Top Gear

Garmin D2 Mach 1 Pro pilot watch

From £1450

Things we like

Amazing battery life

Altitude alerts

That torch

Things we don't like

That battery makes it heavy

Changing settings can be fiddly

Garmin Pay doesn’t work with all banks

Everything about this watch is big. Its physical size, battery life, list of functions, online user manual, and yes its price too, and given the latter we’d better take care of the elephant in the room before going any further…

Just why would you spend nearly £1,500 on a pilot watch? You definitely don’t need it to tell the time, nor to navigate, nor even to get the weather, all of which are available via a bigger screen on the phone or tablet that you’ll doubtless be flying with anyway. Truth is you don’t, nobody buys a pilot watch for those things, just like nobody buys a £40,000 Patek Philippe so they can remember what the date is when they look at it. People buy pilot watches because they like them, and as a bonus some of the functions might come in handy when they go flying. The generic smart watch functions might also come in handy during time on the ground. If you like the idea of wearing a watch, read on, if not, there are loads of other great things to read here.

So what are the new D2’s functions that might come in useful when you go flying? First up is… the torch. I know, it sounds bonkers right? I mean a torch in watch, surely that’s going to be a bit pants? This one really isn’t. I mean it’s not going to blind anyone, but it is plenty bright enough to show the way around a dark hangar, to look in gloomy luggage bays and to look at everything you want to during that night time pre-flight, and as a bonus it’s strapped to your wrist. The brightness is adjustable, and it can be set to shine red rather than white light for in cockpit use. In fact, you can ‘red shift’ the entire watch for that too.

The watch also has a pulse oximeter that can be set to run continually. I’ve heard it argued that even medical finger-based pulse oximeters have their weaknesses, but it seems to me that this really is a case of perfect being the enemy of good, and that running the pulse oximeter on the watch continually during high altitude (or night flight) will give a great indication or where you are and, better, where you’re heading in O2 saturation terms. As an aside, in the US the D2 Pro will also provide a mini ECG via a smartphone, but at the time of writing that feature is disabled in the UK and Europe, although I’m told approval is underway.

Yup, weather is pants (again)

Sadly, even though we’re pilots we’re also human. Even though some deny this fact, it means we’re also fallible, and can get distracted and miss things. This watch can lend a subtle hand (wrist?). You can set various aviation specific alerts for things like altitude, waypoints, weather etc. I’m not sure that I’d go to the trouble of setting it up to help me avoid every single bit of vertical airspace, but I might were I operating in an area with a higher shelf (say around the London TMA). And, I would definitely set an altitude alert if I were using oxygen (it’s useful to get a reminder and check that everything is working as it should before you get too high). You can also set timer alerts for things like changing fuel tanks, or FREDA checks etc.

The watch is part of Garmin’s connected ‘Plane Sync’ system. You can show routes, you can use it to navigate (sort of), you can use it to look at the weather (and set it to alert when there’s, say, a new METAR). However, most of these functions are better done via a phone or tablet than a watch. That said, pressing the start and down button at the same time will bring up a nice bright colour map with rainfall overlaid, so useful for a quick glance if your bigger screens are busy doing something else.

Of course, you have all of the normal sports functions, so if that’s your thing then you’ll have more than enough data, plus the ability to connect to even more external sensors. If you have a compatible bank (not Lloyds nor American Express) you can set up Garmin Pay, you can run Spotify and probably do things that I never knew people did. Allow me to point you at the online manual which’ll show you exactly how to set up the watch for things like hunting, golfing and something called ‘Jumpmaster’ – whatever that is.

For those who love detail, the D2 Mach 1 Pro has a sapphire crystal, a titanium bezel, measures 51 x 51 x 15 mm (it is chunky), weighs 126g (with the metal strap), has a water rating of 10 ATM (which means you’ll be good down to about 100m (so OK, even in Mike Patey’s new swimming pool), has an Amoled touchscreen display and a battery life that is measured in many, many days (I only bother to plug it in once every 10 days or so).

To summarise, if you are after a watch, if you like the way this one looks and if £1,450 is within your budget, go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

Seeing red! Useful for night flying to save your night vision
Seeing red! Useful for night flying to save your night vision
Flying functions include an altimeter and the ability to set level alerts
Amazing! Live airfield infomation
Amazing! Live airfield infomation

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