By Paul Southwick

When the author was a child everyone wore a watch. Times changed when mobile phones came along. The younger generation shunned wrist watches as “single function” devices and deemed them unnecessary.

For pilots there was always a need for a watch. Many coveted the Breitling Navitimer with its slide rule bezel. Later came electronic offerings with world time zones, UTC, and compass rings like the Citizen models. But these watches were perhaps only worn on flying days or to invite queries potential suitors at parties, clubs or pubs: “Oh I see you’re a pilot.”

The author, a black Citizen Skyhawk owner, was offered a 30 day “test flight” of Garmin’s new D2 Charlie aviator watch – the third iteration in the series. A number of other writers had reviewed the watch, but none seemed to have actually worn it, or indeed gone flying with it on the wrist.

Garmin is a US technology enterprise and leading GPS provider. It was founded in 1989 and is based in Texas with global revenue exceeding US$3 billion.
The challenge was to wear and fly with the watch for a month to tell readers what it’s really like. This is not a technical review – technical leadership is a given with any Garmin product.

The RRP for the watch with Titanium Bezel with Leather and Silicone Bands is A$1,199.00, and with Titanium Bezel with Titanium and Silicone Bands a few hundred dollars more.

The D2 became the author’s “new best friend” (NBF), a friend he would not go anywhere without, and certainly did not want to give back. Here’s why.

The unwrap

First the wrap, or more particularly the unwrap. The D2 comes in superb packaging, that like the watch itself, packs much into a surprisingly small size. Included in the box are the D2 with matching metal strap – and its “fail-proof locking device,” a sporty looking quality alternate “rubber like” strap, the USB charging cable, a small set of abbreviated instructions (with wise guidance to the internet), and the usual warranties.

There was one other valuable goodie, especially if contemplating a trip to the US – a free six-month subscription to the Garmin Pilot EFB, redeemable with an online code on download.

The biggest unwrap surprise was the perfect size (not too big, as you might imagine from promotional material) and the light weight of the D2 itself. This is a watch, that despite all its incredible features, seemed to weigh no more than any other normal watch, and is soon forgotten it’s there. That’s advanced technology and space aged material in action.


The guide advises owners to download the Garmin iPhone app and that takes just a few minutes. It’s then a simple matter of turning on the watch and following the prompt to pair the two devices using Bluetooth. After that, it’s a quick learn of the buttons – mostly the up and down buttons on the left and enter button on the right, and them everything seems instinctively easy.

Yet another big surprise is that the D2 can easily and quickly connect to your (or any) wireless network – a real bonus for downloads, especially when you have 100 mps fibre at home.

A nice feature is being able to customise the watch for your favourite call sign (the author chose N52CV, the tail number of Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet flown in the US last year), and even select from a range of different watch faces, both analogue and digital.

The easiest way to download watch faces is by connecting the charging cable to a computer. On the topic of recharging, it is quick – just in the order of a few minutes for a top up, and seemingly about an hour from zero percent to 100%. Charging is simply not an issue, and battery life is great, certainly much better than the average iPhone. Without intensive use of the aviation functions the watch goes for days without needing a charge and the battery percent indicator makes it easy to judge when to plug in.

Before even getting into the aviation features there are so many other cool offerings that work perfectly including; a full activity tracker by sport type; heart rate monitor; and useful message alerts from the phone – news, SMS, Viber, and all sorts of other useful information pops up and is easily read on the large colour screen.

The pop-up feature is handy on public transport, in meetings, and even if you wear the watch to bed. There is something discreet and nice about the incoming message or vibration of the watch – which is only known to the wearer, rather than an annoying public phone tone. The author found this feature handy as the watch was always there on the wrist, unlike a mobile phone, that can be put down and messages missed.

The author’s favourite app was the tracker which reported km walked in a day. After a while D2 owners will get quite competitive with themselves and want to get that vibration alert to say the daily goal has been achieved. It is also possible to wirelessly compete with others in a group using the D2. Other great non-aviation features include: find my phone; save locations; do not disturb; sync; and remote control of music on your iPhone – which worked brilliantly when paired to a Bose headset.

Aviation functions

The D2 is not offered or recommended as a primary navigation device but it sure has its uses as a supplement both on the ground and in the air (reception allowing). UTC is always displayed, which is handy and as with all other tracking like activities it has an auto-start function. The main aviation features include:

- Instant access to the nearest airfield with bearing, distance, speed, vertical speed, track, ETE, and colour moving map.

- A direct-to function to any one of a huge database of worldwide airports (having downloaded all the airports using the phone app and PC connection on opening) and all the same information as for “nearest.” It is amazingly easy to select the required airfield based on its four-letter identifier and the up/down buttons. The worldwide databases can be quickly updated when connected to a computer.

- A Horizontal Situation Indicator (HIS) with compass rose, course deviation distance (with VOR like dots), to and from indicator, bearing to the nearest airport, a course deviation indicator (CDI), and distance to destination.

- NEXRAD radar with great zoom in and out features showing nearby airfields and key geographical features.

- METARS including, airport identifier, aviation flight category (IFR/VFR), wind direction, speed, and gusts, visibility in statute miles, sky conditions, and weather conditions.

- TAFS in full detail – like the METAR, clear and easy to read on the watch face.

- An option to manually set the barometric pressure

- An ability to create, edit and fly flight plans and share them with the Garmin FB.

- Altitude alert.


The D2 quickly becomes an indispensable companion for pilots. It is a premium product that will be desired by many. If you want the best and are ready to answer “Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I am a pilot. How did you guess?” at those parties, this just might be the ultimate watch for you.