Real Pilot’s Watch, Built by a Professional Aviator (at Cruise Altitude)

Corey Butler, founder of Butler Watch Company

What if a real pilot, made a real tool watch (and app), for real pilots? As opposed to a huge brand like IWC, making haute timepieces mainly for aviation fans.

For professional aviators, a watch now is “less for aviation and more for making sure you’re on the right time zone to get dinner when you land,” says watch collector and critic Max Reddick.

Computers now fly jetliners with minimal pilot input. Private aviators rely on simple apps and satellite navigation for more information than any watch can offer. – The Wall Street Journal: Aviator Buffs Yearn for Watches, but Few Pilots Actually Use Them

I came across Butler Watch Company while searching Twitter for interesting microbrands. I’m always looking for startups with a passionate story, great designs, and utilitarian functionality; and Butler definitely checks all of those boxes. Their gorgeous ascetic literally jumped out me, and this attention to simplistic beauty caries through to their website design.

Butler J80
Butler J80 (Steel $459), (Black DLC $489)
Butler GMT
Butler GMT (Black DLC $479), (Steel $449)

After connecting on Twitter, I exchanged a few emails with their founder, Corey Butler. I asked him some tough questions about how the company plans to differentiate itself, find customers, and why they decided to go with a Swiss Quartz movement. All of his answers were refreshingly authentic and logical. I’ve grown to admire the company even more since speaking with him, and I’ve included some of our conversation below:

I’m a professional pilot and have always wanted the perfect pilot watch. I don’t particular care for the busy, E6-B styled watches, so I decided to start drawing my own. (much design work done at 35,000 feet.)  One thing led to another and now I have a watch brand. My brother is my partner. We are simply bringing nice watches at affordable prices to people with interest. I guess another unique piece of our brand is that we are selling to many pilots.  We have a grass roots campaign to sell our watches to professional pilots. We have not received a thanks, but no thanks, watch back from a customer yet, I’m happy to say.

I’ve built this company in airplanes (at cruise altitude) and hotel rooms over many years. I’m happy to have done so using a computer that is the same age as my middle son, 10 years. I told myself I would not buy another computer until this one is making money.  Of course, I could buy a new computer now, but I’m so cheap, its hard to pull the trigger! I’ve taught myself Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and HTML for web design. I have created every image you see anywhere relating to Butler Watch Company., including the website design and layout. (I will relent soon, as our website is starting to get dated in function).  I’ve done all this work because its always cheaper to do things yourself if you have the time. At this point, the business is growing and I will be seeking outside help as time moves on.

What I hope for is that you, and your readers, will see and appreciate my watch designs for what they are. We are offering luxury components at affordable prices. Yes, they are Swiss Made, which certainly brings a world standard that any average watch buyer can appreciate. As for the seasoned Watch Judge reader, I know that Swiss Made may not even be on their radar when searching for a watch. One of my favorite watches is a German mark, temPtion, so I understand Swiss Made is not everything to everyone.

As described on our website, our watch brand is about association and appreciation of modern aviation and celebration of the people that make aviation a possibility. Which by the way, includes all fans of aviation. We will continue to develop this branding. As cool as it its, our unsung heroes do not fly with jetpacks like they do at Breitling. Our heroes work to get the job done, and they strive to do their job well because its the right thing to do.

We prefer to focus on what matters to the professional. Simplicity, elegance, and utility rank very high in our philosophy for design. We are designing for the people that actually use the watches. The result is a product that reflects those cornerstone elements.

The Professional Series Quartz watches represent my point. Quartz is a utilitarian movement that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. If you really consider a quartz movement, it is a perfect blend of electro-mechanical engineering that results in extremely accurate movements. I know they aren’t as sexy as a mechanical movement, yet for the professional, they offer ease of use, dependability and accuracy that the mechanical movements don’t.

If you see our watch dial, hand, and case combination, you will see that I focused on design simplicity, as well as appreciation of the aircraft instrument. There are no superfluous markings. There are no contrived design features attempting to make a false association with aviation. This is not a retro instrument connected with the past, but a modern instrument. Consider that the minute and second hand sweep on a radius perfectly corresponding to the indexes. And, by the way, a unique Butler feature is that the hour and minute indexes share the same radius, so that the minute and second hand point to the index, just like every aircraft instrument I’ve ever used in my career. The 24 hour hand does the same as it sweeps around the 24hour dial ring. The dial ring is raised, which aids the legibility of GMT time and ads interest to the dial and offers texture and relief. Its the subtle aspects that work together and combine to make our watches beautiful. And unlike almost every other brand’s GMT , the dial ring has SuperLuminova on index and numbers.

And, don’t forget the Sapphire crystal, which keeps everything new and fresh looking for many years…no scratches. This design element is essential to me.

We have a unique serial number naming scheme for each model. For instance, B762.120505 is a reference to Air Traffic Control’s use of active flight planning “strips.” For each aircraft under their control, they have a flight plan that shows aircraft type, destination, route, etc… Our Serial No’s use the aircraft type as a prefix. “B762” is a code for Boeing 767-200 series aircraft. All of our watch models will carry a unique prefix to their serial numbers. The Mc Donnell Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 767 happen to be the first two jets I flew, so they received the nod on the first two models, with different model series differentiating the SS or DLC.

Our watches may not be on all your reader’s aspirational purchase wish list, however, I do believe your readers would like to read about attainable watches, too. And, for your discerning reader, I think they will appreciate the thought that encompasses each element of design, right down to the sweep of the lug as it joins the outside diameter of the watch case.

Clearly, a passionate and thoughtful company. If you want to support their ambition, checkout their $0.99 app, Time Flies. It’s designed for pilots and fans of aviation, with a multi-time world clock, weather etc. Profits of the app go towards launching their next watch model.