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.

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

Top Pick The Garmin D2 Air features everything a pilot could want from a smartwatch.

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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.

I found the watch’s built-in worldwide airport database was easy to access through the use of dedicated Direct-to and Nearest buttons. Additionally, I liked how I could 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 an 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.

Garmin D2 Air

Other features that make the D2 Air such a great watch for pilots include its built-in pulse oximeter that delivered readings that are just as accurate as the ones standalone devices provide; automatic flight logging that ensured that I could avoid the tedious task of logging date, duration, total flight time, and route every time I flew; and customizable alerts when I reached a selected altitude, to remind me to switch fuel tanks, as well as when I wanted to deviate from my active flight plan

For use outside the cockpit, the activity tracking functions and animated on-screen workouts definitely came in handy too.

Best for Features: Garmin D2 Delta PX Watch

Best for Features Garmin's premium watch is unmatched in features inside and outside the cockpit.

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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).

Another area where I found the D2 Delta PX to really shine was in its much more advanced activity training functions. This included 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

Best for Apps 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.

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.

Apple Watch Series 6

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.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.