Smartwatches are one of the hottest accessories in the world of consumer electronics, and aviation is no exception. While the Apple Watch has garnered a lot of attention lately, GPS pioneer Garmin hasn’t been sitting back and watching. This summer they released the D2 Bravo Pilot Watch, a second generation GPS watch made just for aviation. It’s a major upgrade over the original D2, and features much deeper smartphone/tablet integration.
The first thing you’ll notice about the D2 Bravo is its all-new case design. While it’s still a large watch (2″ x 2″ and 0.6″ high), it’s noticeably smaller than the original D2 – especially in height. The case is more stylish too, with a stainless steel finish and a scratch-resistant sapphire lens. Combine that case with the standard brown leather band and you have a handsome watch that’s more luxury timepiece than geeky gadget (don’t worry – there’s also a black rubber band for running or swimming).
The screen is the other major upgrade. The D2 Bravo features a color screen that’s more than three times the resolution of the original D2 (218 x 218 pixels). Although the screen can be a little dim in direct sunlight, we found it to be readable in most conditions and the higher resolution packs a lot more information on one screen.
One of the real strengths of this watch is its battery life. Compared to some smartwatches that struggle to make it through the day, the D2 Bravo will last 6 weeks in basic watch mode. Even when using all its powerful GPS features, battery life is nearly 20 hours so it supports all-day use.
Another contrast to other smartwatches is the number of built-in functions. While the Apple Watch really depends on a paired smartphone for most features, the D2 Bravo offers direct-to navigation, nearest airport, moving map and even a digital HSI without connecting to any other devices. Direct and Nearest even have their own dedicated buttons on the side of the watch. With a worldwide airport database onboard, it’s easy to navigate to your destination with just a few button pushes. That makes it a legitimate backup option in case your phone or tablet quits.
In addition to the GPS, the watch also includes a barometric pressure altimeter and a digital compass. The altimeter is a handy tool for pilots, as the watch can be set to deliver vibrating alerts at certain altitudes. Whether you just want a reminder to level off or you want to check your oxygen regularly, it’s built-in.
Beyond the powerful aviation features, the D2 Bravo is a full-featured fitness watch, with dedicated run, bike and swim modes. It’s waterproof to 100 meters, so you can take it out on your training run or ocean swim without worrying about damaging the watch. It’s also fully compatible with Garmin Connect, the company’s online training and activity tracking software.
While the standalone features make the D2 Bravo a great backup, its full value is unlocked by pairing it with a smartphone or tablet. The most interesting integration for pilots is with Garmin’s popular electronic flight bag app – Garmin Pilot. Once paired, your tablet can send up-to-date METARs, as well as flight plan information. Enter that long IFR route once on your tablet and you’ll automatically see it on the watch. You can also display Garmin Pilot alerts on the watch, which is great for getting a vibrating alert when it’s time to switch fuel tanks.
Besides the Garmin Pilot features, the D2 Bravo can also show alerts for incoming emails, text messages and phone calls. While you can’t answer your iPhone from the watch, it’s still nice to be in the loop. Finally, you can control your VIRB camera with the D2 Bravo. This sounds almost silly, but it’s surprisingly helpful. When you have a camera mounted out of the way (or even outside), it’s faster and safer to simply tap your watch to start or stop recording.
The smartphone/tablet integration is a growing area with Garmin, and we expect to see even more features coming soon.
Best watch for pilots?
So is the new D2 Bravo the best watch for pilots? Maybe. It’s a huge upgrade over the original D2 in both style and functionality. If you’re a Garmin Pilot and/or VIRB user, the integration features are quite handy, and the battery life is excellent. We also think it’s by far the most powerful standalone watch, with legitimate backup potential.
But there’s never been more competition, with improvements coming to the Apple Watch, new Android smartwatches coming on the market and even the value-priced Pebble smartwatch winning fans. The question of “best watch” really depends on what you want to do with it. If aviation is a key reason you’re buying one, the D2 Bravo deserves a serious look.
The Garmin D2 Bravo Pilot Watch is available for $699 and is shipping now.
A new video demo shows off some of the features: