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The Ultimate Vintage Watch Collection for Him: The Best Looking Pilot/Aviator Designs

We are featuring a very popular category of aviator watches praised among outdoorsmen. The elegant and classy aviator style has always had a large base of enthusiasts. This is why we chose to select this exclusive collection of chronograph watches for men which design has been inspired by a passion for flying and for a vintage look.

As you can appreciate, there are watches for every budget from apprentice to the collector. But in every case, this aviator watch collection is timeless in look, sporty in specs, and addictively elegant.

All products featured on Men Objects are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Main Heritage of the Aviator Watch

First off, where did this aviator sporty look that we crave originates from?

The first influence was from the military who recognized how valuable of a tool it was. The early watch models were standard pocket-watches fitted to a leather strap, but by the early 20th century manufacturers began producing purpose-built wristwatches.

In 1904 French watchmaker Louis Cartier designed a watch model for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont which became popular with pilots because of its usefulness in flight situations. It was because of the absence of a power source nearby (such as onboard airplanes).

First pilot watch Santos-Dumont by Cartier jewelry

A wristwatch was first used in World War I as an artillery officer’s tool. The so-called trench watch or ‘wristlets, were practical due to their ability for soldiers' hands freed up from operating pocket watches while on the battlefield. They quickly became standard equipment during that war's demands; they also protected against glass fractures caused by shell fragments landing nearby at times when the enemy fire would not allow immediate evacuation if needed. A special guard was protecting them sometimes through the use of hinged cages.

The "trench watch," is a device used by World War I soldiers and aviators to tell time while they're in the trenches.

The Cartier Tank watch was the first timepiece designed as a military accessory. This style of wristwatch became popular in World War I, when manufacturers were starting to replace their fob watches with something more practical and durable for soldiers on active duty.

The Impact of First World War 1914-18

The impact of World War I transformed the way we think about wristwatch timepieces. The need for precise synchronization between artillery gunners and infantrymen advancing behind their barrage required precise synchronization.

The wear of wristwatches during World War I was heavily influenced by their design to withstand the rigors of trench warfare. Luminous dials and unbreakable glass became common features as a result, making them appealing in an era without other modes for keeping time or checking one's Bulletin Board Index Card (BBI) schedule.

Early wristwatch by Waltham, worn by soldiers in World War I (German Clock Museum). | Wikipedia

By the end of the war, almost all enlisted men wore a wristwatch (or wristlet), and after they were demobilized the fashion soon caught on.

The Modern Watches Influence

High-quality watches were produced by firms such as Patek Philippe, an example made in 1933, an example being a Patek Philippe ref. 1518, possibly the most complicated wristwatch ever made in stainless steel, fetched a world record price in 2016 when it was sold at auction for $11,136,642. - Wikipedia

Patek Philippe watch from 1943
Rare 1943 Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 | Image from Phillips Auction

A Patek Philippe 97975, the World's First Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch. This exceptional instantaneous perpetual calendar movement was made in a beautiful yellow-gold wristwatch replete with a hunter back and a large fluted crown that comes complete with an easy-to-read dial - perfect for someone who wants high style but doesn't want all the hassle!