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The History of Aviator Watches

In this modern age, the new technologies and advancements in science do not let a man off the hook easily. It constantly keeps him in motion with its new trends and fashions. But the one thing this technology couldn’t get its hands on, is a man’s wristwatch. Even now, a wristwatch is prized and adored by men as a symbol of status and attachment. The history of wristwatches is quite intriguing if looked upon. But out of all of them, the Aviator Watch is the one that holds a special place in history.

The aviator watch had a prominent role in shifting the trend from pocket watches to wristwatches. The initial goal in designing the aviator watch was to make its dials huge, so that it is easily readable and fashion forward. Because of its relevance to the aviation industry in World War I, it became famous as the aviator watch (also called the pilot watch).

The Birth of the Aviator Watch

Although wristwatches were in use by women in the 19th century,  it didn’t garner much attention. That was, until the year 1904. After the Wright Brothers became successful with their aviation experiment, a buzz was created all around the world. At the same time, a rich Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont was undergoing experiments of his own.

According to the story, Santos complained to his friend, Louis Cartier, about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch mid-flight. To this, Cartier went to his workshop and designed a wristwatch that later came to be known as the Aviator Watch.

Link to Aviation

Santos liked the gift so much that he started wearing it everywhere. Due to his lead role in designing aircraft, he was considered a celebrity at that time. Surely, there was no way the watch could go unnoticed.

In 1909, Louis Blériot, inspired by the Wright Brothers, shocked the entire world by crossing the 20-mile English Channel in his plane. He used his newfound fame to advertise the Zenith wrist watch he was wearing. The watch started gathering so much attention, that Louis Cartier decided to make the invention public in 1911.

World War I – Developments

After watching the aviation industry booming, the military also started paying attention to it. It was World War I when planes were first used as weapons. Thousands of pilots were trained with basic aerial combat knowledge and deployed in different areas. To help these pilots, they needed to be provided with all the required means and equipment to operate the machinery.

Despite the much-gained popularity, aviator watches were still not common among the pilots. They usually used a panel gap design where they could fit their pocket watches. Time was of prime importance in this field, as radio communications were still fully developed. So, the best shot they had was of time coordinated attacks.

Brand Emergence

After the war, pilots came back home to see different brands competing to set their mark in the sales of aviator watches. Brands like Longines, Zenith and Omega soon came up with new and attractive ranges of aviator watches.

In 1929, Charles Lindbergh managed a 33-hour crossing of the famous Atlantic in his Spirit of St. Louis plane. This made him an overnight sensation and a star of the news. The interesting thing was that he pulled off this achievement, wearing a Longines’ aviator watch. After this, there was no going back for typical aviator watches.

World War II & Aftermath

Overseeing the Great Depression of 1929, Adolf Hitler came into the equation and powered his way into Europe’s largest country. Germany soon recovered from the first war, and started preparing for everything that was required for an armed conflict. This led to the design of a new aviator watch, the B-Uhr.

On the other side of the story, the Americans came up with their own version of the B-Uhr, the A-11. This was the timepiece millions of operators used in World War II. British watchmakers, however, were focused on using swiss aviator watches to fulfill their needs. This led to the flourishment of the now billion-dollar company, Rolex, in the second world war.

After the second world war, brands like Lemania, Omega, Breitling, and Rolex set their foot into the market and enjoyed the success of aviator watches. 

Modern Day Legend

Despite the advancements in wristwatches, the aviator watch still remains both functional and luxurious. Its historical significance still holds the hearts of several watch enthusiasts. In 2015, the Jack Mason watch line chose aviator watches to be the inspiration for their new collection. It was to pay homage to the brilliant services the watch had given America.

Even today, designs of aviator watches are still booming in the market. Its endless popularity and varieties of bold features make it an automatic pick in the watch industry. It has made its way from the aviators to the local public and has helped in inspiring the creations of several other wristwatches.

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