Aviation watches. These seem to be one of the more popular styles of watches, second perhaps only to dive watches (this is solely based on the types of watches I’ve had crossing my desk for reivew, not any empirical data). So, then, it seems only appropriate that a new watch brand would take that to heart. So much, in fact, that they’ve wrapped it right up in their name: AVI-8. Today, we’ll get into their history a bit, and then dive into a hands-on review of one of their Flyboy models.
As I mentioned, AVI-8 is a very new brand on the scene, having just started up fairly recently over in the UK – which may explain why you haven’t heard of them before. Now, on to the watch. The Flyboy shows it’s aviation cues in a few different ways (and not just its name). For starters, the whole dial itself presents as a gauge of sorts, complete with the compass (or perhaps horizon) lines dividing the dial into quarters. Second, the style of the hands should be familiar to anyone who’s spent some time looking at aviation watches – they’re practically a standard. Though, that seconds hand is a bit of a departure. Not so much the red tip, but the fact you have a stylized airplane showing up there.
Finally, of course, I’m going to pin the strap, which is a leather NATO, on the aviation history. Or, more specifically, military history. I don’t know that I’ve seen many (or any, for that matter) aviator watches attached to a NATO strap, but the move makes sense. Aviation watches have many ties to military pilots, and it’s conceivable that a NATO strap would have been put to use in that scenario.
Then there are the other cues that are not aviation-specific. For instance, the general shape of the 42mm stainless steel case is simple and straightforward. Combined with the coin edge crown, and you’re definitely calling to mind an earlier era in watches, in terms of the style being presented. The simple three-hander (plus date) layout also is a calling to mind a simpler time in watches. While many aviator watches might add in things like chronographs and slide rule bezels, here, AVI-8 keeps it clean. While this may not be fully true to it’s roots, I think for us non-pilots, it’s a welcome direction.
With it’s fairly thin leather NATO and weight of 74g, this is a watch that wears very comfortably; between the generously-sized handset and the large indices at the cardinal points of the dial, telling time at a glance is a snap. The date display is a tad on the smaller side (especially when you get out of the single-digit days), but it’s still functional. Given that the overall color pallet of the dial is black and white, the white date wheel isn’t as jarring, but a reverse color scheme would of course elevate things a bit.
And while that strap is a comfortable one, I do want to call attention to it’s thinness. While I’ve become less of a fan of the double-thick leather straps that we’ve been seeing from more brands (and makers), this particular strap goes in the opposite direction (calling it paper-thin would seem appropriate). It just doesn’t seem to fit the general feel of the watch. Yes, it’s leather, but being as thin as it is, it just seems, well, cheap. Now, it could be that long term, it’s perfectly functional. For me, though, I’d be tempted to swap it out immediately for a nylon NATO, or a more traditional leather strap.
All of this is powered by a Miyota 8215 automatic, so reliability (and serviceability) should not be a concern. Of course, that’s always something to keep in mind with the new brands, especially when mechanical watches are involved. Regardless of what may happen with the company down the line, if you’ve got a known quantity with the movement, then your local watch shop shouldn’t have any problem keeping it in top shape for you. I will note that, if you’re particularly sensitive to rotor noise, this is one of the noisier Miyota automatics I’ve run across, I’m guessing due to case design.
At an asking price of $620, this is certainly not the most affordable Miyota-driven timepiece we’ve seen here on the page. And, while the overall styling of the watch is certainly interesting on it’s own, I don’t know that its enough to stand out amongst the crowd that you’ll have at this pricepoint, or a touch higher. While there’s nothing glaringly wrong with the piece, there are just minor items that add up to a bigger question mark in my mind. Given the styling and the movement, I did really want to like this piece more than I did.
Once you put the higher price onto the piece as well, then it’s really becoming less likely that this is a watch I’d recommend. The basic design is there, and I think it’s a good one. I think if they refine it a bit (damping down that rotor noise), swap in a sturdier strap, and get the price under $400, then we’ll have a contender. It’s an interesting outing for this young brand, but I think the Flyboy is one model that needs to return to base for some time in the hangar.
If you’re like me and are curious what else AVI-8 has in store for us, keep an eye out – we’ll have reviews from their Hawker Harrier collection coming up as well. avi-8.co.uk
- Brand & Model: AVI-8 Flyboy
- Price: $620
- Who’s it for?: Someone looking for a simple three-hander with subtle aviation cues
- Would I wear it?: Very likely, but after changing the strap out
- What I’d change: Damping the rotor noise, and getting the price down
- The best thing about it: The dial and handset are just about perfect in terms of legibility and proportions to one another
If you’d like to see what Ariel Adams from aBlogtoWatch had to think about the watch, check out this video review: