We take a look at the latest watch from aviation watch specialists AVI-8: the Flyboy Lafayette Chronograph AV-4076. 

AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette Chronograph AV-4076 Review

AVI-8 is one of those brands I want to love, but that sometimes put a foot wrong. For every stunner like their Centenary Collection they used to put out a fashion piece like the Hawker Hurricane. With this new release, celebrating the US Air Force’s Lafayette squadron – they seem to have taken another significant step forward. First impressions are good: a canvas-covered case secured with a press-stud feels better than sister brand Spinnaker’s shipping boxes.

Case

The Lafayette’s 42mm case would do Goldilocks proud. Its diameter, thickness and weight make it mould to the wrist in a very pleasing way, It’s one of those watches that you forget you are wearing, such is its comfort. The Seiko-made VK68 meca-quartz movement gives the accuracy of a quartz watch with the smooth sweep and instant chronograph reset of a mechanical movement. I’m a fan of these movements – especially how much cheaper they are than a mechanical alternative.

The hardened mineral crystal will turn up a few noses, but AVI-8 say it is hardened with sapphire – which would make it comparable with Seiko’s excellent Hardlex compound. I’ve yet to put a scratch in a crystal so it is not a deal-breaker for me. Round the back is an engraving of the native American logo of the eponymous USAF squadron. At the price, everything is executed to perfection. The only niggle for me was the onion crown: I would have expected it to be signed or otherwise decorated but it is just smooth. It by no means spoils the watch, but it did surprise me. 

Dial and Hands

The depth of the dial of the Lafayette chronograph is astounding. Almost everything is applied (not printed) and even the numerals have a pleasant three-dimensional effect. The texture of the dial is comparable to that seen in watches ten times the price and the few printed elements are crisp. I am particularly fond of the colour choices: a dial that would ordinarily be very busy is very balanced thanks to the toned-down colours that AVI-8 has chosen. I do not like gaudy chronograph, and very much appreciated the choices here.

The only thing that spoiled the dial for me, somewhat, was that the surround on the date window slightly obscures the numbers and – because of the depth – it is actually possible to misread 21 as 2 from the wrong angle! I wish it were just a little larger in diameter but it’s such a rare thing to get a date on a meca-quartz watch I will forgive it. For day-to-day use, the stick hands are extremely legible. This watch will be a prominent choice during the summer months for me.

Bracelet

Finally, this is the first AVI-8 watch I’ve handled with a bracelet. The brand’s straps have always been excellent and – though I do prefer a bracelet – I was concerned that the brand might have cut corners here.

My concerns were unfounded: the Lafayette’s jubilee bracelet is superb. It is a little bit rattly (not nearly as bad as my Rolex Datejust) but exceptionally well-crafted with solid centre-links, solid end-links and that hard-to-describe feeling of quality. It’s a highlight of the watch and I would not hesitate to choose the bracelet option on future AVI-8 purchases,

AVI-8 Lafayette Chronograph – Video Review

What I Liked

  • I really like the way this watch wears. It just feels “right”
  • I also really like the way this watch looks. It manages to have just enough ornamentation to stay on the right side of gaudy
  • For the money, you can’t go wrong with an AVI-8

What I Didn’t Like

  • The date window surround is just a little too small in diameter and obstructs the date
  • I always grumble about lightly-engraved case backs. I’ve seen a lot worse than this, but I’ve seen better, too.
  • I would have liked to have had a signed or otherwise decorated crown at this price-point 

AVI-8 Lafayette Chronograph – the WRUK Verdict

Overall, this is a really good watch. I had relatively low expectations and was very pleasantly surprised to receive such a well-crafted timepiece. It is not my favourite aviation watch (that would be the Seagull 1963), nor my favourite AVI-8 model (the Flyboy Centenary 1960s takes that crown). It is, however, a really well-made, relatively well-designed and extremely well-executed watch that is the perfect grab and go for my summer adventures (or rather my summer “staying at home”). Well done, AVI-8 – the Lafayette gets a big WRUK thumbs-up.

Buy an AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette Chronograph AV-4076

As well as this colour scheme, the AVI-8 Lafayette is available in white: here are some photos from our aviation specialist Keith Campbell of his white-dialled model:

The AV-4076 Lafayette from AVI-8 will set you back £225 – but you can use discount code KEITHCAMPBELL at checkout for 20 per cent off at avi-8.co.uk. 

The watch is available for purchase from tomorrow, 29th March and you can sign up today at https://avi-8.co.uk/pages/av-4076-flyboy-lafayette-sign-up to get first-dibs.

Author: Mike Richmond

Mike spends what little spare time he is writing from WRUK and what little money he makes building up his collection of timepieces.

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