The last Gavox watches we took a look at were a couple of really cool, kind of different, Marine style pieces. Powered by Miyota automatics with price tags under $500, they were very compelling. Following up these pieces, Gavox has gone a pretty different direction, from a fun and playful take on something classic, to a serious attempt at a military pilot’s watch.
What immediately sets the new Squadron watches apart from others in the stylistic vein, is that they were made at the request of the Belgian Air Force and designed to their specifications. A total of 65 watches were made an issued to Air Force pilots, 15 for 15th Wing in Melsbroek and 50 for the 350th squadron at Florenne. These watches are distinguished by the special emblems on their dials. Checkout this great gallery of images of Belgian Air Force Pilots with their Gavox Squadrons.
The civilian version of the watch lack an emblem and is an edition of 500. Design-wise, they clearly speak to a lineage of European military pilots watches, but with modern twists that make it its own watch. They feature Ronda quartz movements, sapphire crystals and either a brushed or PVD finish. Coming in a $396 and $430 (excluding VAT), finish depending, they are a interesting budget-minded entry to modern pilot’s chronographs.
Gavox Squadron Review
Movement: Ronda 5130.D
Dial: Matte Black
Water Res.: 10bar
Dimensions: 41 x 50.9mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 7 x 3.5 mm
Warranty: 2 years
Price: $396 – $430
The Gavox Squadron has a no-fuss case design with strong, thick lugs for a modern military feel. Measuring 41 x 50.9 x 12mm, it’s well sized for a practical sport watch, being smaller than pilot watches often are, but well proportioned. The bezel also adds a bit of extra width and a bold detail that makes it appear a bit larger. The long, stout lugs give the case a very aggressive posture, which speaks to the military aircrafts they were designed to be worn in. Further emphasizing this rugged detail are the flat head screws that cut through the sides of the lugs.
The Squadron features a 120 click, uni-direction bezel. The mechanism is quite stiff, giving it a nice rigid feel when not in use and no back play. That said, it’s a bit tough to turn at first, but I think it will likely soften up with use a bit. Most importantly, it lands on the mark. Within the bezel is a sapphire crystal with very good AR coating.
On the right side of the case are the chrono pushers and a screwdown crown. The pushers are plunger style with large top surfaces for easy pushing. The crown is well sized for the case, measuring 7 x 3.5 mm, giving it a wide and flat profile. It has a simple but effective grooving on the side for grip, and the Gavox “G” logo on the flat side. The case-back is a solid steel screw-down plate with various details and markings including the edition number and a Fahrenheit/Celsius conversion scale. It’s a bit of an odd detail for a case-back, but it looks cool and uses up empty space.
The finishing on the two models are quite different, but both well executed. The steel model has a very even satin brushing, giving the watch an attractive sheen. While not fancy, it is well done, with no gaps or unevenness, and the edges are all sharp. The matte PVD looks great too, giving the watch a much more sinister look. It also makes the bezel feel wider as the insert and the steel edge blend together.
The dial of the Squadron immediately calls to mind classic military pilot’s chronographs, such as the Breguet Type XX or the Sinn 103. This makes sense as the Squadron, as an issued watch for the Belgian Air force, falls into this lineage. The surface of the dial is matte black, with all markers in white. The primary index consists of large arabic numerals in a very clear typeface, some of which get cut off by the sub-dials within. At 4, instead of a numeral, is an angled date window, revealing the black on white date disk. Since it’s substituting the 4, the window maintains the balance and symmetry of the dial.
Things get much busier and more complex as you move into the sub-dials, which display a lot of information. The dial at 2.5 is the active seconds for the watch. It has a classic design to it with small markers and numerals at 20, 40 and 60. The sub-dial at 9.5 then has all of the chrono functions, with a stacked hour and minute dial. The 30-minute counter is the outer ring and the top hand, so when the chrono isn’t running, it looks like a single hand. Under, is a small orange arrow, that indicates the hours up to 12. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s not hard to read once you are used to it.
The sub-dial at 6 is the most unexpected element of the watch, the alarm dial. Here, you have a 12-hour index with markers every half and hour. The two hands pointing to the hour and minute of the next alarm. While I would have loved to see a second time-zone dial here, the alarm is an interesting addition, one that was requested by the Belgian Airforce. Whether or not you use it, when combined with the other sub-dials, creates a very technical, instrument-looking watch, which clearly works with a modern pilot.
The bezel insert is matte black with indented markers, showing the metal beneath. The index consists numerals every 5 minutes with small dots and squares marking the individual minutes and a triangle at 0/60. There is no lume on the bezel, which is typical for non-diver bezels. It would be nice to have an option of a 12-hour bezel for a second time zone.
The hands on the Squadron closely resemble that of the Sinn 103, with white syringe style hour and minute hands, and a chrono seconds with a diamond tip, all lume filled. That said, they look great on the watch and suit the design well. The sub-dials have similar hands, save the active seconds which is a thin stick. The only outlier is the orange arrow hand for the chronograph hours, which adds a pleasant moment of color. The lume on the primary index and in all of the hands glows an acidic green. Though not as bright as a diver with a lot of lume, I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of what is present.
Powering the Squadron is the Ronda 5130.D quartz chronograph movement with alarm function. It also is a metal construction, 13 or 6 jewels (version depending), a battery life of approximately 48 months and an acuracy of -10/ +20 sec/month. As discussed the movement has a plethora of functions, for a total of 8 hands. The standout function is really the alarm, as that is fairly atypical, albeit not a function I often look for in a wrist watch.
Using the movement is pretty straightforward, with some additional controls for setting the alarm. The chronograph operates in a standard fashion; the pusher at 2 starts and stops it while the pusher at 4 resets. It also capable of split/lap timing. With the crown pulled into first position, one can set the date by turning the crown clockwise. In the second position the time can be set via the crown and the alarm time can be set via the chrono pushers. Pushing and holding a pusher will cycle quickly through the time, while single pumps will progress the alarm minute by minute. Once set, and the crown is pushed back in, the alarm is turned on and off via quickly pushing the reset chrono pusher, while the chrono is not in use.
Honestly, it takes a few tried to figure out the alarm setting as it seems to have alarms for both twelve hour periods. I also somehow kept setting off the alarm at random times by trying to turn it on and off. After some playing around I think I got the hang of it… maybe. One other thing to note about this movement as that do to the stacked hour and minute chrono hands, the reset time can be very long, as they have to cycle through the full 12-hours to reset.
Straps and Wearability
The Squadrons come mounted on 20mm solid steel non-tapering bracelets with solid end-links. It’s a nicely made and finished bracelet with a classic 3-link design and some serious heft. On the steel model, the bracelet has a nice even satin brushing, while on the PVD model it is all matte black. One very nice touch is that on the PVD, they actually plate the links individually, rather than the whole bracelet at once. What you get is a solid black, even between the links. Often on PVD bracelets, the surfaces between are bare, which can be ugly.
The bracelets feel good and work with the look of the watch. The end-links fit the long lugs perfectly, though they extend past them, adding some length to the watch. That said, they curve down with the lugs at just the right angle to conform to the shape of the wrist. My only issue with the bracelets are the pins that hold the links in. They are push through pins with a sleeve in the center link that hold them in place. It’s extremely hard to get them out, and even harder to get them back in properly.
Given the long lugs, the Squadron easily takes to other straps as well, especially NATOs. I tried it on an olive drab nylon and it looked great. The NATO brought out some of the more aggressive elements of the case as well as the military feel of the dial. This is likely how I’d wear it most of the time.
On the wrist, the Squadron wears very well. It clings to the wrist, with a low-sleek profile that gives it a more modern and tactical feel than the watches it resembles. Though it is long, I found that the curvature of the watch made it suit my 7″ wrist. On the bracelet, which I sized pretty tight, it felt like a piece of stealth wrist armor.
Though the watch isn’t very large, it really looks tough, intense and rugged. There is a lot going on with both the dial and the bezel, with rarely a quiet moment. This makes it very sporty and masculine. As such, I’d wear it much like a tool diver, airing on the side of casual clothing, changing the strap per the season.
The Gavox Squadron watches really succeed at achieving the look and the toughness of a military chronograph. The fact they were actually designed for and with the influence of Belgian Air Force personnel, gives them added authenticity, reinforcing the aesthetic. While I think I personally would prefer other complications than an alarm, I appreciate that it’s what was specified. Also, if that is something one wants in their watch, this is probably the nicest option out there.
At $396 and $430, the price is pretty good for such a robust watch, though verging on the upper limit for a quartz. They are sturdy, strong and clearly built to last. On top of that, they really are quite cool looking, with a sleek, sporty presence. So, if you’re looking for a pilot chronograph that doesn’t break the bank and has a real military backstory, the Gavox Squadron is worth considering.