Pilot’s Watch: Master The Time Angle (Part 1)

Since its creation, the clock has been closely linked to humanity’s greatest efforts, and conquering the sky is no exception. Since the first test flight, watchmakers have developed and equipped pilots with practical tools that are still telling us about the adventurous feats of early aviation pioneers.

90th Anniversary Limited Edition

   Today, airplanes are just another form of transportation. However, more than a century ago, when the original aircraft flew into the sky, the same emerging camera used the lens to record the adventures of aviation pioneers in blocking their lives and glory, as well as those stumble developments. At the start of aviation, when Alberto Santos Dumont drove the power unit into the sky (1906), the pilot’s adventures often danced with death, and they could only pray for the blessing of God.

Alberto Santos Dumont

   It was also Alberto Santos Dumont, who was the first to seriously consider the importance of time in flight. It should be pointed out that when Alberto Santos Dumont turned to Louis Cartier for help, the Brazilian who lives in France and a frequent visitor to Maxim’s fine dining restaurant, has become famous in the airship field (he is a German German La Morte Award Winner) and has not turned his attention to the aircraft in its infancy. All in all, the Santos watch seems to be designed for the spacecraft, not the aircraft. After all, the pilot needs to focus on the joystick and has no time to take into account the flight time. Even so, everyone knows that these adventurers, like the sailors of nearly two centuries ago, will soon open the door to the new world; and like the previous navigators, they need the help of the clock to open up In the sky along the correct route.

Cartier Santos Dumont watch, Paris, 1912

Watchmakers join the competition
   Well, isn’t it that watchmakers are always at the forefront of progress? This may be the case, but aviation is developing too fast and watchmakers need to work hard to keep up. In 1906, a flight of just 200 meters was already a remarkable achievement. By July 25, 1909, Louis Blairio had successfully crossed the English Channel (from Calais, France to Dover, England). Now it seems that the distance of 35 kilometers is just a leap forward; but at the time, the journey was full of risks, especially considering that Louis Brillio had the nickname of ‘the king of the crash’.

1900-1925, Louis Blario and monoplane

   The historic flight lasted 37 minutes and was measured by Zenith. In a letter dated March 19, 1912, Louis Bleriot wrote: ‘I am very satisfied with the Zenith watch that I often wear and highly recommend it to those who seek precise timekeeping.’ Not long after, Aircraft dashboards were equipped with Zenith Montre d’Aéronef Type 20; later, Caudron fighters and even some Dewoitine D520 fighters in 1939 also used this Zenith flight watch.

Zenith Montre Ble ́riot Watch

   During World War I, pilots showed how new machines could change the nature of war. Aviation is the new ‘weapon’ that gave birth to its own hero. Pilots quickly realized the importance of taking their timepieces into the air, which could provide them with valuable information during the mission. Watches became part of the pilot’s kit, especially the original chronographs. Longines is one of the first watchmaking brands to show interest in this field. Like aircraft technology itself, pilot watches have also undergone spectacular development.

La Demoiselle

   Undoubtedly, the First World War underscored the strategic importance of a national air force. It was both a means of reconnaissance and a fast-burning war to enemy territory. Aviation became part of the war and also served civilian life. Companies such as Breguet, Latécoère and Aéropostale attract effortless adventurers. In order to experience the fun of flying and improve new technologies, they are willing to take risks. The nation is proud to feel the threat, and the technologically advanced countries spare no effort to strive for the first opportunity in the competition to conquer the sky.

Anthony de Saint-Exupery

   From the 1920s to the 1930s, several heroes took on the heavy responsibility of aviation development. We remember Nungesser and Coli (disappeared in 1927), Charles Augustus Lindbergh, who flew the plane for the first time in 1927 without stopping, and Jean Mermoz, who disappeared in 1936, and a reconnaissance mission on July 31, 1944 Was shot down by Anthony de Saint-Exupéry in southern France.

Anne Merlo Lindbergh and Charles Augustus Lindbergh

Origin of the hour watch
   During the same period, Longines established a fruitful partnership with Philip Van Horne Weems, a US Navy instructor who developed a navigation system suitable for modern clocks in 1927. In 1935, the two parties applied for a patent which could effectively supplement pilot timing information. It was an era that could only measure angles. The new watch is a godsend. It can synchronize the radio signal and ensure the accuracy of the second by rotating the bezel or the inner ring.

Longines White Forest Angle Watch

   Longines continues to add a rotary set time function to some watches equipped with a central seconds hand. This idea was re-emphasized by Wilms student, Charles Augustus Lindbergh, to improve the functionality of the hour-angle watch. Ninety years after completing the feat, Lindbergh still remembers his heroic image of flying a single-engine monoplane across the Atlantic for the first time without a stop on May 21, 1927 (33:30). He also collaborated with Longines, which has been an official supplier of the International Aviation Federation since 1919, to develop a watch that could help pilots (and sailors) set their course.

Longines White Time Angle Watch, 2007

   During the trans-Atlantic journey, Lindbergh personally realized the importance of the pilot in determining his position with as few steps as possible, so he conceived an airborne (and sea) onboard (ship) instrument. Its design is based on patents filed by Wems and Longines, the aviation hero working with patent owner Longines to create a watch that enables the wearer to calculate longitude based on GMT time. This watch is called the Angle of Time. It is re-launched this year as a separate numbered edition to mark the 90th anniversary of Lindbergh’s historic flight. The watch’s rotating dial is equipped with a 180-degree longitude indicator (like a sextant), with a small rotatable dial in the center, which synchronizes the second hand with the radio signal.