AVI-8 have a new limited edition to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the RAF. How does the 1960s-themed AVI-8 Flyboy Centenary edition cope over a week of wear?
A Week on the Wrist – AVI-8 Flyboy Centenary 1960s
AVI-8 are a brand that divides opinion. Some feel they are too large to be a microbrand, being part of a larger corporate group. Others find some of their designs gaudy or criticise their use of cheaper mechanical Miyota 8-series movements. But they have a huge following, especially in the “real” world and we can see why: They are bold, attractive watches that offer a lot of bang for your buck.
The AVI-8 Centenary watches are presented impeccably. Within a glossy, printed cardboard outer box is a solid canvas box secured with two press-studs. Inside is a metal card with the model name, an instruction leaflet and the watch itself. You expect premium packing with a special edition watch and this doesn’t disappoint. It is important when watches such as these are destined to become Christmas gifts.
Inside the watch is a Miyota 8-series. It is a hard-wearing and reliable automatic movement, but ultimately a budget one. The biggest criticisms of the movement in the watch world are that it does not “hack” (the seconds hand keeps going when you pull the crown so you can’t set it with pinpoint accuracy) and when this movement is fitted with a central second hand, its indirectly-driven nature can cause stuttering. This is not the case in this watch, which uses a subsidiary second hand in a subdial. It’s common for high street watches in this price range to use such a movement, but those aimed at enthusiasts would tend to go for either the higher quality Miyota 9-series or Seiko NH35.
Case and Crown
The first thing I noticed when picking up the AVI-8 Centenary 1960s was that it’s thicker than I expected. It feels more solid than other AVI-8 timepieces I have hanled, and is all the better for it. It’s got sapphire crystals at both sides (which is not always the case with AVI-8, so full marks there) and the lugs nicely swoop in to meet the strap. The lugs don’t leave too much of a gap between strap and case but the watch does sit a little higher than I prefer. This would make it easy to install a NATO strap: if the strap ever wears out I would probably use a red, white and blue RAF NATO in its place.
The back is laser etched with some model information. I’d prefer it there than written all over the dial. The crown is a little disappointing – other models in the series have had onion or half-onion crowns with enamelling. The AVI-8 Centenary 1960s edition has a plainer push-in stainless steel crown engraved with an RAF roundel. I’d have liked to see some more colour here. Overall, the watch is great to wear, at just the right size for me.
Dial and Hands
The dial is where the AVI-8 Centenary 1960s really comes to life. It’s made from a translucent blue plastic which looks amazing in the sunlight.It’s not so transparent as to make the watch hard to read but just enough to add an extra layer of depth. Depth is the word I’d use to describe thee dial – as well as the dial and movement beneath, there are also printed numbers on the dial, applied numbers at “0” and 6, applied indices, a subdial for seconds and RAF roundel. Everything is layered and applied square. There is lume on the indices and numbers which is nothing to write home about, but it’s better there than not.
There’s a date function which matters to me in a daily wearer, and the hands are the legible, military “sword” type. I love the look of the dial. The depth makes it interesting and the offset nature of the design sets it aside from the crowd. I really like how AVI-8 make every watch in the Centenary series look so different from the same base, and this is my favourite one of the bunch.
Strap and Buckle
The strap on the AVI-8 Centenary 1960s is one of the best I’ve had on any watch – at any price point. It’s made of a lovely, thick, soft leather. If I didn’t know better I’d suspect it cost a good portion of the full retail price of the watch! It has vintage-style blue stitching at the watch end – although this looks like it’s for decoration only and the strap is actually heat-sealed along the edges.
The only criticism is the strap stays – they are made of very thin material and it’s a real squeeze tucking the thick, pointed end through them. I expect they will fail long before the strap needs replacing. The tang buckle is engraved with the AVI-8 logo and, well, it does the job.
What I Liked
- The watch is just the right size and comfortable to wear
- The translucent blue dial is a neat touch and looks amazing
- The strap is superb – one of the best I’ve had in any watch, never mind at this price point
What I Didn’t Like
- The crown could have had some enamelling to bring out the watch colours
- A higher-end movement with hacking and hand-winding would have been nice – and looked better through the exhibition case
- The strap stays feel like they won’t stand the test of time.
AVI-8 Centenary 1960s – The WRUK Verdict
This is a great watch for the money. At its RRP (£280) it’s probably a touch more expensive than the sum of its parts but for the preorder price of £219 I think it’s spot on. Yes, it’s more than some other similarly-equipped watches, but the unique look makes it worth the premium price in my opinion. Of all the centenary edition AVI-8 watches, this is the first I’d be willing to shell out for myself – and that’s a real vote of confidence.
DISCLOSURE: AVI-8 allowed us to keep the review sample of this watch