There are two type of watches that are by far the favourite amongst WIS – diver and pilot watches, with the CWC RN Fleet Air Arm Pilots Cronograph fitting in the latter category and even more because I personally think that it is one real pilot watch.
These were tool watches, designed to perform a task while keeping the user safe under extreme conditions. Not anymore…At least there is a term that defines the wearer of a diver watch, desk diver. However, when it comes to pilot watches, there is no such term although we should coin one…maybe office pilot or air-desk-man. What we do have is a plethora of pilot watches, all of them claiming some sort of legacy, a direct link to the original watches worn by pilots throughout the history of aviation. As a friendly take on Alex’s IWC Spitfire, it is marketed as a pilot watch but no Spitfire pilot ever saw one.
The real pilot watches are few and between and military pilot watches are even scarcer. Issues by various air forces around the globe and conflicts, their existence spawn across few decades. The first pilot watches appeared just before WWII and the last of their kind were issues at the end of 1980s. This is an exclusivist group, comprising Hanhart, Lange, IWC or Breguet. As the world evolved beyond WWII, armies across the globe saw their budget reduced while prices for luxury goods (watches included) increased. They exchanged expensive non-essential items with low cost equivalents.
From CWC comes the RN Fleet Air Arms Pilot Mechanical Chronograph, the swan song of mechanical military issued pilot watches. It is an unapologetically tool watch; everything has a practical purpose and looks are left way behind. The movement is not an automatic chronograph movement because the G-force can break the rotor, Valjoux 7765 manual winding chronograph movement was used and, as a testimony of how much the superfluous details counted, the disk date and setting mechanism is still in place. Why spend time removing it? Nobody cares about this so the dial covers it. Are hours important when timing? Not really, so they simply removed the hour counting sub-dial. Now, the whole dial has a somewhat unbalanced feel. But again, apart from the T and the company’s name, they made no efforts to improve this. Who cares when the watch does its job?
The CWC case is 40mm sandblasted steel, with solid bars instead of the fragile spring bars. Since this is a pilot watch, shocks are unavoidable so crown and pushers must be protected. Why bother designing nice crown guard and pushers protection when this is actually increasing the manufacturing time and costs? The easiest solution was to make the case asymmetrical so to protect the pushers and crown. The effect is a nice one, given the dial’s lack of symmetry. The watch as a whole should appeal to lovers of Far-East aesthetics. Fukinsei and Kanso are obvious and wearing the watch can only add the wabi-sabi it actually needs to make it more attractive, like a true soldier wearing its scars with dignity.
As a funny note, the lug width is 19mm and the strap that comes with the watch is 20mm wide. Again, why bother with such details?
To sum up, this is not a fashion watch but a true tool watch from a dying breed. Everything is utilitarian and serves a purpose; there are no bells and whistles, no nicely polished surfaces or fancy straps. This is a watch on a mission and it is purposely built to accomplish it.
Stay safe everyone!