The Royal Air Force is celebrating its centenary in 2018 and what an impressive 100 years it has been for them. What better brand to provide tribute other than AVI-8. AVI-8 isn’t your typical watchmaker in that they are storytellers before they are designers.
The centenary edition is an ode to the ‘Flyboys’, who were the driving force behind the success of the Royal Air Force. The watches will all be themed according to different time periods, these being: 1920s, 1940s, 1960s and the 1980s. There is however a catch, they are limited editions and stock will not be replaced after the early birds have picked up their favorite editions. These watches are, by nature, destined to fly off the shelves so don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The narrative follows a timeline which sees the editions released periodically through 2018, starting of course with the 1920s and working its way through the different eras.
Each of these editions are also featured in a silver, blue and black dial so that you have the flexibility to go with your preference.
The 1920 edition is a celebration of the birth of the ‘flyboys’. They established themselves as the young warriors of the sky, barely out of secondary school, who mastered the challenging biplanes of that era. The timepieces try to mimic some of the memories of the original pieces of those eras but with a modern twist. This edition was inspired by the RAF roundel found on the tail. An interesting move was using a ‘0’ at the 12 o’clock position and I must say I quite like it. I don’t believe they are trying to set a trend but instead rather doing something a bit different and it is refreshing. It also has a nifty little pumpkin crown which looks and feels so well suited to this throwback piece.
If you have seen any images inside the cockpits of the planes that bravely fought in the battle of Britain this dial might look familiar because it was based on the target lock of the Hurricane planes. These dials looked a bit different because they used the minute intervals as their visible numbers. The reason for this is because of the need for a quick and accurate look at time when gauging fuel or during coordination of flight plans which required precision. You will find some other features that accentuate the appreciation of precision such as the arrow above the 12 o’clock and the sword shaped hands for more precise indication of time.
You might say that the 1960s edition is a bit more adventurous in terms of aesthetics. The dial features a reference to the RAF roundel on the Hawk Hunter that isn’t quite as subtle as the 1920s relation to the biplane of the time. There is a clear target on the watch at 10 o’clock and it also has a small dial that resembles the look of a target as well. The 1960s also has the ‘0’ at the traditionally 12 o’clock position. Something that has grown on me the more time I spend looking at this timepiece is the strap; it is unassuming but exquisite. It really looks like a watch that would’ve been worn in this era all those years ago apart from the modern design of the case and dial.
The 1980s edition was modelled after the instrument panel in the Hawker Harrier II. True to the narrative the design takes us back a few decades. This time we see the 0 o’clock make its appearance with only the 6 o’clock as the other hour marker displayed. An interesting appendage to this piece is the use of Cordura Fabric as the strap. This fabric is military grade and renowned for its durability. Looking at this piece gives you a sense of what ‘flyboy’ bravado might look like combined with advanced technology in terms of the fabric.
All these editions are reliably powered by the Miyota movement so they tick along as expected. My favorite aspect of these timepieces has to be the dials. They have been given such careful attention to make sure they stick to their themes. The different color dials are a nice option to have but if you are looking for the closest relation to the pieces that the ‘flyboys’ carried with them all those years ago the black dial is perfect. All of the lenses are fitted with a sapphire crystal to keep them looking pristine through years of use and they all feature LumiNova hands so that you can see clearly when the light starts to fade.
For about $ 350 you can pick up one of these limited editions that are almost certainly not going to remain in stock for very long and you are not just buying this piece for its novelty but rather for its excellent design.