In the last decade or so, there’s been a notable increase in brands offering reliable pilot watches at price points that won’t necessarily break the bank.
Known for their easy handling and excellent readability supported by large numerals and strong luminescence, these types of timepieces are especially appreciated by folks with a strong connection to aviation. Or just fans of aeromechanics in general.
The first pilot’s watch was developed as early as 1906 by the famous Paris-based watchmaker, Louis Cartier. It was a gift for his pilot friend, Alberto Santos-Dumont. After that breakthrough release, many brands started recreating the unique design and functionalities. In a short period of time, pilot watches became the new trend, especially during the war-torn periods of the 1910s and 1940s.
Nowadays, the number of watchmakers offering aviation watches is huge. Many would agree that some of the most desired timepieces are produced by German manufacturers who successfully recreate the original pilot watch design. However, these usually come at a hefty price.
One of the youngest hands in the industry that seem to constantly score positive ratings in the watch community is AV-8. Combining the classic pilot watch features with somehow a futuristic design, these timepieces are a breath of fresh air in the sector. In this AVI-8 watches review, we will take a close look at the brand’s background and all the factors contributing to its solid reputation.
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AVI-8 History & Background
As already mentioned, AVI-8 is one of the freshmen of the industry. The brand is approaching one decade of existence, having been founded in 2012.
Hence, it’s probably the shortest history section you will see on our website.
The company was founded by a combination of watchmakers and pilots/engineers who served in air forces around the world. The success of the AVI-8 tale is due to a mix of design, attention to detail, and passion. Every collection is a clear nod to military aviation’s planes, people, and history. Each timepiece brings the inspiration’s intricacy and story to life, delighting and engaging the wearer.
Over the years, the brightest engineers, scientists, designers, and pilots have collaborated to create cutting-edge machines for the critical purpose of a country’s defense.
AVI-8 timepieces are designed to honor both the aircraft and the unsung tale of the airmen who have committed their lives to bring these extraordinary vehicles to life, both in and out of the cockpit.
Rather than making another pilot watch, the brand opted to take a closer look at the design and form of an aircraft and highlight some of the fascinating stories that surround aviation to help draw attention to the brand. AVI-8 goal is to create watches that are both functional and fun to wear, while also telling a tale about man and machine.
Is AVI-8 a Good Watch Brand? Quality Review
When trying to define the quality of any watch brand, we should stack it against watchmakers in the same price category and see what’s on offer.
Considering the relatively low price margins (cheapest AVI-8 watches can be snatched at $100 whilst the most pricey barely reach the $400 mark). we can easily categorize AVI-8 as a low-to-mid-budget brand. When it comes to pilot watches, it’s definitely one of the more affordable options on the market.
However, does the affordable pricing means the brand compensates for the lower quality and longevity of these timekeepers – just like in the case of a large chunk of economical watchmakers? Not necessarily, especially when we go with tons of positive reviews you can find online.
To settle whether AVI-8 is a solid manufacturer of pilot watches, let’s have a look at some of the crucial factors.
AVI-8 offers an incredibly unique, fresh approach to the sector of pilot watches.
As far as the design is concerned, the brand offers a visible departure from the standard pilot watch style offered by other watchmakers. Which is something to be really admired, quite frankly.
All models are inspired by real-life aircraft that have helped shape the history of aviation. Despite offering all the characteristics you’d expect in a pilot watch, such as large numerals or strong luminescence, we could describe the design in most models as adventurous, maybe even futuristic.
We will have a close look at the style offered by AVI-8 watches further down the article, in the AVI-8 Watch Collections sector.
First and foremost, for a watch to be deemed good quality, it should be able to stand the test of time (pun intended). That’s especially related to tactical, tool, or pilot timepieces like AVI-8.
So, are the durability standards provided by AVI-8 up to scratch?
Starting with the watch part that’s arguably the most exposed to any damage, the dial, AVI-8 provides solid protection. Depending on the model, the dial window is made from either mineral or sapphire crystal.
Mineral glass is used with models available under $350 (so the vast majority of them), like the Matador Chronograph. Timepieces oscillating in the $400 region (which makes up a small portion of the entire collection), use the much-desired sapphire crystal glass. An example of such a timepiece is the Spitfire model.
Sapphire crystal glass is currently the most lasting and scratch-resistant material out there, used by all the top sharks of the industry. Furthermore, AVI-8 models using the sapphire lens come with an additional perk: an anti-reflective coating. This makes the watch easy to read in any light. At times, you might forget the crystal is even there.
When it comes to bracelets, the choice is quite huge. How enduring the bracelet is will depend a lot on your own preferences. The available options are as follows:
- stainless steel bracelets – arguably the most durable yet classy-looking
- rubber straps – super enduring type for fans of the sportier look
- leather bands – probably the most elegant yet delicate type
- nylon bands – military-styled, also pretty rugged
The good news is: all AVI-8 models come with interchangeable straps. This is an excellent solution for those who want a single timepiece to be able to suit different occasions. Additional straps can be purchased with the watch or separately.
Without a single exception, all AVI-8 models use stainless steel casing. This is an industry-standard choice providing the best anti-corrosion and anti-scratch properties.
What’s important, many watches come with screw-down crowns and casebacks. This goes a long way in helping protect the watch against water damage.
AVI-8 timepieces are equipped with a unified water-resistance rating of 5 ATM (50m). For a pilot watch, this is absolutely acceptable but certainly not jaw-dropping. In short, it’s suitable for brief swimming sessions in shallow water, showering, or exposure to rain.
The brand offers a 2-year warranty on all watches. The guarantee period covers all manufacturing defects but can’t be used in case of any damage related to your own negligence. In order to activate the warranty, you have to register your watch on AVI-8’s official website.
Catering to different tastes, AVI-8 watch movement comes in two types: quartz and automatic.
The brand uses exclusively Japanese movements. Next to Swiss, these are the most reliable. The movements are manufactured by either Seiko or Miyota, two of the most known movement providers in Asia.
If you prioritize excellent accuracy over complexity, you should definitely pick one of the battery-powered (quartz) models. These are unlikely to lose/gain more than 15 seconds monthly. Once you crawl through the AVI-8 collections (which we will do in a minute), you will notice a large chunk of quartz watches are chronographs.
On the other hand, if you value the higher level of craftsmanship associated with automatic calibers, you will have a fairly large choice as well. A popular automatic model is the Admiral. The Seiko-made movement powering this watch delivers an accuracy of -/+ 15 seconds/day.
AVI-8 Watch Collections
The AVI-8 watches review wouldn’t feel complete without a look at the unique collection. At the time of writing, AVI-8 has five main collections: Hawker Harrier, Hawker Hunter, Hawker Hurricane, P-51 Mustang, and Spitfire.
Bear in mind, though, that the collections are pretty fluid and might not last forever. For example, not so long AVI-8 offered two other lines, Lancaster Bomber and Flyboy (especially the iconic Lafayette chronograph watch) but these have been discontinued already.
All collections, whether past, present, or future, pay homage to the history of aviation, particularly to specific warplanes. Thus, each has its own unique design and functionalities. Below find a quick summary of the style offered by each of the 5 lines currently available.
The Hawker Harrier and Hawker Harrier II lines were inspired by the Hawker Harrier and Hawker Harrier II warplanes, which were “designed to be operated in advanced theatres of conflict where air bases or runways would not be accessible,” according to AVI-8. This is a modern aircraft that is still being improved upon today.
The Hawker Hunter fighter aircraft was developed for the Royal Air Force from the 1940s through the 1950s. The AVI-8 Hawker Hunter is an homage timepiece with an “angled off squared design that reflects the major elements of the Hunters own instrumentation,” according to the company.
Read Also: AVI-8 Hawker Hunter Review
The Hawker Hurricane watch was named after the single-seater fighter of the same name that was utilized in World War II air battles. The plane, which was built for the Royal Air Force, is regarded as one of the most successful aircraft in the Allied Victory effort.
This collection is inspired by the P-51, mostly known as the Mustang, which was a single-seat and single-engine fighter aircraft produced for the British Royal Air Force by North American Aviation. The model is regarded as the finest all-around piston-engined fighter of WWII and was also adopted by the U.S. Army Air.
The collection is inspired by the Spitfire aircraft. Also known as the Supermarine Spitfire, it was the most widely produced British single-seater fighter during WW II. Because of its huge strategic importance, it was produced in more variants than any other British aircraft.
Who Makes AVI-8 Watches?
The company owning the AVI-8 brand is Dartmouth Brands. It was set up in 2013.
Currently, the UK-based group owns 14 watch brands that also include Spinnaker, Thomas Earnshaw, and Duxot. However, AVI-8 is what they’re mostly known for.
Where Are AVI-8 Watches Made?
Despite AVI-8 being a British brand and exclusively using Japanese movements, all timepieces are manufactured and assembled in Hong Kong. The country is a popular manufacturing hub for watchmakers operating in the low-to-mid budget category.
Where to Buy AVI-8 Watches?
AVI-8 isn’t a mainstream brand (yet). Hence, the number of places where you can get one of these watches is still relatively small.
The first obvious choice is the brand’s official website. The online store ships out all products from its US and UK warehouses. It offers free delivery on all orders.
If you value super quick shipping (even same-day) and lower prices, Amazon is the place to go. Currently, it offers over 40 watch models, with prices starting as low as $90.
If you don’t mind pre-owned models, go and check out eBay.
Finally, you can explore more shopping options by reading our guide to top online watch shops.
Avi-8 Watches Review: Conclusion
If you’ve been on the edge regarding the purchase of your first AVI-8 timepiece, we hope that the article has shed enough light to help you make the decision – whatever that is.
Summing up today’s review of AVI-u watches, it’s fair to say that the brand is a welcome addition to the pilot watch sector. Since its creation in 2012, it has certainly added something new to the industry that was primarily focused on straight-up homages offered by most of the modern military-inspired watch providers.
If you’re a fan of the style offered by aviation-inspired watches but are on the lookout for something unique, getting an AVI-8 timepiece is far from the worst idea.
Considering the moderate pricing of all watches – barely reaching the $400 mark and sometimes available below $100 – the level of craftsmanship is surprisingly good. And so are the materials used to assemble the products. For example, many timepieces use premium glass in the form of sapphire crystal – just like this Hawker Harrier II model.
True fans of military aviation will certainly appreciate the fact that all AVI-8 watch collections are inspired by the most iconic warplanes in history. Each collection offers a unique design based on the original aircraft. However, all models come with elements characteristic of traditional pilot watches, such as large hands and indices, strong luminescence, and rugged build.
There’s also not much to point the finger at in terms of the quality of movements. All models run on Japanese calibers, whether quartz or automatic, and provide more than acceptable accuracy for watches in this price basket.
Final Say: if today’s AVI-8 watches review has persuaded you to get your first timepiece from the brand, use the comment section below to let us know which model you’ve selected. We’d love to interact!