What is the purpose of the complicated watches I always see pilots wearing?

Q: What is the purpose of the complicated watches I always see pilots wearing?

Their purpose is this: to tell them what time it is. Many pilots feel these gaudy little devices are an essential part of their uniform, perhaps in tribute to the days when goggled aviators used their watches to…I don’t know. For a number of years I owned a Mickey Mouse watch as a kind of quietly irreverent protest to this practice (it also was the only kind I could afford). My red bezel Swiss Army watch also does the job wonderfully. Watches are required as backups to the ship’s clocks, but nothing more elaborate than a sweep hand is needed.


This article is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.