Why Do Pilot Watches Have A Triangle?

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Are you wondering about the triangle at the 12 o’clock position in a pilot watch? Do you want to know why pilot watches have a triangle?

If you own a pilot watch and want to know the use of the triangle at the 12 o’clock position then you are reading the right article. In this article, I am not only going to tell you that but I will also share with you a few interesting things about pilot watches as well.

So keep reading!

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Why Do Pilot Watches Have A Triangle?

Why Do Pilot Watches Have A Triangle

Before we move on to other topics about pilot watches, let us first address the elephant in the room, i.e. triangle in pilot watches.

Like there is a need behind every other invention or thing that came into existence, the same is the case with the triangle in pilot watches.

And to understand the need for this small triangle, you will have to put yourself in the shoes of a pilot. So let’s assume you’re flying a plane, which is flying at a very high speed and you need to look at the current time. You are looking at your watch but you are not able to see anything because it is all dark. So to help you see the time in the dark, watch companies came up with watches with luminescent hands and markers.

This solved the need of seeing the time in the dark, right? But since you are flying a plane and you can not keep your eyes off the sky for more than just a few seconds, so you will just have to glance at your watch to see the time. And since all the luminescent markers will look the same in the dark so the slight change in angle of your elbow bend can result in a time difference of around an hour if not more. Because the orientation of the watch will change depending on the amount of elbow you bend.

To solve this problem, watch manufacturers came up with a luminescent triangle that was situated at the 12 o’clock position. This triangle not only helped pilots know the orientation of the watch but also helped them to know the 12 o’clock position at a glance because it was different from other markers. As result, pilots could read the time more accurately and easily.

Why Not Use Numerals Instead Of Triangle?

If you are a little bit curious like me then the question that must be arising in your mind is: Why the watch manufacturers did not use numerals instead of markers?

In the initial days of the watch industry, only luminescent markers were used and the luminescent numerals or digits were not introduced or you can say they were not invented at that particular time.

So no one knew that digits or numerals could also be made of luminescent material and hence they were not used.

Why Do You Still See Triangle In Pilot Watches?

Now the next question that you must want an answer to is: Why the triangle is still being used instead of a digit or numeral?

The triangle was used in almost every pilot watch in the initial days and it kind of became a symbol for them. Therefore there are some watch manufacturers that still use the triangle at 12’o clock in their pilot watches.

Who Invented The Pilot Watch?

Why Are Pilot Watches So Big

The first pilot watch was invented in 1904 by Louis Cartier to help his pilot friend Alberto Santos-Dumont. Alberto was facing problems in reading time from his pocket watch during the flight. And he came to Cartier with this problem. Cartier being a good friend solved his problem and came up with the world’s first pilot wristwatch.

Why Is It Called A Pilot Watch?

It is called a pilot watch because they are made for pilots, as simple as that.

Pilot watches have many features like a chronograph, tachymeter, Arabic numerals, luminescent hands and markers, dual time zone, slide rule bezel, etc. that are there specifically to help the pilots. Therefore you can say that these watches are particularly designed and made to help the pilots and are hence called pilot watches.

Why Are Pilot Watches So Big?

As discussed, pilots can’t take their eyes off the sky for more than a few seconds. So they need a watch that can help them read the time at a glance. And the bigger the dials and indices of a watch the easier it would be to read the time. Therefore pilot watches generally have big dials.

Why Do Pilot Watches Have Big Crowns?

Since pilots wear gloves while flying the plane, therefore they need bigger dials that they can easily hold and operate while wearing gloves. As a result, pilot watches generally have bigger crowns.


Do Pilot Watches Have Chronographs?

Yes, pilot watches have chronographs.

Is Tachymeter Present In Pilot Watches?

Yes, the tachymeter is present in pilot watches.

Can A Pilot Watch Be A Dress Watch?

Yes, not all but some pilot watches can be worn with a dress.

Are Pilot Watches Supposed To Be Big?

Yes, pilot watches are supposed to be big.

Do Pilots Need A Special Watch?

Yes, pilots need a watch that comes with certain features like a chronograph, tachymeter, slide rule bezel, big crown, etc. to help them.

Tom Nielson

Tom's love for watches started when his grandfather gifted him his Rolex watch when he turned 18! Being a teenager it was a big deal for him. Later when he got his first job he bought Fossil Palm Pilot back in 2003 which was a smartwatch. Since then smartwatches have come a long way and so is Tom's love for them. His experience with watches inspired him to start Wearholic and share his knowledge of wearables including watches, smartwatches, smart glasses, & smart clothing.

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