Recently, I received a little package from India. Inside the padded envelope, wrapped in several feet of foam wrap, bubble wrap, packing tape, and about 50 yards of cellophane was a tasty little HMT White Pilot Limited Edition, 1 of 500 produced, a new spin on a vintage design that was no longer available, and oh yeah... it cost $35. Yep, that's right, $35 with international shipping. It was a fantastic deal, and no, you can't have one. Allow me to explain.
The White Pilot LE was the brainchild of Prateek Shujanya, a medical student and watch enthusiast in Dehradun, India. On June 15, 2013, he posted a query on the Watchuseek Affordable Watch Forum asking if there was interest in a group purchase of a custom watch from Indian manufacturer, HMT. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. After some design input and polling of the members, the project soon evolved into the White Pilot Limited Edition.
The HMT Pilot is one of the oldest watches in their product line, and a darling of the affordable watch crowd. All have a 35mm polished stainless steel case with 18mm lugs, and the 17 jewel HMT 0231 hand wound movement, a sturdy unit that traces its origins to a 50 year old Citizen design. The White Pilot has long been discontinued and is now prized by HMT collectors. It has a white dial with polished numerals, and a honeycomb texture in the center. Usually, the only colors on this dial are the four tiny green dots outside the 12, 3, 6, and 9. The LE adds bold blue hands. They make a striking contrast, enhancing the watch's presence, and lending a sporty appearance. The case back proudly proclaims its Limited Edition status.
As you might guess, a $35 watch has a few compromises. The case back is etched, not engraved. The hands have been blued with paint, not heat. Illumination exists in theory, but not practice as it barely produces a discernable glow. The case back states it is shock resistant, and "water and dust protected" but does not offer a rating. You would be advised to keep it dry. In typical HMT fashion, it has a tiny flaw on the dial.
The croc embossed strap is best thought of as a placeholder. The leather is about an inch away from vinyl, but it will hold the watch on your wrist long enough for you to buy a new one and throw it away. Frankly, this is fine with me, because a glossy black strap does not do this watch justice. I had been saving a beautiful Crown & Buckle bright blue leather NATO for some time and this is finally the perfect watch for it. They look like they were made for each other.
Overall, this is a fun, sporty watch with interesting details, vintage appeal, and a solid movement. Best of all, it was available for peanuts but as I mentioned at the outset, you cannot have one. At the absurdly low price of $35, all 500 sold out quickly. The watches are still being shipped as each new batch is complete, and some are sure to go up for resale, so keep an eye on the Watchuseek sales forum and you might get lucky.
Pro: Rare, cheap, and great looking.
Con: Sold out.
Sum: Add "White Pilot" to your Watch Recon wish list.