Pilot watches are some of the most sought-after watches today. Their robust efficiency and functionality in the aviation industry contribute to the increasing chamber of pilot watch enthusiasts around the globe. Truly, any watch collection is incomplete without a pilot watch. That said, a lot of pilot watches can come at a very expensive price, falling outside the budget of most folks. This is where AVI-8 enters the picture.
The roster of AVI-8 watches holds its own against its competitors, thanks in large part to its affordable prices. Sure, AVI-8 watches may not be as popular as other brands for pilot watches like IWC’s Pilot collection or the Pilot lineup from Zenith, but they are a great, reliable alternative for buyers on a tight budget. With prices kept firmly under $500 USD, what more can you ask for from such affordable but durable pilot watches?
But first of all, what exactly are AVI-8 watches? Stick around as we find out.
AVI-8 Watches: Your Guide to the Skies
Stylized as “AVI-8”, the brand’s name is actually meant to be pronounced as “aviate”. This is a run and clever way to name the brand, while also referencing what its watches are all about: aviation.
Established in the year 2012, AVI-8 is a UK watch brand that offers a wide variety of pilot watches with different designs. This ten-year-old watch brand proudly pays homage to various historical planes with its timepieces. It also serves as a tribute to the heroic airmen who have piloted these machines. As such, an AVI-8 timepiece is not just an ordinary pilot watch in itself. Instead, each AVI-8 watch tells the story of a particular historical aircraft. This rich heritage gives the AVI-8 watches a certain historical value within the aviation industry.
The Hawker Hurricane collection is AVI-8’s most popular lineup for its pilot watches. It references the Hawker Hurricane which was a British fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force during World War II. The Hawker Hurricane aircraft were manufactured between the 1930s and 1940s, acquiring its due fame for being one of the keys to defeating the German air force.
The Hawker Hurricane watch collection consists of classic pilot watches with lovely vintage designs. The timepieces in this series are offered with either a leather strap or a stainless steel bracelet. They also come with features such as Arabic numeral hour markers, long indices, tachymeter scales, and chronograph layouts. In particular, the Hawker Hurricane Classic Chronograph is especially useful for aviators or anyone who plans on going on an adventure through the skies.
The Hawker Harrier lineup shows off a totally different vibe from the Hawker Hurricane. The pilot watches in this collection simply ooze sophistication, with complex skeletal dials that show off the inner mechanisms of each Hawker Harrier timepiece. Through these skeletal dials, you can admire the different gears that keep the Hawker Harrier ticking. The design of the Hawker Harrier watches especially resembles that of the Oris Big Crown Propilot X.
This collection is inspired by the Harrier Jump Jet, which was first used in the 1960s. The inner mechanisms of the Hawker Harrier are inspired by the engines of the Rolls Royce Pegasus that powered the Harrier Jump Jet, hence the unique design of the Hawker Harrier’s skeletal dial. The pilot watches in this series have case diameters that range from 44mm to 45mm. They are well-suited for those with large wrists, or people who enjoy wearing extra-large timepieces.
Home to exceptionally rugged and impressive pilot watches, the Hawker Hunter watch collection pays homage to the British fighter aircraft of the same name. This aircraft is famous for being the first plane to beat the world’s airspeed record back in 1953. In addition, the sub-collections in the Hawker Hunter series also reference the important mechanical components of the aircraft, along with the legendary aviator responsible for breaking the world’s airspeed record. In line with that, there are three sub-collections in the Hawker Hunter lineup: Avon, Retrograde, and Duke.
Like the Hawker Harrier, the Hawker Hunter Avon timepieces boast complex skeletal dials that show off the Japanese automatic movements powering them. The Hawker Hunter Duke and Retrograde models are chronograph models. Each Duke and Retrograde watch can be distinguished using the large crown on the right side of its case, along with the two pushers that help control the timepiece’s chronograph functions.
Inspired by the fighter bomber used by the US Air Force, the P-51 Mustang series comprises a seemingly explosive array of pilot watches. This line consists of four sub-collections that celebrate important figures and parts of the P-51 aircraft: Hitchcock, Blakeslee, Jubilee, and Patriot.
The Hitchcock and Blakeslee models are notable for their multilayered dials, which are designed to resemble the body of the P-51 Mustang military aircraft. The watches from the Jubilee and Patriot series, on the other hand, are inspired by the cockpit and aviation elements of the aircraft respectively. Every watch in the P-51 Mustang series is protected by a layer of sapphire crystal, ensuring that they are just as tough as the P-51 Mustang aircraft itself. If you are into robust and extremely durable watches, then the AVI-8 P-51 Mustang watches are the perfect choice for you.
Lastly, we have the Spitfire collection, which is composed of watches that celebrate the Spitfire, a British fighter aircraft used during World War II. The pilot watches in this series are categorized into three sub-collections: Smith, Lock Chronograph, and Type 300 Automatic.
All of the watches in the Spitfire line showcase domed cases that mimic the elliptical structure of the Spitfire aircraft itself. Each watch also comes with a bulky crown located at 3 o’clock, with two pushers on either side that resemble the propellers of the historical aircraft. In addition, the AVI-8 Spitfire watches also show off an oversized hour and minute numerals that provide optimal legibility to their wearers. If you want a truly classic, vintage watch that bears a striking resemblance to a historical machine, then the AVI-8 Spitfire is the one to go for.
5 Best AVI-8 Watches
1. AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Classic Chronograph Classic White (Ref. AV-4011-01)
The first timepiece on our list of recommended AVI-8 watches is a timeless classic: the AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Classic Chronograph Classic White (Ref. AV-4011-01). This sleek pilot watch comes in a solid 42mm stainless steel case and a brown leather strap with white stitching. Thanks to its supple leather strap, this watch fits snugly on your wrist.
The plain white dial of this watch is furnished with large, bolded Arabic numeral markers, a small date window at 3 o’clock, a tachymeter scale, and three chronograph sub-dials. The 60-minute and 1/10th of a second counters show off gleaming, metallic sunray finishes that distinguish them from the rest of the dial, and the 60-minute counter in particular is decorated with blue and red accents. The 60-second sub-dial at 9 o’clock, on the other hand, boasts vibrant blue, red, and yellow tones, which stand out distinctly from the Hawker Hurricane’s black-and-white motif. Next to the date display, you can also find the printed image of a small Hawker Hurricane aircraft.
The back of this watch is sealed shut by a solid stainless steel caseback. This caseback is also engraved with a silhouette of the Hawker Hurricane aircraft, encapsulating what this timepiece is all about. A large crown and two pushers are located on the right side of the case and can be used to operate the mechanisms of this watch. In addition, it runs on a Japanese quartz movement, which is powered using a watch battery.
With its classy, quintessential looks, the AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Classic Chronograph Classic White is a versatile pilot watch that can easily double as a dress piece. This watch retails at just $210 USD.
2. AVI-8 P-51 Mustang Blakeslee Chronograph Legion (Ref. AV-4077-11)
Next on the list is the AVI-8 P-51 Mustang Blakeslee Chronograph Legion (Ref. AV-4077-11). This watch is presented in a 43mm stainless steel case that measures 13mm thick and a matching stainless steel bracelet, which adds to the watch’s robust look. Fixed on top of the case is a round bezel with a tachymeter scale that comes in handy when calculating speed.
As a celebration of Colonel Don Blakeslee, who is known for piloting the P-51 Mustang aircraft, this watch’s multilayered black dial is designed to mirror the frame of said aircraft. It comprises thick sword hands, oversized, hollow Arabic numeral hour markers, and rectangular applique indices that give the watch a unique, rugged look. The red accents scattered across the minute and second chronograph sub-dials, along with the vibrant red seconds hand, provide a sharp contrast to the watch’s mostly monochrome theme.
This watch is driven by a meca-quartz movement. This is a hybrid caliber that allows a plain quartz movement to take on certain characteristics of a mechanical caliber. Protecting the watch’s meca-quartz movement is a solid stainless steel caseback. The caseback is engraved with an image of the P-51 Mustang aircraft, adding to the aesthetic appeal of this watch.
If you are looking for an exceptionally robust and sporty pilot watch, the AVI-8 P-51 Mustang Blakeslee Chronograph Legion (Ref. AV-4077-11) is definitely worth considering. It costs around $315 USD.
3. AVI-8 Hawker Harrier Matador Chronograph Desert Brown (Ref. AV-4065-06)
If there is one word that can properly describe the AVI-8 Hawker Harrier Matador Chronograph Desert Brown (Ref. AV-4065-06), it is simply strange, but in a good way. As a tribute to the mighty Hawker Harrier aircraft, this AVI-8 watch is truly an odd-looking, almost avant-garde watch. This watch uses a bulky 45mm stainless steel case and a handsome brown leather strap. Surrounding the dial is a large, slanting internal tachymeter bezel, which is protected by a layer of scratch-resistant mineral crystal. On the right side of the case, you can also find two long piston-like pushers and a guarded crown.
The most interesting thing about this timepiece is its sophisticated skeletal dial, which is heavily inspired by the intricate engineering of the Hawker Harrier aircraft, with several layers of gears carefully arranged across the dial. This dial is also adorned with applique indices coated with muted yellow lume and luminous skeletal hands. As a chronograph watch, this timepiece comes with sub-dials for the 60-minute, 60-second, and 1/20th of a second counters, all of which are designed to resemble the gears of the engine that controls the Hawker Harrier aircraft. Finally, a big date complication is also located at 12 o’clock.
Flipping the AVI-8 Hawker Harrier Matador Chronograph Desert Brown (Ref. AV-4065-06) over, you will see a solid stainless steel caseback. This caseback shows off an engraved symmetrical pattern that imitates the turbine blades which drive the Hawker Harrier aircraft. Underneath this caseback is a powerful quartz movement with a solid depth rating of 100 meters.
This complex and stylish AVI-8 watch sells at approximately $330 USD.
4. AVI-8 Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Gunmetal Grey (Ref. AV-4073-44)
Next up, we have a pilot watch that honors the military aircraft, Spitfire. The AVI-8 Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Gunmetal Grey (Ref. AV-4073-44) is sheltered in a 42mm gray-tone stainless steel case accompanied by a bracelet made from the same material. This watch is also offered with an additional gray leather strap, giving wearers an option as to which style of bracelet they prefer. A complete package for a magnificent pilot watch, indeed.
In keeping with the watch’s all-gray exterior is a simple, elegant gray sector dial. This dial consists of large double-digit Arabic numerals, slim indices for the minute track, and a small date aperture at 3 o’clock. One of the most intriguing things about this dial is its alternating display of minutes for the odd hours and hours for the even hours. A small seconds sub-dial is also located above the 5 o’clock marker. Unlike other AVI-8 watches, this pilot watch is driven by a Miyota automatic movement which contains 21 jewels.
The AVI-8 Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Gunmetal Grey (Ref. AV-4073-44) can be yours at $425 USD.
5. AVI-8 Hawker Hunter Avon Automatic Diables Rouges (Ref. AV-4078-22)
For the last watch in this list, we have an AVI-8 pilot watch that celebrates the aviators who flew the Hawker Hunter aircraft. The AVI-8 Hawker Hunter Avon Automatic Diables Rouges (Ref. AV-4078-22) sports a 44mm stainless steel case, with a matching stainless steel bracelet and a truly iconic skeleton dial. A close look at this watch reveals a design that almost looks like a never-ending spiral illusion.
Equipped on top of the dial is a textured fixed bezel that resembles the turbine of the Hawker Hunter Avon engines. This same design is also borne out on the watch’s large crown, which is also highlighted with red accents that give the watch a bolder, fiercer look.
The open-heart dial of this watch is ornamented with lume-coated applied indices, thick sword hands, and subtle minute markers. One downside to this dial is its Arabic numeral hour markers. Although some of these markers are painted in bright red, others come in faint gray hues which blend into the rest of the dial and can be a little difficult to read without squinting.
Through the watch’s transparent caseback, you can see its NH36 movement. Held together by 24 jewels, this automatic caliber beats at a frequency of 21,600 per hour. In addition, it has a 40-hour power reserve which gives the watch ample idle time before having to be wound up again.
The AVI-8 Hawker Hunter Avon Automatic Diables Rouges (Ref. AV-4078-22) is currently priced at $395 USD.
AVI-8 watches, however unknown they may seem, offer an amazing stack of pilot watches. Its pilot watches deserve due recognition, not only for their affordability but also because of their durability. By using hardy stainless steel material as their main element for their watches’ construction, AVI-8 assures you of a reliable deal for its pilot watches.
Moreover, AVI-8 watches are also famous for their rich heritage, intricate designs, and craftsmanship. Just like the historical military aircrafts that AVI-8 pilot watches pay tribute to, the brand itself also deserves to be iconized in the history of aviation watchmaking.
Photo Credits: AVI-8
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