Brands to Watch in 2023: Aera Pilot & Dive Watches

Brands to Watch in 2023: Aera Instruments

British design meets Swiss engineering with these cool, new tool watches.

By Rhonda Riche

The Brits and Swiss share many great traits. They both make great cheese; each has an impressive history in horological innovation; and the two cultures also share a devotion to practicality yet are known for their artisanal excellence.

That’s why Aera Instruments (or simply Aera) is a brand to watch. The start-up watchmaker builds tool watches that are functional and as comfortable to wear as a bespoke Saville Row Suit but with all the precision of Swiss technology.

The Aera Era

According to the British brand’s website, the idea of Aera first happened in early 2018 in Geneva. A group of watch lovers from different areas of the industry came together to answer one question: “What defines a good watch?” Of course, being a highly subjective question, the participants had many thoughts on the matter, but they agreed on one thing: “A good watch is honest, offers great quality, and comes at a reasonable price.”

With an extensive background in horology, co-founders Jas Minhas and Olof Larsson (Minhas’ father had a distribution business, and Larsson had been a retailer for Ikepod) also have the entrepreneurial savvy to build a business sustainably. And now, after four years of development, the duo has turned their passion into two tangible timepieces – the P-1 Pilot and D-1 Diver.

Aera is a design-led company. It draws inspiration from classic tool and contemporary timepieces (we can see the influence of Ikepod in the architecture of their watches). But what makes its watches distinctive (and excellent value propositions) is their restraint, which definitely keeps with the brand’s mission statement: “Aera had to be defined as much by what was left out as by what was put in.”

Dive Time

Let’s start with a look at the diver. The Aera D–1 Diver features a streamlined and sturdy 904L brushed stainless steel case with a ceramic unidirectional bezel. Meanwhile, a curved sapphire crystal protects its concave, single-piece dial. This combination lends the D–1 Diver a futuristic feeling, but it also makes it more legible, day or night, above or underwater.

Not only does its silhouette (the 42mm case x 44mm bezel x 16mm case is also curvy) summon up the aerodynamic surface of a stone smoothed by water, it also allows the D-1 Diver to sit comfortably on the wrist. It also comes with a choice of straps – a black rubber option for SCUBA diving adventures or a limited-edition smoke grey suede option and a third free band, as standard – which allows you to tailor your fit to any occasion.

Inside, D–1 Diver is powered by a workhorse Sellita SW200-1 calibre that’s water-resistant to 300 meters. Plus, as a proven calibre, this movement also allows Aera’s team to present an accessibly priced timepiece for people who are looking for an entry into tool watches but wanting something that stands out stylistically.

Taking Flight

Another reason we think Aera is a brand to watch is that the team brings a diverse set of skills to the table.

Not content to ape the look of traditional fliegers, the team worked hard to create a unique design language for the P-1 Pilot. Again, the concave dial and domed sapphire crystal look aerodynamic but are particularly attractive on this model. Moreover, the hands and crown are accented with a generous coating of white Super-LumiNova.

Pricing & Availability

With two such commanding watches straight out of the gate, we’ll be keeping an eye on Aera Instruments. The "Launch Edition" models are also attractively priced with the P-1 Pilot selling for $1,300 and the D-1 Diver for $1,400. To learn more, visit the Aera website.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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