A timely question – the meaning of two dots and a triangle on a pilot’s watch


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The triangle with two dots at the 12 o’clock marker explained

February 18. 2016 - by CHRONEXT

Welcome to our weekly edition of “A timely question”, where we take the time to answer common questions in the world of watches. This week, we tackle the meaning of the triangle and two dots at the twelve o’clock position of pilot’s watches. So what do these symbols mean and how did they come about? Read on to find out.


Cartier Santos

The history of the pilot’s watch dates back to 1904 when Alberto Santos Dumont – a pioneer in aviation – complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the struggle of checking the time on a pocket watch mid-flight. Instead of being able to keep focus with his hands on the plane’s controls, he was constantly fumbling for his pocket watch. Thus, an idea was born, and Louis Cartier created the first pilot watch – the Santos-Dumont wristwatch.

A. Lange & Söhne B-Uhr

Some time later, the First World War intensified the need for navigation and precision during flight and, therefore, furthered the development of the pilot’s watch. In 1935, Germany began building its air force and specifying the standard criteria for military equipment. The Beobachtungsuhr or B-Uhr was manufactured by four German and one Swiss watchmaker, including A. Lange & Söhne, Stowa, and Wempe, and was supplied to the bomber navigators of the German Air Force. These pilot’s watches were regulated and tested to meet the high standards set by the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg, and could thus be easily relied upon for the utmost precision. An important feature that allowed pilots to ensure precision was a design element that is now commonly found in pilot’s watches – the upward facing triangle surrounded by two dots at the twelve o’clock position.

So here comes the important question: what does the upward facing triangle and two dots on a pilot’s watch signify?

IWC Big Pilot's Watch

Back in the day, it was only the indices of a watch and not the numerals that were created with a luminescent material. Thus, when in darkness and trying to determine the exact time, it was easy to be off by an hour or so. It was important for the twelve o’clock indicator to be marked differently so that it was clearly distinguishable, which was accomplished with two dots next to the upward facing triangular index. Not only did this design facilitate pilots in determining the upward orientation of the dial, it also helped them quickly and easily determine the twelve o’clock position in relation to the rest of the indices on the dial of the watch. Today, the feature has carried over into the design of countless pilot’s watches. So the next time you see this design on a pilot’s watch, you’ll know all about its history and its overall purpose.


Do you have any questions about fine timepieces that you would like us to answer? Email us at editorial@chronext.com.

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by CHRONEXT

Watches are our passion – we start every new day with this philosophy driving us forward. From brand stories to watch technology – we cover every topic imaginable in the world of watches. Our editorial team is constantly searching for new and exciting stories. Looking to introduce your watch collection? Or are you a blogger simply considering cooperation opportunities? Write to us at editorial@chronext.com.

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