Count me as among the converted. Even a few years ago, the idea of a several hundred-dollar aviator watch seemed an extravagance, especially when there was so much other cool aviation gear to grab. My eyes have been opened.
In all fairness to myself, the tech in aviation watches has risen to meet, and exceed, my expectations. The latest and greatest, the D2 Mach 1 Aviator watch, is big and beautiful, but at the same time a much sleeker and stylish package than yesteryear’s Garmin aviator watches, which felt just too big on the wrist for most folks, except perhaps for the burliest among us. The Mach 1 is not only sleeker and better looking, a lot better looking, but it’s also way more capable. The screen itself is a work of art. An AMOLED touchscreen, it’s not only big and sharp, but it shines even in direct sunlight.
The touchscreen part of that should not be overlooked. While Garmin is great at buttonology, sometimes it’s nice just to be able to touch the thing you want to do instead of remembering which button you need to push in order to access that function. This is nothing new to watch tech. Apple has had touch screens for years, but not until its latest models has it embraced AMOLED screens. Garmin is there now, too.
The feature set is beyond rich, which, will not surprise you if you’ve worn a late-model high-end digital watch lately. And the D2 Mach 1 doesn’t back down from the feature war. In addition to the display, it has a plethora of health-monitoring features, including a built-in pulse oximeter and respiration tracking, as well as advanced activity tracking. Garmin does, after all, make the best running watches in the world. The Mach 1 combines these sensors and trackers to give you solid visibility into your sleep, stress, hydration, heart rate, and more. And if you’re a pilot, you need to be mindful of your health. The D2 Mach 1 is a powerful tool to help you do that.
I haven’t even talked about the aviation features yet, but they are extensive and impressively useful even on the small screen. The Mach 1, like other Garmin watches, uses a worldwide aeronautical database and features a surprisingly useful moving map (along with an HSI) to, in Garmin’s words “help navigate,” though exactly the use case one might apply is largely a personal one based on seeing what works for you.
For me the most useful feature is the access to excellent aviation weather the Mach 1 affords. This includes NEXRAD radar and FAA weather reports, including METARs, TAFs and MOS. You can also set up alerts to keep track of weather concerns, such as winds that might surpass your personal minimums.
In addition, there’s handy airport information, including frequencies, runway orientation and runway lengths, and a handy combining of weather and runway info to generate crosswind components for you. You can upload flight plans into your panel mount gear, get the barometric pressure, and automatically log your flights.
And the battery life, well, it kind of defies belief. Garmin claims it can run for may days, and so far, everything I’ve seen bears that out. Of course, how you use the watch matters (in much the same way as it does with your phone), but the bottom line is, you won’t be running out of charge in the middle of a flight unless you have totally neglected your charging duties for the past week.
The D2 Mach 1 with a titanium band goes for $1,299, a premium price for sure, but let’s face it, the watch will run rings around $40,000 Swiss timepieces. James Bond would have chosen the Mach 1—well, Q would have picked it for him, but I digress!
But if you’re looking for a less pricey alternative, you’re in luck. The D2 Air X10, which I’ve personally run through the wringer, goes for a street price of around $550. It’s got the same screen with a slightly smaller bezel. While still plenty large, it’s lighter and a better fit for many wrists (including mine) while having nearly all of the features of the D2 Mach 1. It just lacks the fancy band and a few premium features. Still, for the price, it’s a fantastically capable timepiece that’s super comfortable to wear and oh-so-easy on the eyes.
Learn about more of the latest and coolest gear for pilots and airplane enthusiasts here.