Being a pilot is an expensive thing. Starting from the tens of thousands of dollars just to get our initial license, to the hundreds of dollars we spend for every hour in the air, there’s a lot of cash changing hands to keep our gravity defying habits satiated. Since we’re used to the high sticker price of our activities (and not to mention the negative consequences if something goes wrong) we also tend to be a little looser with the purse strings when it comes to buying quality gear that we might use in the cockpit. In some cases these tools are worth their weight in gold. In other cases it feels like more of an excuse for companies to slap an aviation related theme on something and hike the price. When it comes to this watch let me lay out the case and you can make your own decisions.
Pilot watches are definitely a “thing.” Good timekeeping is a critical, and I talked more about that in my post over on The Truth About Watches. Every pilot should have a good watch, but that doesn’t mean that they need an expensive one. $50 gets you exactly what you need. Everything else is either style or personal preference.
The folks at Fly Bravo Golf have been advertising their new aviation themed timepiece rather heavily on Instagram lately, and it definitely piqued my interest.
Let’s start with the things I like about this design.
There are some thoughtful elements to the design of this watch face. I really like the clean aesthetic that it has for the dial, with a minimalist take on the markings. It makes this watch easy to read in a hurry and not cluttered, which is important in flight. I also like that there’s a window here where you can set the hour in GMT or UTC, which is useful since the aviation world uses UTC for just about everything and converting back and forth can be a pain.
I also really, really like the free running and highly visible second hand. The large luminescent dollop on the end of the second hand makes it easy to see in a hurry, and should make timed turns in holding patterns easy to execute.
These are all good features. But the question here is whether those features are worth the sticker price, which can be a bit deceptive. They are asking for a $195 pre-order for these watches, which I could honestly see being a fair price. But then the hit you with the sucker punch: there’s another $400 due before they actually ship it to you.
At this point you are nearly halfway to the price of a used Breitling Aerospace. And for what, exactly?
Under the hood this is a Ronda Caliber 515.24H, which is a battery powered commercially available quartz movement powering all the functions of the watch. This same movement can be found brand new on eBay for less than $20.
Normally this movement is used with a second GMT indicating hour hand on the face of the watch, but credit where credit is due here they have figured out how to swap the hour hand for a rotating card showing the UTC hour in a window on the watch face. But I think there’s a catch here, and a reason why the GMT window is wider than just a single number. By using an hour hand’s movement to operate this function, I don’t think the card “jumps” to the next hour — I think it slowly rotates the card like it would an hour hand. Which might make it a little less readable. This is why that window needs to be wider, so you can read the surrounding numbers and orient yourself to the right hour.
Interesting way of solving that challenge, but not the cleanest implementation.
So, the movement soaks up $20 of the price. Add in another $20 for a generous estimate on machining the parts. Call it $100 for the nifty design work on the dial, that still leaves us with $455 in unaccounted for value that this watch is commanding.
But there is one more thing that this watch throws into the mix: in order to purchase it, you need to give them your pilot’s certificate number. Which they then engrave into the back of the watch case. It’s an interesting way to add some prestige to the item, but in the end you are really just ruining the resale value of the watch. No one is going to want a second hand version of this with someone else’s certificate number on it — one you but it, it’s yours.
Which, when you think about it, is really just a genius way for the company to kill any possible secondary market. If every watch is individually engraved, then any new buyers would need to go to them to buy their own version. If there’s no resale value then there’s no lost revenue for the company.
Let’s skip to the bottom line here.
This is a watch with a cheap quartz movement in it, that features some nifty design work on the part of Bravo Golf, but in my opinion I don’t see nearly $600 in value here. There’s nothing special about the materials or the process — you are paying for the design on the dial.
For comparison sake, take this Invicta Model 38402. It’s a knockoff Omega Speedmaster for sure, but it features all of the stuff that this watch does — the free running and visible second hand, the easy to read face, and even the ability to set a second hour dial on the watch itself. Heck, I’d actually argue that Invicta executed that better in their version than Bravo Golf did here. And they did it all for about $50.
At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is a good looking watch, and for some that alone can justify the price tag. Each person will need to figure that out for themselves. But for me, I’m just not seeing the value here. I’d pay $200 for this — $300 tops — but anything more than that and I’m just going to grab my Tissot Chrono instead.