Review: AVI-8 Watches

The mid to high-end of fashion watches is littered with either watches made to look like much pricier brands or with pieces that are simply too plain to stand out or justify their pricing. UK-based AVI-8 Watches has managed to break this mold with a bold series of designs inspired by military aviation. In a short period of time they have managed to roll out an extensive line of original timepieces with a particular attention to detail and a definitive flight-inspired look.

I was given two pieces from them to get a feel for their Hawker Hurricane line and their Lancaster Bomber line. Convinced on the merits of those two, I have since added a piece from the Flyboy collection to my own collection.

From left to right: Flyboy, Lancaster Bomber, Hawker Hurricane

From left to right: Flyboy, Lancaster Bomber, Hawker Hurricane

As a sucker for canvas bands, I was immediately drawn to the Hawker Hurricane Ref. AV-4017-04. The shade of green on the band is definitively vintage military. While it is a pretty large watch at 44mm, with a substantial thickness, it wears lighter than one might expect. The dial is easy-to-read and the Arabic numerals are very well selected for the time period they are trying to represent. The outer 0-60 index ring fits in very well around the prominent numerals, and I am always a fan of a second sub-dial at 9 o’clock. The thickness of the case is used to create a very well executed sense of depth between the crystal and the dial. The lugs have a small flare that helps to distinguish an otherwise plain (but well built and finished) steel case.

AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Side  AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Front  AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Dial

Small but noticeable flare on the lug

Small but noticeable flare on the lug

It runs well on what I originally thought to be a Japanese Miyota (Citizen) Automatic movement, but a little further digging by a reader revealed that contrary to the literature claiming this to be a Japanese Automatic, it is actually a slightly cheaper Chinese automatic movement.  It includes a quick-set date as well as a hack function (which almost feels obligatory on any timepiece that is aviation-related.)

AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Movement

There are a few very minor things I might highlight as issues. Firstly, the date display is set very low in a small porthole at 3 o’clock that can be difficult to read. For such a large-featured watch the date is a bit lost. Secondly, the hand design differs between the second hand and the hour and minute hand. The latter are sharp and angular while the second hand is more of the round style seen in Panerai sub-dial hands. Finally, while I love exhibition backs the canvas band obscures this one. This is not true with any of their other automatic models that utilize leather bands.

Slight stylistic mismatch between the sundial hand and the large hands

Slight stylistic mismatch between the sundial hand and the large hands

With the canvas band on the movement is hidden

With the canvas band on the movement is hidden

The date size is relatively small for the watch

The date size is relatively small for the watch

All in all these design issues are minor, and do very little to detract from the overall beauty and utility of this piece. It’s a comfortable wear, great style, and can be had at a reasonable price point. While their listed retail price is perhaps higher than it should be, a quick search online and you can find this watch at a price point that makes it well worth the purchase.

AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane flat

Retail Price: $520 (Currently available at Amazon.com for $141.75 at that discount its hard to pass up on this watch)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FR713RA/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=

While many of AVI-8s collections are extensive and diverse (the Hawker Harrier line has 33 references), the Lancaster Bomber stands out as the exception. They have just done one design in five different dial/case/band variations. The Lancaster Bomber was an iconic warplane for the RAF and unquestionably the most legendary of the British fleet during WWII. It holds a similar place in aviation history as the Boeing B-17 and B-29. They were the “flying fortresses” that won the war

AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Feature   AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Front

The presence on the wrist matches the grandeur of this aircraft. While it is smaller from lug-to-lug than the Hawker Hurricane reviewed above, it feels and wears noticeably larger. The crown proudly displays the logo and the colors of the RAF, which is a small but fantastic detail on the watch. Its hands are very much like those found on aviation instruments and setting the time feels like setting a gauge in a cockpit (in a good way.) They recapture the distinctive “bubble” underneath the cockpit with a pronounced date magnifier, and add an interesting “riveted” side to the case. All together it is a very well thought out and executed tribute to the aircraft it is based off of.

AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber "rivets" AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber RAF Crown

There are only two things that I found issue with on this watch. Firstly, the disproportion between the date magnifier and the date window is slightly off-putting. Secondly, such a legendary aircraft tribute should have a movement to match. Quartz seems to detract from the image of the Lancaster Bomber. Other than that it is a very nicely designed piece that is definitively not a dress watch and definitively not a casual sports watch. It is a watch that would go very well with a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Dial AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Back AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Side 2

Retail Price: $320

After handling and wearing some of their watches I think AVI-8 is a brand with great promise. Their watches are unique, well conceived, and well executed. They stand out against the backdrop of the myriad of other watch companies competing in the “fashion” watch market that they do. The one thing I really wish they had was better movements. At the end of the day, the meticulous design detail that they put into their pieces is not matched by the quality of movements they utilize. Fortunately that is something one can add in due time. You can always add better movements to great designs, and with AVI-8 the combination of their design acumen with a high quality ébauche would make these truly amazing pieces. An ETA would change the class of these watches entirely. Wether or not this is a place they want to go, I am unsure, but they have an attention to detail that appears to be unmatched in the market segment they compete in, and they would be more than qualified to make the step from fashion to collectible. I for one am hoping they choose to fly into that stratosphere, and will certainly keep an eye on what they keep churning out.

14 comments on “Review: AVI-8 Watches

  1. Wow, after reading this I clicked right over to Amazon and ordered the Hawker Hurricane Auto. Less that $150, a steal as you said. I can’t wait for its arrival. Keep up the good work, I love reading about it.

  2. Well, I’ve had my Avi-8 Hawker Hurricane for a few days now, and I’m not as excited as I thought I’d be. You were absolutely right about the size of the date window.. I really have to squint! It wears larger than I imagined as well, a bit too big on my wrist. But most disappointingly, the movement in mine (model AV 4107 02) is NOT a Miyota, rather some Chinese generic (referred to as DG-3809-3D). The AVI-8 website simply calls it an automatic movement, but on Amazon (whence I ordered it) calls it clearly “Japanese Automatic”. That being said, for $141 delivered, I still think it is a good deal and I’ll be wearing it, the strap is quite good quality, as is the case.

    • aberlow says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and write your opinions on it! I am sorry that you are not as happy with it as I was. That is the sometimes unfortunate nature of watches and why there is such an amazing and diverse community of collectors. The more opinions that are available, the better equipped people are to make their purchasing decisions.

      As far as the movement, you are completely right and that was a huge rookie mistake I made! I had the Flyboy which has Miyota inscribed on the rotor, and then saw “Japanese Automatic” on Amazon, and so I erroneously connected the two and assumed this was also a Miyota. The error has been corrected in the review. Thank you so much for pointing it out! I look forward to your final opinion after some more time on the wrist.

  3. Some of their models do have Miyota movements, the instruction booklet included with the Hawker Hurricane includes instructions for all their models, listed by movement. So the Flyboy may be a Miyota.

    • aberlow says:

      Yeah, the combination between knowing the Flyboy had a Miyota and that amazon listed it as a Japanese automatic contributed to me making an incorrect assumption.

  4. […] reading this review on the marvelous AMBwatches Blog I rushed over to Amazon and purchased the AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane […]

  5. Mark says:

    I too bought one of these after reading your review. It hasn’t arrived yet, but looking forward to it. Will let you know what I think when it arrives.

  6. Sue hastings says:

    Nice watch. Can you help I hve an AVI-8 sport,

  7. Adam Nair says:

    Hmm, a thoroughly beautiful watch. Shame that it isn’t Miyota – would have been tempted to buy it if it was.

  8. […] or Thailand, but not a cheap Chinese movement like you might be thinking of. HOWEVER, I did find this review where the reviewer thought it was a Miyota but dug into it more and DID find it was a cheap Chinese […]

  9. Don says:

    Received Lancaster Bomber watch for Christmas. Thrilled with the finish, RAF on bezel, hand lumination lasts the whole night. Strap flawless. Even side case riveting detail. No complaints, lots of pleasure to view on wrist. Don’t really care re movement, China, Japan, Switzerland if it works who cares you don’t see movement anyway. If paused in thought, don’t hesitate as to looks, price and pride in ownership.
    Don s.

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