A distinctive watch is often associated with being a pilot. Many of these designs have an E6-B on the face and are able to display multiple time zones, but these are fairly large timepieces, even for a man’s wrist. If you are a woman, especially one with a smaller wrist, wearing a man-sized watch has a tendency to make you look like a little girl playing dress-up.
That’s what Juice Welch encountered last summer when she went looking for a watch.
“I started my private pilot training in August and noticed that all the instructors had these really cool-looking watches,” she said. “I wanted one and went shopping, but I couldn’t find anything that was designed for women.”
Welch thought about having a watch custom made just for her, but after talking to other women pilots realized that a business opportunity was staring her in the face.
“I started looking for watch manufacturers, first nationally and then internationally,” she recalled. “I had a general idea of the design and went through some ideas for prototypes and a ton of different colors and schematic drawings. I knew I wanted a chronograph that could do Zulu time. I also wanted one design that was more flashy and one that was more simple.”
Welch was able to interest investors in the idea, including many fellow pilots.
“They were very generous and it went from there,” she said.
“It” is Abingdon Watches, based in Santa Monica, Calif., which markets two designs: the Amelia, named for Amelia Earhart; and the Jackie, named for Jackie Cochran. Both have working E6-Bs and an instruction manual that is easy to read.
Those of you who have been reading General Aviation News for a while know that I am the Black Ace when it comes to timepieces. I have gone through no fewer than three in the last six years. My latest is a man’s AOPA Timex on a leather band, a gift from a friend who noticed how beat up my previous AOPA watch was. The “new” watch has been with me since September 2004 and it is a little worse for wear, so I was looking forward to “test flying” an aviation watch designed for women.
The Jackie is the flashier of the two. It has a mother of pearl face and a flexible metal band. Both the case and the watchband are stainless steel. Around the edge of the face are 64 cubic zirconia stones. I was okay with the metal elastic watch band, but some of the women in my Ninety-Nines group thought it was uncomfortable. Others were pleased that it looked so sturdy, as they, like me, had lost watches to the rigors of aviation.
I made a point to use the E6-B in flight. The manual E6-Bs I own have the formulas printed on them. The watches do not, so it was a good test of how well I remembered the basics.
I noted that the fine print on the edges of the E6-B was a little hard to read in turbulence, but if I can’t reach into the back seat for a “real” E6-B, or if there is no place to stow it in the cockpit, the watch would do.
The watch is water resistant to 50 meters but I wasn’t about to test that aspect of it. The hands are luminous and easy to read in low-light. The face has a chronograph that allows Zulu time to be dialed in along with local time.
The Amelia is simpler. The one I tried had a white leather band. As I am a grease-and-dirt-magnet when I am at the airport, I would be more inclined to go with a black band. The face is simple, yet tasteful.
The Amelia got a positive response from the Ninety-Nines as it is a watch that could easily go from the cockpit to the boardroom.
The Jackie sells for $400 and the Amelia for $250. This puts them on a par with many of the other pilot watches on the market.
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