AVI-8 watches have defined themselves in the watch market as a collision between a fashion brand and a (not so) microbrand. They produce a variety of watches that, as they say, are intended to represent the story of aviation engineering and man’s relationship to it. Part of Dartmouth Brands (along with Dufa and Spinnaker), Avi-8 arrived nearly 10 years ago, with a deep catalog, unique designs, and accessible prices.
As a self-proclaimed watch nerd, I had (maybe have) reservations about the brand and their watches. I was apprehensive about the quick arrival and deep catalog combined with their prices. I saw elements of luxury-brand modern design elements and fashion-brand sizing and they honestly turned me off a little.
The AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette Chronograph (AV-4076-XX) is no exception to the lineup of historic design and fashion sizes. AVI-8 designed the watch as a tribute to the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of American volunteer pilots fighting under French command in WWI, and “a true compliment to the spirit of the Flyboy, the colloquial term used to describe these dangerous, rakish, courageous and patriotic warriors of the sky.”
On the Wrist
The overall watch size lines up with pilot watches and chronographs. The case is 42mm wide, has a 22mm lug width, is 49mm lug-to-lug, and is 13.5mm thick. The size of the watch would lend itself to a greater than 50 meters water resistance, but it’s better than nothing.
This watch wears true to size. The lugs on the Lafayette turn down enough to hug the wrist without making the watch wear smaller. The real size illusion comes in the excellent tapered Jubilee-style bracelet (22mm to 18mm) that nicely balances the weight of the watch. This is by no means a watch that will disappear on the wrist, but do you want it to?
The Lafayette Flyboy Chronograph is unlike most of the dial designs we’ve come to expect from AVI-8. Many of their watches feature bold modern designs reminiscent of luxury brands. What I’ve found behind the AVI-8 brand is that they are diverse in their design. There isn’t a rapidly identifiable DNA that unifies the catalog.
The dial has terrific depth. The 3-layered (at least) dial of varying textures and colors, combined with a slightly domed AR-coated crystal, plays with light and changes from every perspective.
Each layer of the dial comes with its own texture and deliberate details. The chronograph sub-dials sport concentric rings and painted markers. The center of the dial has arched horizontal lines drawn from the texture of a Nieuport 17 wing design. The final layer of the dial has applied markers and numerals at 12, 2, 8, and 10. There is also a riveted-looking applied frame around the date window, creating the illusion of peering through a porthole.
Each element of the dial is carefully selected from the most iconic imagery and themes of the namesake pilots and aircraft. My personal favorite touch is the French-flag-colored roundel applied to the second hand.
Case & Bracelet
The case of the Lafayette is simple with no flourishes. Brushing and polishing are in the right places with precise transitions, along with no beveling or exceptional finishing details. Each aspect is well-executed without going above and beyond. This is exactly what I’d expect of a mass-produced affordable watch case.
The piston-style pushers wiggle slightly but actuate nicely and the Seiko VK64 quartz movement does exactly what I want it to do every time I stop and reset the chronograph. The crown is where AVI-8 chose to really set this watch apart from other comparable watches.
The crown shape is familiar to the style and provides the aesthetic to make this feel like a pilot watch.
The bracelet stood out to me immediately. The 22mm bracelet tapers to a comfortable 18mm and articulates nicely to hug the wrist. The clasp is double-locking with 3 micro-adjustments and bears enough weight to nicely balance the watch on the wrist. The choice of a Jubilee-style bracelet is appropriate for this already very sporty design.
The caseback bears the traditional insignia of the Escadrille found on their aircraft, which is yet another nod to the inspiration of this watch.
I have to say that I wanted to find more fault with this watch. I was apprehensive of the brand and the design. There are some mixed feelings in our little corner of the watch market for mass-produced and heavily marketed large brands that I wrestle with regularly.
If I have a single critique of this watch it is this – it just isn’t for me. I love chronographs, I love pilot watches. But I don’t generally love big watches. I have room in my watch life for only one, and I already have it.
This watch is well-executed, detail-oriented, and flat-out fun. AVI-8 has stayed true to their brand in designing and releasing their newest addition. If you’re in the market for a pilot chronograph this is worth, at the very least, a second look. I do wish it had some lume though.
Check out more chronograph watch reviews from The Watch Clicker
Check out the AVI-8 website
|Lug-to-lug Height||49mm||Lug Width||22mm|
|Water Resistance||50 meters||Lume||None|