Waltham A-17. The watch of legendary pilots

Watch Angels
Watch Angels
Published in
3 min readApr 24, 2023

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The A-17 was the first true American Pilot watch, specified and commissioned by the USAF. It first “served” during the Korean War in the early 1950's.

It has been worn by many pilots who made the history of modern aviation, and in some cases made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of aviation advancement. Amongst them, Captain Milburn “Mel” Apt of the United States Air Force which we remember and honor today.

Captain Milburn Apt joined the USAF right out of high school in 1942 and was immediately sent to flight school. He received a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Kansas and from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He was commissioned as an officer in 1944 and served with the Caribbean Defense Command until June 1946.

In 1951 he received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. He then was sent to the Experimental Flight Test School at Edwards Air Force Base in recognition of his superior piloting skills. He graduated from the school (Class 54B) in 1954.

On September 27, 1956 Captain Milburn Apt became the fastest man in human history by flying the UASF Bell X-2 Starbuster to the incredible speed of Mach 3.196 which is 3,377 km or 2,098 miles per hour.

Captain Apt was the very first man to fly at over 3 times the speed of sound.

The Bell X-2 Starbuster was a rocket powered, swept-wing research aircraft developed jointly by Bell Aircraft, the United States Air Force and National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which in 1958 twould become NASA.

Tragically Captain Apt was killed during this record breaking flight when the X-2 lost control, crashing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Captain Apt was awarded the Soldiers Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Captain Apt was wearing a Waltham Type A-17 Pilot’s Watch.

Thank you for your service Captain Apt, your sacrifice made the moon missions possible.

Text by Waltham historian Stan Czubernat

The Waltham A-17NG has now been brought back by Waltham in collaboration with Watch Angels. Go to sale.

The Waltham A-17NG
The Waltham A-17NG PATINA

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