Hands on Review: HMT Pilot Watch

In this “hands on review” section, I am introducing you an iconic timepiece, the HMT Pilot.

It is one of the best-selling models of the HMT mechanical hand-wound wristwatch collection. I have been gathering these much-admired mechanical timepieces since 2015. In this post, I am sharing my observations on various HMT Pilot watches available with me.


Dressed in a stainless steel case, HMT Pilot is available with different dial colours and configurations. So far I have collected five types of dial designs.

(1) HMT Pilot with four Arabic numerals (with guilloche centre dial)

This dial configuration (4ARBC) spotlights large Arabic numerals to indicate the four cardinal markers, and indexes for the remaining hours.

Hands on Review HMT Pilot Watch with white dial

The model featured above is the highly sought-after HMT Pilot white dial watch with the 4ARBC configuration. This variant stands out with an elegant design enhanced with a guilloched centre dial. The 12, 3, 6, and 9 hours are in Arabic numerals and the remaining are tapered indexes.

In this version, the raised numbers and indexes are in polished steel. The outer minute track has green dotted markers with lume to highlight each five minute. The hour and minute hands are dauphine-shaped and lumed. Below 12 o’ clock, the dial features HMT logo and PILOT text.

Hands on Review HMT Pilot Watch with white dial

The arrangement of four numerals and tapered indexes of this variant is almost same as the 1950s Tudor Oyster Royal 7904 watch. The guilloche pattern on the centre was borrowed from the HMT Sona model.

The white dial pilot with the guilloche decorated centre dial was probably introduced in the 1990s. Its first edition featured steel Arabic numerals (12, 3, 6, and 9), indexes and hands. In that model, only the hour and minute hands featured luminescent coating. Later on, HMT enhanced the dial design by adding lumed dots on the minute track.

HMT also produced a number of Pilot white dial variants, including the one with red-seconds hand, gold-plated versions, and some specimens specially for the Japanese market.

Hands on Review HMT Pilot Watch white dial lume

The white dial version shown in this article (PILOT WHITE NP SS) comes with blue hands. It is a general production model based on the HMT Pilot watch released in 2013 in a limited edition of 500 pieces for a group of a popular Watch forum.

The HMT Pilot white model comes with a three link steel bracelet or black leather strap. As far as I know, the 4ARBC configuration with guilloche decoration is also available in Blue, Yellow, and Maroon dial versions as featured below.

hmt pilot blue maroon and yellow dial models

Among these, Blue and Maroon dial versions come with polished steel numbers, indexes and hands. The Yellow dial variant (PILOT SS 4A YD BI SS) has blue hands, numerals and indexes.

(2) HMT Pilot with four Arabic numerals (with plain dial)

HMT Pilot Watch with maroon dial

These variants feature a slightly different composition in comparison with the guilloche centre dial models. Instead of steel numerals and indexes, they have plain dials with printed numbers (12, 3, 6 and 9) and dot markers. Various dial colors are available.

(3) HMT Pilot with single Arabic numeral

The next dial configuration comes with a single Arabic numeral at 12 o’clock, three rectangular indices in steel for denoting 3, 6 and 9 hours, and dots for the remaining hour-markers. All the markers are hand-lumed. Below the HMT logo, the dial highlights the model name (Pilot) in a hand-written style.

Hands on Review HMT Pilot Watch

This is the most original and simplest design of HMT pilot. This model is available in black, blue, green, orange, maroon, teal (greenish blue) and yellow dial versions. The dauphine-shaped hour and minute hands feature luminescent coating.

(4) HMT Pilot with All Arabic numerals

HMT Pilot is also available with a dial configuration featuring Arabic numerals for all hour-markers.

The black dial watch shown here comes with the aforementioned pattern. It has twelve printed Arabic numerals, enhanced with lume. The dauphine-shaped hour and minute hands have luminescent coating.

Hands on Review HMT Pilot Watch black dial with all Arabic numerals

The HMT Pilot All Arabic black dial model featured above has a red centre-seconds hand. The inscription Pilot is displayed in a hand-written pattern below the HMT logo. I am not sure whether this pattern exists in other dial colours.

(5) HMT Pilot with stick indexes and baton hands

The vintage HMT Pilot Super Deluxe watch model shown below has this particular dial lay-out. It has a black dial with index hour-markers, lumed dots, baton-shaped hour and minute hands with luminescent coating, and a steel centre-seconds hand.

HMT Pilot Super Deluxe watch

The four cardinal indices (12, 3, 6 and 9) are in steel, and the remaining are printed. No more in production, this is a rare variant of HMT Pilot.

HMT Pilot Watch Review

The best aesthetic characteristic of this iconic timepiece is its timeless look, thanks to its small dimensions, domed dial and acrylic glass. Its design and built-in features take us to the 1950s and 60s.

Hands on Review HMT Pilot Watches

All the HMT Pilot models featured in this review have stainless steel cases. Each one measures 35mm in diameter (37.6 mm including crown), 11mm in thickness including the domed glass and 43mm lug to lug length. They have drilled lugs, and the strap/lug width is 18mm.

The rear-side of the watch is secured with a screw-in stainless steel case-back, providing a water-resistance of 20 meters. As featured below, the inscriptions on the case-back are stamped on older production models, and laser-etched on newer ones.

Even though its name is Pilot, this timepiece lacks key attributes of aviator watches. This watch costs less than $60, so it is not fair to expect specifications like sapphire glass and higher water-resistance rating.

Driving this three-hand watch is Cal. 0231. Made in India by HMT, its origins date back the 1960s. A licensed version of the Japanese Citizen 0201, this time-only mechanical hand-wound calibre (earlier name: HMT 020) is robust, simple and easy to maintain. Unfortunately, this iconic movement is no longer in production.

HMT Pilot Watch with yellow dial

HMT Cal. 0231 features Pallet lever escapement, Glucydur anular balance, yoke winding system, and directly driven centre seconds. However, it does not have the hacking seconds function. Equipped with 17 jewels and beating at 18,000 vph, it offers an approximate power reserve of 38 hours.

HMT Pilot Watch

At the right side of 6 o’clock hour marker, the dial displays movement number: 0231 or 0231A.  The inscription PARA SHOCK 17 JEWELS is a common attribute of all HMT hand-wound watches.

HMT Pilot Watch with grey dial

Among the numerous hand-wound watches made by HMT, the Pilot is a collector’s favourite. It comes with a stainless steel bracelet or a leather strap with pin buckle.

It is to be noted that HMT closed its movement manufacturing activities a few years ago. Now it has a small assembling facility known as Auxiliary Business Division, which makes watches using old-stock and out-sourced movements and parts.

Due to the shortage of 0231 movement and other components, the company is now making the Pilot and other hand-wound watches in limited quantities only. In future, HMT may shut down the production of its classic manual-winding watches due to the difficulty in acquiring mechanical calibres with similar specifications of HMT 0231.

HMT Pilot Watch Black, red and maroon dials

In my opinion, HMT Pilot is a great horological piece with historic significance, yet exceptionally affordable to delight every watch lover.