De Pol Watch Company pays tribute to not only the history of aviation, but to the feeling of sovereignty. Born from dissatisfaction in the ability to track flight performance, their approach to design is considered and calculated. Through simple forms and tiny details, De Pol timepieces present the technical needs specific to Naval Aviators in a way that civilians can appreciate.
“I see how aviators react to watches. It’s about invoking a feeling. Your watch collection tells the story of your life; where you've been and the experiences you've had,” explains Robert De Pol, the company’s founder and former fighter pilot. “While on deployment, our squadron organized a custom watch buy. Most of the options cost upwards of $5,000 and I knew there had to be a more affordable alternative that would yield the same quality product.” With that motivation and in the middle of an overseas deployment, De Pol set out to design and manufacture his own. Within a year, his team had selected an American manufacturer and prototypes came soon after.
“We saw a void in the market for custom watches at this specific price point and knew we had to fill it,” says De Pol. “It’s hard to get a Junior Officer in the military with a family and a house, to spend several thousand dollars on a watch. So, we created a superior quality, customizable timepiece for around $1,000. We started by developing two signature models: the LSO, which is vital to how the Navy times landings, and the TAILHOOK, which is a key component in landing aircraft safely onboard the carrier.” A couple of years later, De Pol now offers dial customization, in addition to notable premium leather straps, stainless bracelets, and meticulous engraving.
In addition to their sporty sophistication and many custom options, functionality was an essential component. “We exclusively use Swiss movements in order to maintain precision, accuracy, and quality. Precise timing, especially with our LSO model, is critical, since we encourage these watches to be used as tools,” De Pol explains. The LSO model assists Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) in timing and grading aircraft as they land aboard the carrier.
Every 60 seconds, a plane lands on an aircraft carrier and each pilot has a window of time they aim for, which comes down to a matter of 15-18 seconds after the ball call (Dashed Line in above photo). The Landing Signal Officer is on the ships’ platform all day, timing and recording these landings within seconds of one another. The LSO model has four color indicators around the bezel: green, yellow, brown and red. Green is a pilot’s goal, within the required window of time. Yellow is a warning for either just too early or just too late, and brown and red will adversely affect the pilot’s grade. “Everybody’s grade is put up on the ship. Yes, it’s a fun game and helps pilots establish a baseline upon which to improve, but in addition, it keeps people safe by being competitive and avoiding complacency. If these grades didn’t exist, mistakes would be inevitable.”
Honoring his American heritage and supporting local businesses, De Pol was adamant that his watches be assembled entirely in the United States. “Our main assembly is in Florida, then product is sent to Texas for customization, which is done by a local watchmaker and military veteran.” Available in both stainless steel and DLC, some notable watch features on both LSO and Tailhook watches include; the ISASWISS 8371 quartz movement, domed anti-glare coated sapphire crystal, and 100m water resistance. Additionally, the Tailhook features a patented Tailhook second hand.
All watches come with an exceptional alligator leather strap with fold-over clasp, and the surgical grade 316L stainless steel three-piece case promotes the watch’s impressive and luxurious feel. Styling pays homage to the WWII era flieger style watches with a striking, individually serialized (XX/300), 44mm case. They are exceptionally detailed, from the crown with spinning DE POL logo to the custom built hands with BGW9 lume coating, and packaged in their own hardened waterproof case with pressure relief valve.
“We want to bring a part of military aviation to the public.” Navy pilots deployed all over the world are wearing De Pol watches and using them as vital instruments around the aircraft carrier. A watch like this has never been created and has helped them out tremendously. “People like to associate with flying and the atmosphere around it,” De Pol says. “It’s dreamy; it’s what little kids aspire to do when they grow up.” De Pol Watch Company captures that mystique and delivers a high performance timepiece that is not only eye-catching, but tells a true American story and honors military tradition. Price for either the Tailhook & LSO watches in steel starts at $850 and $925 in DLC. depolwatches.com
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