Exploring the world of watches on a budget

TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition

When TC-9 offered me their new skeleton Titanium Pilot for this review, I hesitated. On the one hand, I have liked the brand’s previous models and happily own two (the Bronze 1972 Diver and the stunning LunarScope). On the other hand, I generally have little love for skeleton watches. Was this one really worth a look? In the end, the titanium case and uncommon PTS movement piqued my curiosity and I gave it a whirl. I’m glad I did. It turns out, the TC-9 is a pretty cool addition to the skeleton watch genre. It launched on Kickstarter today.

TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition
Since it is right up front and center, let’s start with the movement. The 9615F is a 21.6k bph hand-winder with a 9 o’clock small seconds and 36-hour power reserve. It is based on the old Unitas 6497 and produced by Chinese manufacturer PTS. Unlike many similar skeleton movements, this one looks all business. Most notably, the bridges are brushed, finished in PVD black, and entirely devoid of the flowery engraving one often sees on these movements. When I look inside a watch, I want to see a machine. Sure, a tiny machine, maybe even a pretty machine. I’ve got nothing against gold plating, blued screws, or Geneva stripes – I dig that stuff. But I don’t want it to look like a piece of jewelry or something I might find on your grandmother’s mantelpiece. I feel even more strongly about that when the movement is also the face.


TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition

Blued and lume-filled hands stand out against this dark mechanical backdrop, overcoming one of the great challenges of skeleton watches – readability. You will have no such issue on the Pilot. If anything, the bright white lume is almost too much contrast by day, but you will be grateful for its strong glow at night.


TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition lume

Even more so than most aviation-themed watches, this one is a style statement more than a practical tool. In deference to convention, the dial features a minute track, but the gray-on-black phantom effect renders it more of a design curiosity than a functional index. There is no such aid for the small seconds. Clearly, this is not the sort of pilot's watch you would choose to aid your navigation or time your bombing run. It is more for the person who looks at their watch and says, "Eh, it's about twenty to one." In truth, that is most of us. 


TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition

Flat, anti-reflective coated, sapphire crystals grace the front and back, offering an unrestricted view of that sinister 9615F. The downside is that the movement is so open, they also offer unrestricted views of your wrist, which, in my view, is not great.  Now, I must confess that this is my particular hang-up, but to me, the sight of werewolf arm hair squashed against the exhibition window revolts me and ruins the effect. My smooth comrade Mike Razak, who is apparently part dolphin, could probably pull it off better.

TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition wrist

As you might have gathered from the name, the Titanium Pilot uses a Flieger-style case, complete with a proper fluted and signed onion crown. And, yes, it is made from titanium, in a lovely black matte finish to boot (a gray case is also offered). While it looks great, the real appeal is its weight, or shall I say, lack of same. At 43mm wide and 50mm long, it is a large watch, but it is also just 12mm thick and weighs 2.2oz, which is to say, nothing. You won’t mistake it for a dainty dress watch, but it is easy to wear and light as a feather on your wrist. Water resistance is 50m, which is right on par with most traditional pilot's watches and suitable for daily wear.

TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition

The 22mm distressed black leather strap is a most un-pilot-like, drilled rally style. Conventional wisdom would say that it is the wrong strap for either a skeleton watch or a pilot’s watch. The conventional wisdom is wrong. The holes in the strap complement both the movement’s circular elements in the exposed movement and its open design. It’s an absolutely perfect pairing. A signed and color-matched buckle is just icing on the cake. Gray cases will get a vintage black Horween leather strap.

TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition

Overall, the TC-9 Titanium Pilot is an attractive piece with an even more attractive price. Full retail will be £350 (about $450 US) but starting today, you can pre-order one on Kickstarter for as low as £169 (about $224 US)If you think you might be tempted by an offbeat skeleton for people who hate skeletons, you should definitely check this one out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 


TC-9 Titanium Pilot – Skeleton Edition


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