Last semester, I found myself in an afternoon humanities class listening to the topic of sigils. It was fascinating. In case you haven’t heard of these, they are symbols created from letters of some kind to inspire some type of outcome in your life to happen. Complicated and completely unrelated to my life as they were, I became so enthralled in the lecture, that I lost all awareness of time. The next time I looked at my watch, it had already been an hour and a half and the class would soon be ending.
At this very moment I thought of being in an airplane.
While sitting at the controls of an aircraft, so many duties, rules, and objects demand our attention that a similar state of consciousness emerges where we are in no condition to actively seek any kind of information. Therefore, having a watch that you can simply glance at is a priceless tool to have as a pilot. Like many other instruments, it provides important information at a glance. This simple “instrument” can be used to time approaches, trips, lessons, or even just to increase awareness of an imminent sunset/sunrise.
So what should you look for in a watch?
Well as a student with a hole in my pocket, I personally like functionality, and affordability in a watch. My first flying watch was a $10 Casio chronograph. It had a timer, 24 hour clock (to make conversions to Zulu time that much easier), the date for logbook entries, lights up for night flights, and it was the toughest watch I’ve ever owned. I’ve never put a battery in it, and wiping off Av gas or dirt was stress-free.
However, I wanted something easier to read. I was at Kohl’s months ago, and found this U.S. Polo Assn chronograph for $6. Its bigger dial makes it easier for me to regularly include it in instrument scans, and it spreads out the other information I may want when I’m not as busy with critical phases of flight.
It does the same functions I need in a watch-timer, date, day of week-with one more added bonus. It includes a little window for digital time. Instead of coordinating it with my analog hands, I set it to Zulu time. This is the most convenient tool in the world when talking to a weather briefer or ATC and you are quickly prompted for Zulu time.
I love this watch and I think it has everything a pilot should look for in one. You should ideally look for an easy to read primary time face, a date function, a timer, and a second window or time zone feature for Zulu. An e6b calculator ring found on the outside of Breitlings or Seikos is completely unneeded. They are unreadable and are just there for aesthetics. So if you do not fly with a watch, I recommend picking one out with the listed features. It will definitely improve your experience in the cockpit and airports for the remainder of your career.