and provides sufficient durability.
However, stainless steel is not the only case material available. You also have a titanium case for its lightweight yet durable material, a gold case for its luxurious feel, and carbon fiber, which is both extremely light and durable.
Suppose you're still unsure of the watch to go for. In that case, I recommend the Bulova Men's Moonwatch for its exceptional timekeeping, durability, style, and it's a chronograph watch, giving you added versatility.
However, if you're looking for something more price-friendly, the Seiko Flightmaster provides excellent value, navigation & flight features, and luxurious appeal.