How horology kept pace with aviation

By 1957 military aviators were flying higher, flying longer and flying further than ever before. Low-light conditions and new ways to cram navigators into tight spots in aircraft necessitated improvements to legibility of watch faces.

Modification to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)  Mark 11 wristwatch was ordered in 1957 but only for the watches manufactured by Jaeger-Le-Coultre (JLC). The anti-magnetic pilot watches manufactured by International Watch Company (IWC) were exempt from the following Technical Order.


RAAF Watch Tech Order


A new acrylic crystal with a square step for visual acuity. Today, the crystal of Bausele’s Aviator and Airfield official Air Force 2021 watches is made from sapphire. ‘That’s a highly resistant scratch proof material. It can, theoretically, shatter under an enormous shock but I’ve never see it happen,’ says watchmaker Christophe Hoppe.

Civilian contractors servicing the RAAF Mark 11 pilots watches also filled in a luminised sweep second hand. Unfortunately, early luminising was done with radioactive Tritium. Today, high-end brands use a material called Super Luminova. ‘It catches the light for a long time. My Aviator is still lit at 4.30 when I wake up,’ said Hoppe.

In addition to being a watchmaker Hoppe is a good one to judge Super Luminova because he gets up before dawn for an ocean swim every single day.

Click here to view the Official Air Force 2021 timepiece collection

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