8 Great Seiko Pilot Watches For Aviator watch Fans
James Elliott30 August 2022 | 8 min read
Seiko is one of the most well-known watch brands in the world, but you may not instantly link them to pilot watches.
That’s because the vast majority of their models focus on the sports, dress, and dive watch categories with just a sprinkling of specialist tool watches, including pilot watches.
For those looking to take to the skies, the good news is that there are some Seiko watches that fit the traditional characteristics of a pilot watch. We’ll start by confirming exactly what makes a great pilot watch before pulling out five Seiko models to help you get up above the clouds!
Note – Seiko really does have a limited range of dedicated pilot watches. As such, we’ll pick out models that get as close to the traditional pilot watch spec as possible. Article Updated to reflect 2023 models and pricing.
- What Makes a Great Pilot Watch?
- 8 Seiko Pilot Watches
What Makes a Great Pilot Watch?
For those new to the pilot watch category, let’s break down exactly what separates this type of watch from other more popular ranges such as dress or sports.
As aviation became more popular in the 1900s, military, commercial and amateur pilots needed a watch to help them keep track of time (and other metrics) whilst navigating their airships.
Specifically, they needed a watch with at least some of the following characteristics.
- A watch with a large and easy-to-read dial
- Good luminosity when flying at night
- Extra dial markings and tracking (e.g tachymeter)
- A watch with a large crown for winding
- The ability to track multiple time zones
We’ll benchmark our Seiko picks against these to see how they shape up as a traditional aviation watch.
1. Seiko SSB031 Men’s Chronograph
To get us started, we’ve pulled out the SSB031 chronograph model from one of Seiko’s entry-level ranges. As discussed in our introduction, there aren’t many dedicated Seiko pilot watches, but the SSB031 fits a number of the pilot watch characteristics.
The SSB031 is large and easy to read at 40mm, incorporates large, lume-covered hour markers and hands, offers additional time tracking thanks to the tachymeter and has a large, easy-to-wind crown.
Outside of the dedicated pilot specs, the black/white/red design is really nice and classy with features such as a mineral crystal, high-quality steel bracelet, and 100m of water resistance, making it a good all-rounder outside the cockpit.
Again, whilst this isn’t a dedicated pilot watch, it does enough to be classed as a good aviation companion, especially if you want a watch that’s not solely for flying. At around $120, it’s also a reasonable price as a gateway pilot watch, giving you the ability to track time/speed/distance in the sky before moving on to something more specialist.
2. Seiko 5 Sports Military Flieger Automatic
Next, we come to our first dedicated flight watch with the Seiko 5 Sports ‘Flieger’ with a reference of SRPH29K1. German for ‘flyer’, the Flieger has a really unique pilot/field watch look-and-feel that’s simple, easy to read and looks stylish.
At 39mm, it’s a little smaller than your traditional pilot watch, but it does do a great job of making the most of the dial with large numbering, lume markings at each hour position, and large spear-shaped dials. It’s combined with a NATO strap to keep that field watch aesthetic but does just about enough to strike the pilot watch balance too.
Inside the case, you’ve got surprisingly good specs with a 4R36 automatic movement that delivers 41 hours of juice. It’s all packaged up with a hardlex crystal, a day/date window, 100m of water resistance, and a reinforced leather lining on that NATO strap.
As pilot watches go, while it’s bordering on a field watch, we really like the Flieger as an alternative to everything else on our list. The only key point to note is that this watch is mainly sold in Europe, meaning US customers may need to pay a bit extra to get it shipped internationally. If you’re up for that, this watch comes in at just below $200 which we think is a cracking deal!
3. Seiko Chronograph SSB349P1
Similar to the SSB031, our next pick, the SSB349P1, delivers a fantastic chronograph performance to keep pilots going when up in the skies.
At 44mm, the SSB349P1 is a hell of a watch, using every inch of that super-large dial to cram in a whole host of timekeeping features. Most notably, you’ve got a combination of a 60-second timer, 1-hour timer, and 24-hour sub-dials that sit alongside a large, easy-to-read tachymeter that’s perfect for tracking time in the sky.
The military-type design is really nice, too, with black, copper, and gold coming together to create a dark-themed piece that looks great on the wrist. We especially like the slyly placed date window between 4 and 5 o’clock, with a Hardlex crystal and 10 bar of water resistance rounding it all off nicely.
Like the first piece, while it’s not a dedicated pilot watch, it packs more than enough inside the case to make it a trusted companion when in the skies. If you like the look of this one, it’ll set you back around $260, which we think is a great bargain for a 44m piece with this much functionality.
4. Seiko Men’s SSB321 Analog Display
Our third and final chronograph watch comes in the form of the SSB321, which offers a light and bright alternative to the previous dark, military model.
Many of the specs are the same here, with the 44m case a great size for quick and easy time readings. On the dial, you’ve got the same 60-second and 60-minute dials, with a 12-hour counter found here instead of a 24-hour one. You’ve got a tachymeter and a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock to round off those time-keeping capabilities too.
Black, copper, and gold are replaced by silver, steel blue, and yellow, with the SSB321 a watch that’s more likely to fit into day-to-day sports use as well. The other specs are all pretty similar here, too, with 100m water resistance matched with a Hardlex crystal for all-around protection.
If you’re a fan of light over dark, the SSB321 will set you back around $220. It’s hard to know where the extra $20 comes from, but we suspect it’s driven by the more versatile colour palettes driving greater popularity.
5. Seiko Automatic Compass SRPD35K1
With the Seiko SRPD35K1, we take a step back towards a fully-fledged pilot watch. By combining a large 43mm case, large lume-filled numbers, a sizeable crown and a compass dial, this Seiko is perfect for adventure.
Those who like darker watches will also love this, thanks to the black stainless steel case and black leather strap. It all comes together with the beige-coloured markings to provide a watch that could be described as a sports/military/pilot hybrid.
Spec-wise you’re getting a whole host of extras with this watch. A good quality automatic movement drives a day/date window, with other features such as 200m of water resistance, a compass-style chapter ring, and a mineral crystal offering a solid aviation package.
We take a step up on price with this watch, with the SRPD35K1 coming in at around $470. Whilst it may seem like a lot, you’re getting a piece that moves closer to a full pilot’s watch whilst delivering premium compass and automatic movement features.
6. Seiko Adventure-Solar SSC081
If you liked the previous watch, you’ll like this one too. There are many similarities with the SSC081 delivering a watch that’s easy to read, incorporates a compass, sports an easy-to-use crown, and is finished off with a super-bright lume.
Whereas our last watch had a lot of military feel to it, this model delivers more of a pilot/dress watch combination thanks to the lighter steel case and light brown strap. That’s reflected in the slightly smaller 42mm case too, opening it up to a wider range of wrist sizes.
Inside the case, you’re getting a very handy solar quartz movement with other features such as a hardlex crystal and 330m of water resistance also included. Like our previous watch, you also have that internal compass dial on hand, which is operated with a separate crown.
We’re at a similar price point with this watch too – expect to pick up an SSC081 model for around $475. At that price, you’re getting a watch with a superior solar movement that strikes a great dress/pilot watch balance meaning you’ll look good in the skies and on the ground.
7. Seiko Pilot Chronograph SNA411
We finally arrive at a true Seiko pilot’s watch with the SBN411 model, known as the Seiko pilot Chronograph. This watch ticks most of our pilot watch boxes with a large dial, luminous hands, a super-large crown, and a range of extra markings, including fuel tracking.
This is definitely a watch for serious pilots, thanks to all of the markings and functionality this watch delivers. But for generic watch lovers, there are things here for you too. Three chronograph windows are accompanied by a date window, meaning more traditional tracking is also available.
The 42mm piece also comes with additional features in the form of a full steel bracelet, 200m of water resistance, a hardlex crystal, and a good-quality quartz movement.
True aviators and pilot watch fans will absolutely love the detail on this watch, and it’s definitely one for professionals who need extra functionality. At around $400, it’s also fantastic value. When it comes to Seiko pilot watches, the SNA411 is one of the best picks out there and one we’d definitely recommend.
8. Seiko Astron SSH003J1
To finish up, we’ve pulled out a model from one of Seiko’s latest brand lines, the premium Astron range. As part of Seiko’s expansion into the mid-market, a number of more premium ranges have been launched just underneath their premium sister brand, Grand Seiko.
The SSH003J1 model specifically delivers a number of the more technical features we expect to see in a pilot watch. A 43mm dial, lume markers and a large crown combine with chronograph features and a bezel that’s great for tracking multiple time zones.
The premium solar GPS movement ensures the most accurate timekeeping no matter where you are in the world, with the chronograph features dedicated to tracking multiple timezones simultaneously.
Of course, a watch of this spec includes a range of additional features, including titanium/ceramic case construction, a sapphire crystal, a titanium bracelet, and 100m of water resistance.
Given we take such a significant step up in spec, you can expect the price to follow. For serious long-haul pilots who need to track multiple time zones, you can get a Seiko Astron SSH003J1 for just over $2,000. It’s a big investment, but if you love pilot watches and want a seriously technical piece of kit, this watch could be the one for you!
For those who love taking to the skies, having a pilot watch on the wrist is essential to ensure you can keep track of time accurately. Whilst you’ll be able to buy a dedicated pilot watch, as long as the watch is large, easy to read, and offers supplementary tracking abilities (such as a tachymeter), you’ll have what you need.
Luckily for Seiko fans, there are a number of different options which can serve as a pilot watch. We’ve pulled out just a few today, but do shop around to find one of many Seiko pilot watches that’s perfect for you!
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