AVI-8, a brand that seeks to honour aircraft and airmen with its watches might still be young, but it is not a beginner anymore. The AV-4047 was a modern Pilot Watch inspired by the Hawker Harrier II, what has just been launched (now with pre-orders and a special “early-bird” price) is far more vintage-oriented – yet still highly accessible and well-crafted. Meet the AVI-8 Flyboy Centenary Collection “the 1920s Edition”.
2018 marks the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom. To commemorate this event, AVI-8, a young London-based brand with a clear focus on pilot watches (see previous collections here or here), has developed a complete collection of timepieces that incorporate design aesthetics and references that pay tribute to different eras of the RAF. Each watch will have its own design cues, including a unique dial, font, hand, strap and indices based on the same “chassis”. The first two watches are clearly vintage-inspired: AVI-8 Flyboy Centenary Collection “the 1920s Edition” and “the 1940s Edition”. While the latter (not shown in this article but visible here) has a clear WWII inspiration, the one we chose to look at closely today is all about pioneer pilot timepieces – and because you read MONOCHROME, you know that the watch is mechanical.
AVI-8 isn’t reinventing the concept; the new Flyboy Centenary Collection relies on the traditional codes of pilot watches, yet with certain interesting design choices. Overall, we’re looking at a solid aviation-inspired watch with a cool, slightly vintage appeal, mixed with modern features.
First is the case. As the instrument that a pilot watch should be, the Flyboy Centenary Collection “the 1920s Edition” relies on a relatively simple – let’s say utilitarian – case. No distraction, everything is made so the dial remains in focus. The reasonably sized case – 42mm in diameter x 12mm in height – is crafted in stainless steel, with a flat bezel and entirely satin-finished surface. Three editions will be available, two in non-treated steel with a white or cream dial, one with a black ionic plating and black dial – the one you can see here. The case is shaped in a tool-ish way, though with nice details such as chamfered lugs and a serrated edge design on the crown with the blue and round circles of the Royal Air Force roundel applied as an epoxy filled cabochon. The case is water-resistant to 50m, sufficient for daily use.
The main attraction of a pilot watch has to be its dial – don’t forget that the mission of a pilot watch is utmost legibility – and the AVI-8 Flyboy is in this vein. As the “older” version in the collection and a homage to the 1920s, this watch has a deliberately vintage feel, especially considering the neo-gothic font used for the hour markers and the essential cathedral hands. Railroad minute markings frame the dial suitably. In order to improve legibility, the dial is matte black with a grainy surface and the numerals are framed by a SuperLumiNova outline – which looks cool during the day and is efficient at night. The small seconds is surprisingly positioned at 5 o’clock, next to the date. I’m not usually a fan of date windows on such watches, but the position of the small seconds sub-dial here helps to create a pleasant integration of the date.
Such a layout gives an indication of the movement that ticks inside the case: a Japanese Miyota 8218 – a reliable and well-known automatic movement, with 3hz frequency, 21 jewels and circa 40h power reserve. Overall, a movement that will do the job offering good value for money. It is visible through the case back, with a Cote de Genève decoration on the main bridge.
The vintage feel of the AVI-8 Flyboy Centenary Collection “the 1920s Edition” is reinforced by a distressed brown leather strap, which works well with the black coating applied on the case. Usually, at MONOCHROME, we tend to prefer non-coated watches. However, in the context of the Flyboy, this version certainly is the most striking.
The AVI-8 Flyboy Centenary Collection “the 1920s Edition” and its slightly more modern “the 1940s Edition” are now available for pre-orders on the official Avi-8.co.uk website, at the special price of GBP 199 from 7th – 21st March. The full retail price of the watches will later be GBP 249. Watches will be shipped to customers from 26th March onwards. These are limited editions that will never be replenished. Also, two other editions (the 1960s and 1980s) will follow later this year. More details on the brand’s website.