Keeping time in the skies with the Aviator 8 Mosquito

Shilpa Dhamija | Updated on January 31, 2020

Changing paradigms: The first Breitling Navitimer 1952   -  BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Chip off the old block: The Aviator 8 Mosquito is a stunning pilot’s watch with a 43-mm stainless-steel case and a black satin-brushed ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon) -coated stainless-steel bezel with a practical red pointer, indexes and Arabic numerals

The iconic pilot’s watch returns with the Aviator 8 Mosquito —- and it’s better than before

It is a mosquito! It is a plane! It is a watch. And not just any old watch — but a pilot’s watch.

The launch of the Aviator 8 Mosquito watch — inspired by the plane ‘de Havilland Mosquito’ of the 1940s — is an occasion to recall the birth of watches worn by aviators.

In the early 20th century, Santos Dumont made history by successfully flying an aircraft for 25 metres in the air in full public view. A pioneer in aviation history, Dumont timed his flights using a pocket watch while flying. That was, of course not quite the best option for a pilot, whose hands needed to be on the flying machine, and not on his watch. That was when his friend, Louis Cartier, decided that the watch had to be on Dumont’s hand, and not the other way around. Cartier of the famous Cartier watches developed a wrist watch for the pilot. A slightly curved watch dial tied around the wrist with a strap and a buckle marked the unofficial advent of what came to be known as the pilot’s watch.

During World War II, the demand for pilot’s watches — with chronographs and other functions — increased. Watch brands Hamilton, IWC, Bulova and Breitling and many others started creating timepieces designed specifically for aviation.

Chronographs evolved over time, too. Until 1934, chronograph wristwatches had a single button that would only stop and start the chronograph function. Swiss watchmaker Willy Breitling saw the need for a reset button to complete the chronograph function and soon filed a patent for the world’s first wrist chronograph with two pusher buttons.

“Even now, if you go on any airline, you will see Breilting’s watches because of the aviation history associated with the brand,” says Tim Sayler, chief marketing officer, Breitling, at the launch last year in September of the Aviator 8 Mosquito watch in Dubai.

After several advancements in the chronograph wrist watch, Breitling built the iconic Breitling Navitimer watch, a portmanteau of the words navigation and timer, equipped with the flight-specific side rule function (for pilot-appropriate calculations).

Breitling continues to launch new models for aviators with similar functions. But how relevant are they in the age of computers?

“About 100 or even 50 years ago watches were used for calculations — for timing race and other time measurement operations. These have all been replaced. It is true for every brand. Other instruments do the job much better. Today, pilots are surrounded by computers. The Swiss watch has taken a totally different role. It is now a luxury object that is much more about values, ideas, history and what it represents. Nevertheless, when we do a pilot’s watch, we design it to be functional and to work for a pilot as if he didn’t have all these computers around him. Navitimier and slide rule are as functional as they were when we launched it in 1952,” Sayler adds.

Aviator 8 Mosquito is a stunning pilot’s watch with a 43-mm stainless-steel case and a black satin-brushed ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon) -coated stainless-steel bezel with a practical red pointer, indexes and Arabic numerals. Its black dial has contrasting silver sub-dials.

“When we design a new watch like the Breitling Aviator 8 mosquito we do it as if it was a watch for the pilot from the 1930s or the 50s. Legibility, functionality of the slide rule, the quality of the material are just as important now as they were then,” Sayler explains.

One of the major practical changes seen in today’s pilot watches is in its size. “It is actually not just relevant for pilot watches but also relevant for other watches as well. We used to make really big watches. But now we make sure there are different sizes in our portfolio. Avengers is a perfect example (of that). We have 48 mm dials and have gone all the way down to 43 mm dials. But it is still a big watch, though,” adds Sayler.

Breitling is now targeting a new genre of pilots — those guiding drones. The aviation watch brand recently enrolled British drone racing pilot Luke Bannister as an ambassador. Bannister won his first World Drone Championship at the age of 15 four years ago. Clearly, time doesn’t stand still — it soars.

Shilpa Dhamija is the founder of

Published on January 31, 2020

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