To the layman, watches have a few general variations: aviator, dive, chronograph, dress, and maybe a few variations therein. To the discerning fanatic, however, every major category of wristwatch has distinct (if subtle) varieties within them. Take the classic aviator watch, for instance – there’s actually a sub category of pilot-style watches that were inspired by those worn by the German Luftwaffe during WWII. They are called fliegers.
Flieger, for reference, is the German word for ‘flight.’ So, these watches were – naturally – given to members of Germany’s flight crews to use on their missions. They were large purpose-driven instruments that were considered a part of the plane’s equipment and were expected to be returned at the completion of a mission. Flieger watches were notable for their superb movements and how easy they were to read – as, if a pilot couldn’t discern time efficiently, the device was of no use. Although their usage has shifted away from the military into the realm of consumer gear and their size (for some) has shrunk reasonably, they still retain much of what originally made them special – simple styling (marked by a signature triangle at the 12 o’clock marker), reliable engineering, and ease of use. The following are our picks for the best flieger watches you can get right now.
B-Uhr Pilot 55
Clean and simple, this offering comes from a brand named after one of the original flieger styles of WWII – the B-Uhr. And the name isn’t the only classic referential thing about this brilliant watch. It’s a massive 55 millimeters – the same size as its classic namesake – is mounted within a super tough polished stainless steel case with an oversized crown, and boasts a 21-jewel automatic movement. It does benefit from some modern developments, as well, including SuperLuminova markings on the hour and minute hand. And it is fitted to a heavy duty riveted and stitched leather band with an equally heavy duty stainless steel buckle.
Steinhart Nav B-Uhr 44 Handaufzug
Straight out of Germany, this interpretation of a flieger watch comes from the brilliant folks at Steinhart. And while it bears all the necessary style cues to make it a no-nonsense German-style aviation watch, it also got a bit of a refined treatment on the details – including the brushed bronze case and matching brushed hour, minute, and second hands; dress-style stitched leather band; and exhibition case-back. It’s also equipped with a 17 ruby-bearing stone Swiss movement, has a double-coated anti-reflective sapphire glass, and features SuperLuminova markings on all the hands – even the tiny second hand on the secondary dial. If you want a classic aviation style watch, but require a bit more refinement in a dress watch, this is the one for you.
Archimede Pilot 42B HW LDB
If you’ve never heard of Archimede, it’s because the brand has only been around for a little over a decade. They are, however, under the wings of the nearly century-old makers at German brand Ickler – so you need not worry about their newness in regards to their quality and styling. Take, for instance, the 42B HW LDB flieger watch pictured above. It’s loaded with a hand-wound SW 215 Swiss movement, features both a brushed stainless steel case and antireflective sapphire display glass, and an oversized pilot’s-style crown. It’s also mated to a beautiful stitched and riveted leather strap, is water resistant to 5 ATM (about 50 meters), and has luminous hands atop the dual hour and sub-minute dials.
Stowa Flieger Klassik 40 Baumuster B
Stowa is actually one of the original brands that was tapped to create wristwatches for the Luftwaffe during WWII. So it’s no surprise that, since they’re still around, their watches are of near-unmatched quality and style. This variety is a little unusual in that the dial is somewhat more busy than the more minimalist A-type classic flieger watch, but it is done incredibly well in that the added functionality doesn’t detract from the overall styling and easy readability. On top of its obvious external features, this watch also sports and exhibition style back, has SuperLuminova markings on the white dial markings and both minute and hour hands, and features a clean black leather stitched and riveted leather band.
Dievas Vintage Flieger Watch
Loaded with extremely well-executed classic styling, this minimalist watch from Dievas boasts a case made from the brand’s proprietary 6Steel that was CNC milled in Germany. What makes this material extra special is its anti-magnetic properties. The watch has been designed to include a faraday cage – which protects from both electrostatic and electromagnetic influence. In fact, the design is 17 times more effective than a watch made to normal anti-magnetic standards in Germany. On top of that, it also features a sapphire crystal, an extremely handsome leather stitched and riveted watch strap, and SuperLuminova hand markings.
Fortis K B-42 Flieger Cockpit GMT Watch
What makes this offering from Fortis special, besides the obvious two-toned dial styling, is that it features second, 12-hour, and 24-hour indices – which makes it a bit more functional than some of its purely minimalist counterparts. It’s also equipped with a self-winding automatic movement, a stainless steel case with an exhibition back, and a push-button closure deployment clasp and durable rubber strap. It also boasts a water resistance of up to 660 feet – making it extremely resilient for anyone who likes to get out on the water every so often. Just don’t take this watch diving and it should do just fine through any activity with water exposure.
Damasko DK10 Black Automatic Watch
Whereas most of the watches on this list feature movements borrowed from the Swiss, this one is made entirely in-house by German brand Damasko. This 23-jewel A 35-1 movement is shockproof, anti-magnetic, and completely self-winding. This watch’s exterior also features much more aggressive and almost racing-style design cues. The primarily black dial is highlighted with white markings and both minute and hour hands. But it also features a bright red second hand and Si marking at 8 o’clock, a red dot on the 12 o’clock position bezel triangle, and red stitching on the included leather strap. As an added bonus, this handsome watch has a day and date window just below the 3 o’clock position.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch
Boasting an exceedingly reliable Pellaton automatic winding – which has a 7-day power reserve when fully wound – and perhaps the cleanest and most concise styling of any other watch on this list, the Big Pilot’s Watch from legendary brand IWC is the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to flieger watches. It is built with an anti-magnetism faraday cage, features a date window at the 6 o’clock position, is mated to an exquisite Santoni calfskin band, offers central second hacking, is equipped with a dual-coated antireflective sapphire crystal, and even has a power reserve display dial – so you can be sure it never runs out of power. For an absolute classic when only the best will do, this is your ideal aviator watch.