AVI-8 have been a name for themselves with bold, stylish designs in watches offered at accessible price points. They’ve added some incredible watches to their stable this year, and for Windup, we’re taking a closer look at two of them. You won’t believe the level of detail found in these watches, which work to push the pilot watch theme to new heights.
AV-4074-XV741 BLUE NYLON LIMITED EDITION
AVI-8 are known for producing value-packed watches heavily inspired by aviation, and the Hawker Harrier XV741 Blue Nylon Automatic Limited Edition is certainly no exception. The watch shares similarities with the ‘Blue Nylon’ Retrograde Chronograph released last year but now features an automatic movement and even more details inspired by the Hawker Siddeley Harrier aircraft.
The Blue Nylon Automatic LE commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Air Race which was held in 1969; the race itself marking the 50th anniversary of the very first Trans-Atlantic flight by Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown. The winners of the 1969 Air Race would be the fastest to travel between London and New York, and the RAF took the opportunity to participate with the Hawker Harrier and show off its revolutionary vertical/short take-off and landing (VSTOL) ability. Squadron Leader Tom Lecky-Thompson flew the Hawker Harrier XV741 from London to New York in a time of 6 hours and 11 minutes as part of operation “Blue Nylon”.
The partly skeletonised dial of this limited edition XV741 watch includes many small touches that commemorate both the aircraft and the Trans-Atlantic Air Race, but perhaps the most significant part (literally) is the piece of aluminium fuselage present inside the 0/12 o’clock marker. Other unique aspects of the watch include the sub-dials for the seconds display and 24 hour register. Instead of a traditional seconds hand, the sub-seconds dial features a rotating front-on outline of the Hawker Harrier which is outlined by a reference to 11.29 miles. At its fastest, the Hawker Harrier reached 0.89 Mach during the race, which equates to 11.29 miles per minute. There’s still more to be seen on the dial though – the 24 hour sub-dial register and red framing on the nine o’clock side takes inspiration from the instruments and shape of the Harrier cockpit.
Turning to the case, there are several other references to both the Air Race and to the Harrier on show. On either side of the case is etched the coordinates of the take-off and landing points of the race, London’s St Pancras station beside the crown (East) and New York’s Bristol Basin on the other side (West). The crown is also decorated with a monochrome version of an RAF Roundel. On the rear, the XV741 Blue Nylon Automatic features an exhibition back to show the custom rotor which takes the form of the turbine from the Harrier’s Rolls Royce Pegasus engine. Each watch will also include the unique serial number out of this limited run of 741 pieces etched on the back.
Aside from the obvious aviation themes running through the watch, the 44mm stainless steel case features a combination of brushed and polished surfaces with chamfered lugs, and all given a durable black coating. The height to the top of the anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal is 13.5mm, and lug width is 22mm. To add to the aggressive styling the bold hour and minute hands, as well as all indices, are coated with Swiss Luminova. Powering the watch is a Miyota automatic movement, beating at 21,600 bph. In addition to the rotor being visible through the display back, the oscillations of the balance wheel can also be seen from the front.
In keeping with the ‘Blue Nylon’ operation code name, the XV741 comes fitted with a blue leather and nylon strap, and also with an extra nylon and canvas cuff strap with Velcro fastening included in the package. The strap is also embossed with information to commemorate the Trans-Atlantic Air Race of 1969.
Many aviation themed watches only go so far, however it’s fair to say that this watch not only has the pedigree of a genuine artifact from Hawker Harrier XV741 in each one, but also incorporates many details from the Harrier and Air Race within a distinctive and modern design.
AV-4073-44 Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Edition
Another new release from AVI-8 sees a WWII era fighter aircraft act as inspiration for the Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Edition. The Supermarine Spitfire was an important RAF aircraft which played a large role in the Battle of Britain. Light and nimble, the smooth lines and large elliptical wings were designed for function more than form, but the iconic shape has become an enduring aspect of the aircraft. The Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Edition pays tribute to its namesake with flowing case lines and an instrument inspired dial.
The profile of the 42mm case seeks to invoke the flowing form of the Spitfire fighter, and this is most evident on the right hand side of the watch where the crown is flanked by two engraved ‘wings’. The rounded crown acts as the nose with the propeller represented by additional engraving on the case. The majority of the stainless steel case is given a brushed finish with the exception of polished chamfers running atop each lug. The relatively small fixed bezel gives way to a large and legible dial within.
Whereas the case looked to recreate the graceful silhouette of the Supermarine Spitfire, the dial draws on the instruments from inside the cockpit. In particular, the aircraft’s air speed indicator used two different sets of markings as the needle moved round the dial more than one full revolution. Internal and external sets of markings on different tracks are echoed here with an alternating combination of small hour indices for the even numbers, and large five-minute markers elsewhere. Despite an interesting mixture of hour and minute numerals, the dial remains legible thanks largely to the bold handset. The large sword style hour hand is typical for a pilot watch, but the modified syringe style minute hand is another very direct link back to that cockpit gauge.
Like many watches from AVI-8, the depth and layers of the dial are important to the dial. The large minute markers sit proudly above the outer section of the dial, while the centre section of the dial and the seconds sub-dial offer additional depth, sitting slightly beneath. The bold hands and large indices offer low-light readability with Swiss SuperLuminova.
Powering the Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Edition is an automatic movement from Miyota’s 8218 series, which beats at 21,60 bph and offers a date window at the three o’clock position and an off-centre seconds sub-dial rather than a central second hand. Sapphire crystal is fitted on both of the watch and the back, where the custom rotor takes the form of the Spitfire aircraft viewed from above.
Several different colorways are available, and each watch comes fitted with stainless steel bracelet with an additional leather strap included. The deep blue dial variant is accompanied by highly legible white hands and indices, and a contrasting orange leather strap offers versatility. The black dial is combined with vintage colored lume and is either accompanied by a black leather strap, or a fully PVD case and bracelet version with a deep, rich burgundy strap. The final variant is a cool all gray combination with a sharp combination of black and white appearing on the dial. The brushed stainless steel bracelet measures 22mm at the lugs, tapering down to 18mm at the flip lock clasp.
Like many watches from AVI-8, the inevitable aviation link is at the forefront of the design. In the case of the Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Edition it’s the distinctive dial markings and minute hand that draw the eye, but the influence of the Spitfire fighter in the case design should not be overlooked.
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