Posted on March 28 2023
The same logic applies to special occasions, with 21st birthdays and retirement being obvious choices. And of course, what better way to celebrate your team's victory than with a celebratory watch?
But what about a watch that pays tribute to a nation's fallen heroes?
Whilst not a new concept, it's definitely a tricky proposition. That's the task that Avi-8 set itself when it created the Royal British Legion Tri-Service Chronograph, a watch that remembers Britain's war dead.
Avi-8 Royal British Legion Limited Edition Tri-Service - AV-4102-RBL-01
Avi-8 Royal British Legion Limited Edition Watch Review
If you're already familiar with Avi-8, you'll know that the brand is built around flight, emphasising military aircraft, usually from the British Royal Air Force. Previously I've featured an Avi-8 watch that paid tribute to a hero of the Battle of Britain and a model created to honour Hawker Hunter aircraft.
Avi-8 is a company that is easy to understand. Their brand values are consistent, and they are focused on creating watches that are inspired by aviation - as their name suggests. This sets them apart from many other companies.
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Its current collection features watches inspired by the iconic Hawker Harrier, the P-51 Mustang, and of course, the Spitfire. These watches tend to be large, and rugged and boast a strong military aesthetic. So with that in mind, I unpacked the brand's latest release, a watch that raises funds for the Royal British Legion - a charity that helps past and present members of the armed forces.
For this release, Avi-8 has opted for a quartet of limited edition models, each with 500 individually numbered pieces. Named after places with British military significance - Nairobi, Marlborough Lines, Portsmouth and High Wycombe - the Tri-Service model celebrates the three arms of the British military. Each watch features a different colour dial and strap.
As you'll see, the inspiration behind this watch is beyond the RAF, and that makes sense. The Royal British Legion - and the money this model raises for that cause - aids all three arms of Britain's armed forces. So the watch, with its Tri-Service name, honours Britain's dead across all the military.
In keeping with the British Legion's branding, the watch and its packaging both utilize the red poppy, an international symbol of remembrance.
And what about the watch?
Unsurprisingly, it's still an aviation-inspired piece. The design harks back to a previous era while being recognisable as a pilot's chronograph. It's a mid-sized watch that cleverly incorporates the poppy emblem into its design. I was pleased to note that it's a little smaller than previous Avi-8 watches I've worn and has a design that is also more restrained than some of its other models.
But don't worry, there's still an element of flamboyance.
We've come to expect some flashes of colour in Avi-8 designs and the brand is well-versed in teasing out these distinctive touches. In this case, my favourite unconventional element is so subtle that you'll probably miss it on a first glance.
So what do we have?
The High Wycombe variant is a 42mm meca-quartz chronograph with a robust stainless steel case and busy black dial. It's paired with a vintage-looking tan leather strap and housed in colourful packaging that advertises Avi-8 and the British Legion's latest collaboration.
Let's dig into it and I'll point out the detail you might have missed.
The Avi-8 British Legion Chronograph Watch in Detail
Like the Certina DS+ that I reviewed recently, this Avi-8 watch is presented in distinctive packaging. As you can see, the Royal British Legion branding eclipses Avi-8's own logo and the box and extras feature poppy decorations.
I like it. There's a strong message here - a message of remembrance and pride in our Armed Forces (yes, I know Avi-8 is actually owned by Hong-kong based Dartmouth Brands). The packaging is colourful, but tasteful, and houses the watch, an extra NATO strap, a strap replacement tool and warranty cards. At first glance, it slightly overshadows the watch.
However, the watch itself is an interesting piece.
Its overall aesthetic is militaristic, but there's also a subtle retro feel. As the brand is keen to point out, Seiko chronographs were purchased by the Ministry of Defence in the 80s and the Tri-Service watch is marketed as continuing that heritage.
So despite the busy appearance, the watch still gives the impression that it's a tool. Indeed, Avi-8 describe the watch as a "high-performance and durable military-ready timepiece, incorporating all the necessary build and engineering for use in any field of combat".
The variant I have - High Wycombe - has a black dial with three sub-dials and a date window tucked away at 4 o'clock. Again, as with previous Avi-8 models, the dial really is the star of the show. Like earlier watches I've worn, it's also layered and complex.
First, there are the numbers. They're bold applied Arabic numerals that sit prominently around the dial - 4 and 9 are missing to accommodate a sub-dial and the date. The dial is textured and contrasts with the smooth sub-dials. The logo is discreet and there's the addition of an inner rotating bezel that is operated by the extra crown at 10 o'clock.
As I noted above, it's a busy layout. However, the simple colour palette maintains a military edge and the simple stainless steel case reinforces that look. Avi-8 often houses its watches in large cases, a feature that is authentic to aviation watches of the past and still a handy function for today's buyers. But the British Legion model is offered in a smaller 42mm case with a smooth bezel and short lugs. It sits better on my slim wrist than other larger watches and, at 13mm, wears well under a shirt.
And that brings me to one of the main selling points of this watch. It's a versatile design, particularly when paired with a modest height of 13mm. Then it becomes very easy to wear.
The case has two piston-like chronograph pushers and an attractive crown that displays the British Legion's two-petal crown. It's a nice touch of colour and a gentle reminder of the watch's inspiration and collaboration.
Turning the watch over is a treat.
The case back features a prominent Royal British Legion logo and the watch's unique number. It screws down and ensures that the watch has 50M of water resistance - more than enough for a pilot.
The engine underneath the case back is a TMI meca-quartz movement and this provides the link between this watch and the earlier MOD-issued Seiko's. This Japanese movement is a hybrid watch movement that combines the best features of a mechanical and a quartz movement. Basically, a quartz movement with a mechanical chronograph module added to it.
The watch is equppied with a high-quality tan leather strap that again gives a nod to vintage influences and previous aviation watches. There's also a substantial black NATO strap in the package, ideal if you want to double down on the military styling.
Oh, did you spot the quirky feature that I hinted at earlier?
Try wearing the watch in the dark.
Built into the complex dial are rows of lumed two-petal poppies that only become visible during the night. And that sums up the Royal British Legion Limited Edition watch. It's a timepiece that has a strong message behind it and an interesting collaboration. But it remains a stylish watch that doesn't overdo the branding or the subject.
The latest Royal British Legion watch from Avi-8 continues the brand's collaboration with this great charity. The watch blends aviation and military design aspects to create a timepiece that is both versatile and distinctive.
Importantly, it's a mid-sized piece that is practical as an everyday watch and comfortable to wear. With the addition of a leather strap it sits nicely on the fence between being a functional tool watch and a vintage-inspired piece.
Like previous models from the Hong Kong-based brand, the dial is exquisite and in this case, features a unique poppy pattern. With its meca-quartz hybrid movement the Tri-Service should prove to be a reliable companion.