Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer Pilot

Posted by: C11   |   3 July 2011   |   24 Comments  

While TAG Heuer is well-known as a maker of racing chronographs and diving watches, the company has also made a number of aviation watches, such as the Bundeswehr of the 1970s and this watch- the Pilot. The Pilot was a niche part of the “Specialist” range of watches from its launch in 1980 until it was phased out in 2003.

Just as the 1000 series of the late 1970s owes a lot to the design of the Rolex Submariner, the Pilot builds on the look of the Breitling Navitimer, with its complex multi-layer inner and outer-bezels. But the Pilot also drew inspiration from others in the Heuer catalogue, in effect replacing the Calculator of the 1970s.

So what makes this an aviation watch? It’s really to do with the multiple bezels, which allow a range of measurements to be taken. The external bi-directional bezel has a tachymetre scale (allowing speed to be calculated), while the internal bezels are a circular slide rule, which can be used for a range of calculations. For a detailed set of instructions on how to use the Pilots’ various scales and bezels, take a look at the manual here.

Heuer Pilot

The Pilot is a “true” Heuer model, being developed well before the sale of the company in 1982. The first time that we see the Pilot appear in a catalogue is in 1980.

As an aside, its interesting to see the two 1000 series watches in this catalogue (9809.032 and 980.031) shown as “aviation” watches- to me, the 1000 series is a pure Divers watch.

Dial Variations

There were two dials offered on the Pilot- Silver (230.006 quartz/ 130.006 automatic) and Black (230.206/ 130.206). Both of models have the same black inner and outer bezels.

As you can see in the photo below, the watch had the same triangular hour-markers and hand-set as the 2000 series.

The Pilot also shared the same Chronograph-pusher design as the 2000 series, although you can’t see it from these photos, with the over-sized bezel covering the crown and pushers.

Much like the 3000 Series, the Pilot also had a cyclops over the date window that sat under the dial.


The early Pilot series was only available as Chronograph, with either a quartz or automatic movement. Like most of the Heuer and TAG Heuer watches of this era, the automatic movement was the LWO 283, which mated an ETA base movement with a Lemania/ Dubois Depraz Chronograph module. The quartz movement is the Calibre 185, which uses the same Chronograph module, but this time mounted on an ESA 555/ ETA 955 quartz tractor. As I’ve pointed out in the past, these really are an interesting pair of movements- think of the quartz Calibre 185 as the inspiration of today’s Calibre S mechanical-quartz.

TAG Heuer Pilot- First Generation

The first TH logo Pilot appears in the 1987  catalogue and continued over with exactly the same case and dial as the Heuer versions- only the logo is different.

TAG Heuer Pilot- Second Generation

The Pilot was entirely re-designed in 1991- with a new case, dial, movements and hands. The new model was water-resistant to 200m, double the First-Gen model.

Case and Pushers

The first change to note is to the case itself. While the First Generation Pilot had a rounded case with shallow crown and pushers, you can see below that the new model (bottom) moved to an angular case, featuring a crown guard that extended beyond the width of the bezel and new, rounder pushers.

The new design took the Pilot closer to the 2000 series in terms of looks, and like the 2000 also featured open lugs and a bracelet with end pieces, rather than the semi-integrated design of the original.

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