A smartwatch is by no means necessary for flying, but they are starting to gain popularity, and you don’t have to look far to find more and more pilots wearing one.
As useful as smartwatches are inside the cockpit, many pilots also find them just as useful away from the cockpit due to their activity tracking features.
I know I do.
In my experience, here are the three best smartwatches that give you the best of both worlds.
3 of the Best Smartwatches for Pilots
Top Pick: Garmin D2 Air Aviator Smartwatch
The Garmin D2 Air features everything a pilot could want from a smartwatch.Check Amazon for Pricing
Specially made for pilots, the Garmin D2 Air Aviator features almost everything that a pilot could want from a smartwatch – all in a very intuitive touchscreen design.
The watch’s built-in worldwide airport database can easily be accessed through the use of dedicated Direct-to and Nearest buttons. Additionally, I like how I can view my route on a moving map display, or follow the HSI course needle. Better yet, when my location wasn’t included in the database, I could set my own waypoints and save them for quick reference.
METAR and TAF screens meant that I could keep my eye on all the latest aviation weather information at a glance. I was able to see current wind, ceiling, and visibility right on the main watch face too.
Other features that make the D2 Air such a great watch for pilots include its built-in pulse oximeter that delivers readings that are just as accurate as the ones standalone devices provide; automatic flight logging to ensure that you can avoid the tedious task of logging date, duration, total flight time, and route every time you fly; and customizable alerts when you reach a selected altitude, to remind you to switch fuel tanks, as well as when you deviate from your active flight plan
For use outside the cockpit, the activity tracking functions and animated on-screen workouts definitely come in handy too.
Best for Features: Garmin D2 Delta PX Watch
Garmin's premium watch is unmatched in features inside and outside the cockpit.Check Amazon for Pricing
Made from titanium that is DLC (Diamond-like-Carbon) coated for ultimate scratch resistance, the Garmin D2 Delta PX is Garmin’s premium watch for pilots and comes with even more useful features than the D2 Air that pilots will love.
Additional features unique to the D2 Delta PX include dynamic color mapping; NEXRAD weather; Garmin Connext support for enhanced cockpit connectivity; and improved battery performance (up to 32 hours in GPS mode vs. up to 20 hours / up to 20 days in smartwatch mode vs. up to 5 days).
I found that another area where the D2 Delta PX really shines is in its much more advanced activity training functions. This includes additional training, planning, and analysis features for the gym, running, cycling, swimming, and outdoor recreation, along with extra heart rate features.
If you’re a pilot who wants a watch for more than just aviation purposes, there is no better model than the Garmin D2 Delta PX.
Best for Apps: Apple Watch Series 6
There is no better watch than the Apple Watch Series 6 if you want to have access to a wide range of useful aviation apps.Check Amazon for Pricing
The Apple Watch Series 6 may not be specifically designed for pilots, but it still comes with several built-in features that are useful to pilots, so I would still recommend it. Best of all, however, is that it has support for many useful aviation-related apps.
Features include built-in GPS, GLONASS, a blood oxygen sensor, an optical heart sensor, an electrical heart sensor, and a compass.
Some of the best apps you can download include Altimeter+, AltitudeAlert (alerts you when deviating from pre-selected altitudes), Aerovie (an electronic flight bag), Civil Twilight (automatically calculated based on your locations), Cloud Map (check for visible cloud cover), FlightRadar24, NRST (view the direction and distance to nearby airports and be guided to your selected airport, and Zulu Time (view Local and Zulu time), to name just a few.
As we have come to expect from Apple, the Series 6 Watch is also extremely intuitive to use.
Important Things to Consider When Buying a Smartwatch for Pilots
- Aviation vs Non-Aviation Use
If you’re an active person, consider a smartwatch that is useful for more than just aviation purposes.
A smartwatch like the Garmin D2 Delta PX may be a more expensive option, but it is unmatched in activity training functions away from the cockpit.
- Touchscreen Capable
A touchscreen-capable watch can often be preferable, but can also be hard to get right. The Apple Series 6 Watch, for example, while it is still touchscreen capable, no longer supports Force Touch, which was the ability to press harder to activate different options.
Sometimes a watch like the Garmin D2 Delta PX, which is not touchscreen capable, can be easier and more intuitive to use due to the simplicity of relying on dedicated buttons.
- Battery Life
Generally, the more you pay for a smartwatch, the better battery life you can expect.
The Apple Watch provides 18 hours of operation; the Garmin D2 Air in GPS mode lasts for up to 20 hours and up to 10 hours with GPS + SPO2 enabled; the Garmin D2 Delta PX provides up to 32 hours of operation in GPS mode and up to 18 hours with GPS + SPO2 enabled.