The term “onion crown” typically refers to when a flieger style pilot watch has an oversized crown.
Onions crown watches are not only interesting and fun to wear, but they actually serve a practical purpose: for pilots to be able to wind the crown and set the time while wearing gloves in flight. This can also work for a driver with gloves on.
The concept of an onion crown on a wristwatch may have spawned from pocket watches being converted to be worn on the wrist like this Rolex trench watch.
The image below is from a Zenith pilot watch display presented at Baselworld a few years back. It’s an example of a pilot watch from 1910 with an onion crown.
“Pilot watch from the 1910s, worn by Louis Bleriot, one of the founding fathers of aviation. Its enlarged crown can be easily handled with aviator’s gloves.”
The traditional onion crown is large and rounded with etched lines that allow for a good grip. Aside from Zenith, probably the most recognizable example with the traditional style of onion crown would be the Chronoswiss Timemaster (and Wristmaster).
Here is an Ingersoll Bison with an onion crown similar to the Timemaster:
For an affordable onion crown flieger, this DELTAt microbrand watch has a good example:
Another style of onion crown is more flat, with a popular example being found on the Zenith Pilot Type 20, similar to the crown on this Szanto Big Aviator pilot watch. Perhaps it’s more of a pumpkin crown.
Another crown design that watch enthusiasts often (incorrectly) refer to as an onion crown, has a tighter downward slope resembling the shape of a diamond – hence, these are more accurately called diamond shaped crowns. This Zinex (Zixen) flieger has such a crown:
The standard onion crown is more like the larger, rounder crowns shown above, but some might even say the Dreyfuss Seafarer shown below has an onion crown:
We wrote a piece comparing the Dreyfuss and DELTAt flieger watches side-by-side, and here is what the crowns look like:
Just keep in mind that when you go for a timepiece equipped with an onion crown, it may look cool on the wrist but it might dig into your hand. If you wear your watch on your left hand, you could always get a right-handed watch (the Chronoswiss Timemaster comes in Destro), to avoid the dig – but that would defeat the purpose of it being easy to wind with gloves on. Also think about the crown getting caught on things like your clothes or a door jam.
What do you think about the style of an onion crown on a watch? Comment below…