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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics



I tend to catch up on reading the weekend paper’s magazines when I’m on holiday. So in August I was perusing a Telegraph magazine from May or so. Within six pages there were two ads for upmarket watch brands. Both used the allure of aircraft to underpin the brand.


Breitling are primarily an aviation-based chronometer brand, and have, to their credit, poured lots of money into sponsoring aviation activities, particularly aerobatic teams and competitions. Their banner is nevertheless more than a little risible:

When your mission is to fly at 800 km/h less than two meters from other team aircraft, you only trust the chronometric precision of the world’s best chronograph.”


Over a picture of a steely-eyed hero clambering into a two-seat jet (an L-39?). What is risible is that aerobatic pilots have no need for a chronometer. If they looked at their watch, they would die. They are looking at their colleagues’ wingtips. Service pilots need a reasonable timepiece to ensure their departures are on schedule, and their time on target is as planned. But they don’t need £6760 of jewellery on their wrist. (Which is not to say that some Top Gun types are not enamoured of bling, Raybans, and anything else that will enhance their macho, dealer-of-death image). Which reminds me of the story of the young woman having a quiet drink in an Officers’ Mess when a man in red flying suit strode up: “'Hi, I'm Red 4'. She replied, 'Why didn't your mother give you a proper name?”


A few pages away, Citizen’s Eco-Drive effort is equally spurious. To promote their Red Arrows edition, there is a shot of the Arrows going over the top of a loop. The banner:

UNSTOPPABLE The Red Arrows are. So is Citizen Eco-Drive. Be Precise. Be Powerful. Be UNSTOPPABLE.”  


“Unstoppable” is palpable tosh. The Reds are stoppable - for example, they have been quite rightly stopped twice in the last two years by the AOC 22 Gp and the Commandant of CFS after two very unfortunate fatal accidents. They will be stopped occasionally in the future, as will every other aviator, by technical glitches – whatever watch they are wearing.


Watches of any design are difficult to read on the cockpit; analogue watches in particular are difficult to read accurately. I find a £20 digital effort works perfectly well. And when I need to fly to the second, for precision flying, I have followed the lead of more experienced colleagues and invested in a digital kitchen timer from Boots – much easier to read. Chronometers are for suckers!  


October 1 - Watches

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