Seems as though a few times a week I am informed about a new pilot watch. Brands like to talk about how this feature helps pilots with this, and how aviators love that. Apparently someone uses a slide-rule bezel, and being able to see 12 timezones at once is useful. Without knowing what people who fly actually use and need, it is hard for me to discuss these pieces on a level above being a watch nerd. It is for that reason that I am happy to have finally got a taste for flight, and what aviator watches are trying to do, and trying to emulate.

I am far from a pilot, but I did get a chance to finally do something in the sky. Tutima graciously invited me to check out their airfield near Salinas California. I call it the “secret Tutima air base” because until now I’d never heard of it – and neither would anyone else who didn’t happen to be in King City or was in the business of flying.

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The place isn’t just a small airport, but home of a very special school called the Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety with Sean D. Tucker. The school is a sort of race car safety driving course for seasoned pilots. Sean Tucker and his team are stunt pilots, flying in major airshows around the country. What they offer pilots is how to take skills learned when doing stunt flying and apply them to how to deal with problematic situations in the air. The academy serves a range of pilot types, including those who fly some very important types of aircraft.

Looking through the course catalog, you can take things called, Pilot Confidence Training, Aerobatic Proficiency Training, and Formation Flight Training. These guys make it look easy, but it isn’t. Tutima’s link to all this (as opposed to being headquartered a world away in Glashutte Germany) is that they have been continuously making pilot instruments since (I believe) the 1920s. Tutima wanted to bring myself and a few other watch writers into their world, so they strapped a parachute on me, put me in a Pitts bi-plane, flew me to 4000 feet and then just gave me control of the stick. Wait, what happened to the training course?

For those of you who fly or have flown I don’t need to tell you what you already know. For me this was a really exhilarating first experience, and I have to say that I was too overcome with glee and g-forces to ever glance at the Tutima on my wrist. Though for less adrenaline filled flying I can see where a watch come in useful in a few ways. First, flying is risky and on-board instruments can fail. Any backs up you have are helpful. Sometimes pilots uses chronographs just to time how much fuel they have. If you are flying to different timezones, having a GMT or multi-timezone watch is a must. Legibility is also crucial as you don’t want to be looking away for too long.

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What I thought was cool, is that Tutima has some neat limited edition watches with the Academy’s logo on them that are only available there. They are available to students of the academy to buy. The whole team wears Tutima, and I mean they really wear them. These aren’t just watches they put on for show.

One thing that really interested me was being in a cockpit and finally really realizing where legions of brand designers are getting their inspiration. You can see watches in just about ever dial and gauge. I am going to start crediting instrument makers a lot more now when seeing nice “tool watches.”

The Tutima Academy men and women are really fantastic people. If you ever are interested in these types of course you’ll be treated very well. Generous and genuine, these true professionals go back and forth from teaching people who to fly better, to going about and participating in airshows. When it comes down to it they are entertainers, wowing audiences with tight rolls and and close formations. The start of the show is Sean D. Tucker. A veteran pilot who is one of the most impressive (and energetic) people I’ve ever met. There is a true feeling of validation when the people who do extraordinary things are themselves extraordinary. And I am not just saying that because he let me fly a place without having to go through that whole… pilot’s license thing.

A few years ago I saw Sean for the first time – though I didn’t know it. He was over San Francisco during an airshow in Fleet Week. He flies for Team Oracle in his bright red custom bi-plane doing pretty amazing stuff. What I didn’t realize is how much training it takes just to keep your body used to the amazingly rough forces of wild aerobatic flight. Not just anyone can do this, but this guy makes it look easy. You know what else really impressed me? How well the academy keeps their planes. They all look like they came out of the factory two days ago.

Born to please the public, Sean D. Tucker is a legend and gentleman. You are in good hands with this guy. Tutima and Tucker have been working together since 1996, and the relationship seems to have really blossomed. It is also good to know that Tutima participates in these types of activities in the US – thanks to the Tutima USA team. While fashion watches are a-plenty, it is good to know that purist brands like Tutima are out there offering solid instruments for professional pilots, divers, drivers, or just those who like to dream.

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