Which Garmin pilot watch is the best and what is the difference between two of their top-end choices? Today we’re sifting through the specs, talking about first impressions, and comparing the D2 Air X10 and the D2 Mach 1 Aviator side by side so you know which is the best aviator watch for you.

Why You Should Get a Pilot Watch

Before we dive into the details, let’s start with answering a much more high-level question: “Why should I get a pilot watch?” After all, you have plenty of monitors and gauges in the cockpit, right? Do you really need one on your wrist?

Well, if you’re someone who wears a watch anyway, it makes sense to stack functions and build in some extra redundancy with a watch that can help with navigation in a pinch. Plus, with the risk of mild hypoxia even at lower altitudes, an on-wrist oxygen saturation monitor is a good safety feature.

And, let’s face it, part of it is about looks. The top pilot inspired designs have all the eye-catching features and functions that stand out from generic watches.

What to Look for In a Pilot Watch

The first big choice to make is whether you want a smart watch or an analog. Some features like atomic time in global time zones and barometric altimeter functionality will be found on both types of watches.

Others are analog specific (for example a rotating slide rule bezel) or smart watch specific (for example GPS navigation and auto flight logging).

The choice really depends on the type of features you want, how you see yourself using the watch, the look you’re going for, and what technology you are most comfortable with.

Most Well-Known Aviation-Friendly Watch Brands

When you start your hunt for the perfect high-quality watch, a few brands will rise to the top. Run a search for “best smartwatches for pilots,” you’ll quickly see that Garmin is in a class all by itself. A general search for “best pilot watches” will undoubtedly recommend Citizen’s analog line. So, which is the best?

Best Citizen Pilot Watch

Citizen is your go-to for high-end analog watches. If you want a classy, visually stunning analog timepiece with pilot-friendly features like a tachymeter, the Promaster by Citizen collection includes multiple Citizen watches that were crafted with pilots in mind. There’s the Navihawk, Skyhawk, Nighthawk, and Air.

Best Garmin Pilot Watch

Since the focus of this article is pilot smart watches and Garmin owns this space, we narrowed our choices down to two: The Garmin D2 Mach 1 and the Garmin D2 Air X10.

Garmin refers to their D2 Air X10 as “the smartwatch for pilots.” It promises to help you “fly through your day” with the “aviation tools you’ll want preflight, in-flight, and postflight – plus health and fitness features and the convenience of making calls from your wrist when paired with your compatible smartphone.”

Garmin’s slogan for the D2 ™ Mach 1 is “accelerate the adventure.” The goal of this “premium aviator smartwatch” is to bring you “advanced tools for flying – plus health and fitness features that enhance your pilot life.”

Let’s compare them side by side to zero in on the differences.

Garmin D2 Air X10 vs Garmin D2 Mach 1 Watch First Impressions

Before jumping into the detailed specs list, we’re starting with the first impressions of how the watches look and feel out of the box.


When we opened the boxes and compared these two Garmin smartwatches side by side, the first thing we noticed was the elevated feel of the watchband on the Mach 1. The rugged Oxford brown leather band and the vented titanium bracelet versions both immediately placed the Mach 1 in a higher visual class. (If you like silicone bands for at the gym, it’s worth noting that a bonus black silicone band comes in the box with the Mach 1).

The Air X10 comes standard with a silicone band with slight dimpled texturing that upgrades the visual sophistication slightly from a basic silicone version but still not in the same room as the Mach 1. The good news is that aftermarket replacement bands are readily available.

Lens Size

The round AMOLED lenses of both the Mach 1 and the Air X10 watches are 1.3” in diameter, but bezel widths and styling give each a different feel.

The Air X10 goes the modern smartwatch route with a narrow metal bezel lightly accenting the gracefully curved edges of the screen face. The feel is one of understated modern sophistication.

The Mach 1, on the other hand, takes its styling cues from classic analog watches. A thick, prominent titanium bezel creates a sturdy frame around the sapphire lens, drawing attention and making this watch feel meatier and more rugged.


As expected, the thicker bezel and heavier watchband material mean that the Mach 1 weighs more than the Air X10 with its thin bezel and light band. These watches weigh in at 70 grams and 51 grams respectively.

Overall Size

With its wider bezel, the Mach 1 measures 47 x 47 x 14.5 mm compared to the slightly smaller 43.6 x 43.6 x 12.6 mm Air X10. The difference is relatively insignificant on those with larger wrists, but if you’re smaller boned, the Mach 1 could feel just a bit oversized. 

Features Comparison of Garmin D2 Air X10 and Garmin D2 Mach 1 Watches

Both these high-end watches come fully loaded with features. We’ll start with a quick rundown of each and then zero in on their differences so you can find the right fit for you.

Garmin D2 Air X10 Features

Here’s a rundown of the top features of the Air X10:

  • Textured silicone watchband
  • Stainless steel bezel
  • Water rating of 5 ATM
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens
  • Bright AMOLED touchscreen display
  • Trial subscription to the Garmin Pilot app
  • Automatic flight logging capability with flyGarmin.com account sync
  • Weather alerts including METARs & TAFs
  • Worldwide aviation database
  • Direct to location/waypoint and nearest airport navigation functions
  • Horizontal situation indicator
  • Up to 7-day battery life in smartwatch mode
  • Up to 20-hour battery life in GPS mode with Pulse Ox.
  • Rapid recharging feature with ten minutes of charging adding up to 1 day of smartwatch mode battery life

Garmin D2 Mach 1 Features

What will you get from the new and exciting Garmin D2 Mach 1? Let’s find out. Top features include:

  • Vented Titanium bracelet or Oxford brown leather band
  • Titanium bezel
  • Water rating of 10 ATM
  • Sapphire lens
  • Bright AMOLED touchscreen display
  • Dynamic color mapping
  • Trial subscription to the Garmin Pilot app
  • Weather alerts including NEXRAD, METARs, TAFs, and MOS
  • Worldwide aviation database
  • Emergency mode
  • Dedicated direct-to and nearest navigational functions
  • Moving map
  • Horizontal situation indicator
  • 11-day battery life in smartwatch mode
  • 24-hour battery life in GPS with SpO2 mode
  • Flight logging
  • Multiple time zones
  • Flight plan transfer function between Garmin Pilot app and watch
  • Sunrise/sunset widget
  • Health monitoring including heart rate, sleep tracking, and pulse oximetry
  • Fitness tracking including animated workouts, sports apps, training metrics, stamina tracker, and workout suggestions
  • Garmin Pay

Included with purchase:

  • Trial subscription of Garmin Pilot ™ app
  • Black silicone watch band (in addition to the attached Oxford brown leather or vented titanium band)

Pros, Cons, and Differences Between the Features of the D2 Air X10 and the D2 Mach 1

There’s a lot to unpack and digest, so now that we’ve given you a high-level features list of each Garmin watch, you’re probably trying to figure out exactly what the key differences are. Let’s break it down:

First, the similarities:

  • Both watches have AMOLED touchscreens
  • Both have an HSI display
  • Both have Direct-To navigation
  • Both have pulse oximetry

Next, the differences. The price point of the D2 Air X10 means that it has a few fewer features than the D2 Mach 1.

  • The battery on the Air X10 lasts up to 7 days in smartwatch mode vs the up to 11-day battery life of the Mach 1
  • The Air X10 does not have NEXRAD access
  • The Air X10 does not have a moving map
  • The bezel and rear case cover of the Mach 1 are made of titanium whereas the Air X10 is built with stainless steel
  • The water rating of the Air X10 is 5 ATM vs the Mach 1’s 10 ATM

Best Pilot Watch Winner

If you are looking for a sleek, modern pilot smartwatch at a lower price, and with a solid range of features that doesn’t need to include NEXRAD or moving map, the Garmin D2 Air X10 is your best choice.

Pilots in search of an aviation smartwatch with classic analog visual appeal, extended battery life, elevated build materials, and the widest range of features will be best served by the Garmin D2 Mach 1.

Want to view a non-Garmin comparison? Check out the Alpina AlpinerX Smart Outdoors Watch.

Next Reads for Pilot Accessories and Clothes

It’s your turn

We’d love to hear from you. What is your favorite watch to wear both in the cockpit and on the street? Have you tried out a pilot smartwatch or are you more of an analog person?

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