|A "real" airboss in action. The yellow jersey is typical of this station. Photo: Wikipedia|
|Traditional Pilot Watches|
Swiss Army Airboss Mach 1 - The First of the Breed
Given the variety of later models, it might be surprising to find the first Airboss was somewhat "normal". The most radical feature of this model was the bright yellow painted hands. I never realized why such a bright color was used until I read that human Airbosses on aircraft carriers often wear bright yellow shirts to stand out in the color coded world of naval aviation. It makes perfect sense now.
|Quartz powered Swiss Army Airboss Mach 1 on bracelet|
|USN F-18 Hornet pushing the sound barrier|
|Notice the Swiss Airforce logo on the back. Swiss Army appears on front.|
|Early model Airboss watches had painted numerals and matte black dials|
|The Airboss Mach 1's lume during night operations|
|The Airboss Mach 1 had a steel bracelet and deployment clasp|
Swiss Army Airboss Mach 2 - Adding a Countdown Bezel
The Airboss Mach 2 added an uncommon internal countdown bezel, which is different than a diver's bezel that is set at a starting point to count up the time. To use the countdown feature, the user would line up the intended amount of time (37 minutes in the photo below) to the current minute hand position. When the minute hand reached the yellow triangle on the bezel, the elapsed time was done. This is a useful real world feature. For instance, when the outside temperature is warm and I walk the dogs, I set the bezel for 20 minutes to reduce the risk of overheating my K9 companions. It works great for grilling steaks too.
|The automatic Swiss Army Airboss Mach 2, now with an internal countdown bezel|
Swiss Army Airboss Mach 3 - The Ultimate Chronograph
The Airboss Mach 3 upped the ante by adding a 12-hour chronograph complication with 1/10th of a second accuracy. Let me tell you, there is no other watch that I know of that has this many pushers, disguised as crowns. The actual crown is recessed at the 9:00 position. The false crown at 3:00 is actually the control to change the internal bezel setting. The date window was moved to the 10:00 position to allow the chronograph subdials to sit next to each other.
|The Airboss Mach 1 compared to the Airboss Mach 3 Chronograph|
|A quartz 60-minute center register chronograph works like an Lemania 5100 powered watch|
Just when you thought they were done, Swiss Army added a surprise to the chronograph in the form of stacked central hands. I will dedicate a whole article to this feature at another time, but essentially there is a 60-minute chronograph in the center register. The white hand ticks off the seconds and the yellow hand ticks off the minutes. This is arguably the most legible type of chronograph to use because it is so large and easy to discern at a glance. The yellow hand hides under the white one when not in use.
So to recap, the Airboss Mach 3 has an internal countdown bezel, a 60-minute central register chronograph, left handed pushers, a 12-hour and a 1/10th of a second subdials. Plus, the lugs have 2 separate sets of holes drilled to accommodate NATO straps, leather bands and metal bracelets. That is a lot for your money and insane attention to detail. Some people do not like the fact that there are no ticking seconds unless the chronograph is on, but that might have added another subdial.
Swiss Army Airboss Mach 4 - Less is More
The last mach of the Airboss series to have yellow hands was the Mach 4, which went from a quartz movement to a mechanical Unitas 6497-2 movement. The size swelled to 45 mm (from 43 mm), but it retained the internal countdown bezel. A small sweeping seconds subdial was added in the 7:00 position. The subdial hands are a unique 2 sided design. Perhaps this is so you could start timing something sooner (by choosing either end of the hand) or time 2 events at one simultaneously. Again, this shows "outside the box" thinking.
|The last of the yellow hands on a mechanical Swiss Army Airboss Mach 4|
I should also mention, that there were other variations that did not use yellow hands. I believe that is when Swiss Army started to explore variations on the theme. Be on the lookout for more articles on the Swiss Army Airboss watches... they are my favorite models that the brand makes and there is a lot more to this story.
I have since sold the original Airboss Mach 1 to make room for the more interesting and complicated Airboss models. It was bittersweet letting it go.