Today, we’ll be taking a look at some more watches from the new brand AVI-8. In our last review on an AVI-8 piece, we covered their background, so we won’t need to rehash that here. Instead, we’ll jump right on in to the review. Well, actually, it will be three reviews in one, as we’ve got three different models from their Hawker Harrier II lineup on-hand.
Before we get to the watches, it’s worth mentioning the plane that the collection takes it’s name from – the Hawker Harrier. The original Hawker Harrier was an experimental bi-plane built to specs the RAF issued in the 1920s. The Harrier you’re more likely familiar with is the the “jump jet” Harrier. Regardless of the era, both of these planes were on the cutting edge for their time. So, do the watches follow that same mold?
The first watch in this round-up will be their AV-4006-01 model, which presents the most unique take on time-telling, and is driven by a Miyota 2034. Rather than relying on a standard set of hands, it instead has two overlapping discs that read out the hours (at 6 o’clock) and minutes (at 12 o’clock) via a gauge-like display layout (more on that in a minute). This means that the outer track with it’s numerals is solely used by the seconds hands. I suppose that gives you some sense of precision, but I’m guessing not many would be tracking to that level, and not be using a chronograph.
The gauge layout is initially quite visually interesting, and it is very eye-catching. For my tastes, though, it’s just a touch off-balance. It’s symmetrical side-to-side, of course, but it ends up feeling a bit “bottom heavy”. Additionally, though you have a fairly large stainless steel case (44mm), the time is trickier to read than you might expect. A lot of that, of course, is due to needing to pick out where the dials have spun to against their respective red indicators. It’s not what I’d call difficult – it just takes getting used to. I imagine if you wore it daily for some time, I imagine it would become second nature. On the other hand, if you’re like me and swapping around between watches with traditional handsets, this could be more of a hurdle.
Once you’re staring at the dial, you’ll notice there’s a good bit of texture and dimensionality to it. The central gauge cluster has an almost herring-bone finish on it, which is then offset by the plain black dial. This is then offset again by the cutouts you see around the outer edge of the dial, where a matte texture shows up (perhaps a good spot for some dark lume to be applied in future iterations). Even without the lume, however, this does add some variety to the surface of the dial, just as the alternating brushed/polished surfaces does for the case.
Wearing the watch is a fairly comfortable affair. It’s relatively light-weight (76g), and the strap, while initially a bit stiff, conforms to the wrist quite easily. I will note, this strap is not for those with smaller wrists. Even with my 7.25″ wrist, I was at the second-from-smallest notch on it. While this likely calls to mind when watches were being strapped to the outside of bomber jackets, there is the more pressing (and modern) concern of how they fit on the wrist. For those with bigger wrists, though, this is a nice bonus for you – a longer strap with no upcharge – something surprising for a piece that comes in at $320 (or a much friendlier sub-$100 price over at Amazon).
Next up from the collection we’ve got the AV-4001-04 which presents us a more familiar way to read the time, as well as adding in a chronograph complication courtesy of the Time Module VD57 movement. Though the cases look quite similar, here, the dimensions have shrunk a little bit, with the diameter coming in at 42mm. And though we don’t have the large gauge cluster as on the previous watch, they’ve still managed a bit of a dashboard feel with this model, with integrated rings around the chronograph 1/10th and seconds registers (12 and 6 o’clock).
Even with those rings, the dials registers blend into the main dial fairly well, as their hands pick up the same dark red from the plane-tipped main seconds hand. Speaking up, that main hand is indeed for the time (which is a shift from many chronographs). The chronograph minutes dial itself has no ring, so it too can blend in. Surprisingly, though, they’ve gone with the same “vintage beige” coloration for that hand, which does make it stand out more. I think here, another red hand would have made a more cohesive design statement.
With the rest of the dial, we’ve got the same cutouts around the outer edge as we did with the previous model, adding some dimensionality. You get some additional variety in that respect from the applied numerals, both large and small, as well as the indices. This all combines with the textured finish of the dial for a quite nice look. The one more jarring bit of this particular dial is the date wheel. It’s the standard black on white, which doesn’t blend well with the green/beige of the dial. While I realize that this makes the wheel work for more color options in their lineup, I would like to see some way of blending this in a bit better.
In regular wear, the 80g watch was quite comfortable. The longer strap (I had it set at the second notch on my 7.25″ wrist) was quite comfortable, and gives an interesting feel. While it’s note quite suede, it’s approaching that texture, which gives it softer look and feel. The chronograph pushers are on the smaller side, which keeps them unobtrusive, while remaining perfectly functional. Those functions themselves work as advertised, with the Japanese quartz movement.
It is an interesting chronograph layout, I have to say. Not so much in the layout itself, but what the dials indicate. I’ve not seen very many watches that feature a 1/10th of a second indicator, along with the main seconds hand not being utilized for the chronograph. On the first point, it’s interesting to see the hand spin around, but the scale is a little confusing. It looks like it’s a 1/100th scale, but when you watch it, you see that it’s making one revolution every two seconds – which leads to it being a 1/10th indicator.
As to the main seconds hand not being used for the chronograph, I think it works well for this particular watch. It keeps all of the sub-dials dedicated to chronograph time keeping, which is a nice effect. Yes, you do lose some of the accuracy you might otherwise expect from picking out the seconds from the main dial, but I think the two seconds registers more than make up for it, Though, those two are a little bit odd in that their “zero” points are not at the 12 o’clock position (they’re at 3 and 1). While this doesn’t impact functionality, it does make you think you forgot to reset the chronograph.
All in all, this is a fairly competent quartz chronograph, and the asking price of $450 seems on the higher edge reasonable (which makes the $128 over at Amazon for the bracelet model even more attractive). In this model, the aviation cues are not quite as prevalent, with them being limited to the narrow handset used, and the plane-tipped seconds hand. Even with just those few cues, the watch is cohesive to the collection itself with the remainder of the design, which is good to see. It’s ultimately giving you a lot of variety within the collection (aside from color changes) that allow you to pick up the exact look you want.
With that, we’re brought to the third watch from the Harrier Hawk collection that we had in for review, which quickly became my favorite of the bunch, the AV-4003-01. For me, this model was the most true to the aviation-watch “theme” – you’ve got a larger handset, the arrow (plus dots on either side) at the 12 o’clock position, and even a riveted strap, which really completes the look. My favorite feature on this watch, however, is the day-of-week indicator – something made possible by the Time Module VX43 E11C movement.
If you look just right of the centerline of the dial, you’ll see that each day is listed out. Next to it is a small pip, which indicates with a red dot what day it particularly is. While this is certainly not the most compact way to indicate the day of the week, it’s one of the most unique that I’ve seen, and I much prefer it to some other non-window options that are out there. To pick up those proportions, the AV-4003-01 also has a larger handset (it looks very similar to what we saw in the Flyboy review) spinning under the domed crystal, which makes reading the watch a snap.
I think the larger numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock also help to “distract” from the off-center day display – by making them visually much larger, they carry much more weight, and center your focus on the watch. Which is interesting, given that you basically end up with a sideways tee spltting up the dial – you’d expect a much more unbalanced feel. Here, though, it works. It also helps in some ways to hide the date display, which is nice – I like them to disappear until I’m actively looking for the date. Oh, and lest you think you’ve got an aviator watch on your wrist, they’ve got the dotted triangle up at 12, as well as a riveted strap.
This Buffalo strap was another quite interesting one. It was quite soft to the touch, and had a sort of a matte finish to it. This I think gives the watch a good bit more flexibility, allowing the watch to head from the office to the weekend without any issue. While not quite as pliable as the other straps in this collection that we tested, it just plain had a good feel too it – sturdy without being overly thick. It just complements the overall feel I pick up from this 70g watch – competence, with a little dash of polish thrown in to liven things up a bit. Simply put, that’s a sharp combo of appellations when you’ve got a watch coming in at $290. I wasn’t able to find the exact model over at Amazon, but I did find a similar one for under $100 – so if this one hits, you can expect a similar price cut.
All in all, the Hawker Harrier II collection from AVI-8 has quite an interesting mix of models and prices for you to work with. While I had my own favorite from the bunch, I’m sure there’s likely one that would catch your eye from the wider collection (here; here is Amazon’s full listing) should your tastes not quite align with mine. Whichever the model, you’ll get a watch with 50m WR (so it’s a decent everyday watch) with a modern take on the aviation watches of the past. I wonder what they’ll do for a supersonic collection…
- Brand & Model: AVI-8 Hawker Harrier II
- Price: $290 – $450 (MSRP)
- Who’s it for?: The person who’s a fan of aviation, and perhaps, specifically, the Hawker Harrier II
- Would I wear it?:
- AV-4006-01: most likely not, as the disc-style method of time keeping just doesn’t sit well with me
- AV-4001-04: perhaps, though I find myself moving away from chronographs more and more
- AV-4003-01: Absolutely. This one is is rather unique, and still readable
- What I’d change:
- AV-4006-01: Perhaps make the minute dial a touch taller for ease of reading
- AV-4001-04: This one is crying out for lume on the hands/numerals/indices
- AV-4003-01: Lume on the indices
- The best thing about it: The collection as a whole is very affordable, and presents a wide range of styles, meaning there’s likely one that would fit your particular tastes.