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  • Writer's pictureThe Thrifty Pilot

Which watch, wrist watch?

Let me just put it out there, I love watches and I am sure many of you out there do as well. Like me, you will think you have the right amount, and then a new one pops up. It’s a problem we have, but our excuse always come back to the fact that we just haven’t found the “perfect watch”. However, I think we might be OK with this, as the journey might just be more fun than the actual destination.

When it comes to watches I personally use for aviation, I have created three types of categories of watch.

The simple “old faithful”:

This is the type of watch that I can wear on my wrist and know that it is working. Through rough environments, hitting it on sides of hangars and just about anything else you can throw at it, the old faithful will take a lickin’ and keep on ticking…literally.

When I wear this watch it is for the sake of utility. I normally wear this watch when I am flying another aircraft that I do not do so on a regular basis. I want my trusty partner on my wrist to be able to tell me the time accurately and for it to be able to show me seconds – usually in the form of a sweeping hand. I don’t care about anything fancy here as I need to look at my watch and see the basics in a simple and easily comprehensible fashion.

The middle ground performer:

This watch is usually digital and provides straight forward information, but builds a bit on the old faithful. This watch is a watch that would have two time zones that are easy to navigate, a backlight for night ops and a stopwatch function.

A word of caution comes with these watches – make sure to know and practice their functionality on the ground! Use these watches as backup measures and ensure they agree with your on-board systems. You don’t want to be tracking time from two systems that are minutes off from each other. If you are VFR and are practicing cross country flights, using a watch that you are familiar with can really help with your timing.

The “Pilot’s Watch” watch:

Admit it, we all have our little ways of showing off that we are a pilot, even if we don’t want to admit it. Sometimes we wear our AOPA hat, sometimes we carry around a “remove before flight” lanyard and at other times we adorn all of our other possessions with stickers that show our love for flying. Watches have provided an opportunity to continue this in the form of “Pilot Watches”. You know what these are, the watches that have the unnecessary pilot functions and calculators.

We all know how much time it takes to do a good flight plan on paper using a digital calculator, now try using a calculator on your watch to do that – it’s just not going to happen. If it does, well I tip my AOPA hat to you, sir or madam. These watches look cool and show off your love for aviation, but they just aren’t too helpful when you are up in the air. Most watches have multiple functions that could distract you from your ultimate goal and trying to figure out one of these watches in the air just won’t work – ever.

However, there are good watches out there and I have a few myself. So, take pride in what you have achieved and wear one of these watches when you have equipment in your plane that you can rely on for timing and telemetry information or when you want to go out on the town and “secretly” flash your ticket in the form of a timepiece :)

The bottom line:

The best way to determine which type of watch for you is…you! Make sure that if you are using your watch as your primary timepiece whilst in the airplane that you are familiar with it and you know how it functions. This means, take the time to pull out the instruction manual and read it from cover to cover.

I know this isn’t the most interesting thing to do, however with everything in aviation, the more time you take to enhance your skills and learn about your equipment the safer you will become as a pilot!

-The Thrifty Pilot

As always, let me know what you think? Do you agree or think there is a fourth category...maybe even a fifth? The information we share with the aviation community helps us see things in different ways, so leave a comment a story or anything else that others might find helpful.

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