Baselworld review: the top five pilots watches for 2014

An infallible watch design archetype, the latest flock of pilots' watches from Baselworld 2014 are built to last, writes Robin Swithinbank.

The new Bremont MBIII pilot's watch is a successor to the British watchmaker's MBs I and II with the addition of a GMT function

By Robin Swithinbank in London

You'll have to forgive me the conceit if I say I've always thought the prevailing trend at Baselworld is spotting prevailing trends. I've never been quite sure what makes a trend. Two green-dialled watches? Three NATO straps? Or do we need half a dozen before we have a headline on our hands?

This is why I'm always grateful for pilots' watches, which are reliably impervious to trends, much as Middle England is to change. A pilot's watch is an infallible watch design archetype. In the main, examples are legible and unfussy, round-cased and steel, and as well equipped for dealing with the perils of a life spent on a swinging arm as any timepiece you care to mention.

The latest flock of flyboy timepieces from Baselworld 2014, I can report, does not disappoint. My favourite newcomer is Bremont's MBIII, which isn't really a newcomer at all, but a successor to the British brand's MBs I and II, now with the addition of a GMT function. Like those, it has been built to survive being thrown from a fast-moving jet in a Martin-Baker ejector seat (rather it than me), thus guaranteeing its anti-shock credentials. Good-looking thing it is, too.

Sticking with the more-of-the-same-please theme, Breitling notches up 30 years of its flagship Chronomat with a reproduction of the original, which was made for the Italian air force's aerobatic display team, the Frecce Tricolore. It's called the Chronomat Airborne and it's home to Breitling's B01 in-house automatic chronograph.

I was also lifted by the pilot offerings of two of the more 'affordable' luxury watch brands. Hamilton's 80-hour power reserve Khaki Pilot Pioneer comes in lightweight aluminium and a variety of colours, although the more straight-forward, heavier steel model on a black NATO fabric strap was the one that piqued my interest the most. Oris, meanwhile, has added a whole new line to its impressive pilot's collection. The automatic Big Crown ProPilot Date is chapter and verse on military chic: steel case, automatic movement, black dial and an olive fabric strap. Both retail at under £1k.

Before bringing this piece into land, a mention of Zenith's latest Montre d'Aeronef Type 20, the 'Extra Special', which happens to be one of the first crop of Zenith watches not to feature a Zenith movement. The Sellita unit inside means the price is low by the brand's standards, which is all part of Zenith's fast-evolving commercial strategy. Interesting. As for the watch, the funny thing is that, after two years of trying, it has finally found the right case size. At 45mm, it's very wearable. Just don't look under the bonnet.

Read about the top men's watches for under £5,000

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