Posted on June 02 2023
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Hot on the heels of Avi-8's Flyboy Tuskegee Airmen comes a watch inspired by the RAF's Hawker Typhoon. The Tuskegee watch was a bit of an enigma - yes, it's a pilot's watch, but it had a dive watch aesthetic and referenced a specific era of American aviation.
It's a handsome watch that I really enjoyed.
But as I've mentioned in the past, Avi-8 is renowned for paying homage to Britain's Royal Air Force and its most legendary planes.
In that sense, this latest release sticks much closer to the brand's DNA than the previous watch. It's militaristic, fairly large and raises funds for a good cause.
It's exactly what I'd expect from an Avi-8 watch and has a cool story behind it.
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Avi-8 Hawker Typhoon RB396 Sheila AV-4093-08
Avi-8 Hawker Typhoon RB396 Sheila Limited Edition Watch Review
I don't want to emphasise the difference between Avi-8's Tuskegee Airmen and the watch in hand other than to make a single point. The Hawker Typhoon Sheila is more typical of Avi-8's styling and should prove popular because of that.
Both watches raise funds for worthy organisations - the Tuskegee for the US-based Tuskegee Airmen Inc and the Sheila for Britain's Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group. Stylistically they're very different.
But before we get into the watch, let's take a minute to dig into the story behind its creation.
If you're familiar with Avi-8 watches then you'll know the brand's background. Despite its roots in Hong Kong, Avi-8 has carved out a niche for watches that take inspiration from Britain's RAF. Most models reference an iconic plane or battle and each watch tends to have a pilot's watch vibe or mimics an aircraft cockpit much like you'd expect from Bell and Ross.
It's a very specific look that has proven popular with the brand's fans and gives the company coherence. This latest model ticks each of these boxes.
It's inspired by the Hawker Typhoon, a single-seater aircraft that was introduced in 1941 by the British in their battle against the Luftwaffe. After a few alterations, it became one of the Second World War's most successful ground-attack aircraft.
But this came at a cost.
56% of all Typhoon pilots were lost in combat, 666 pilots in total. In 1945, aircraft RB396 was lost over the Netherlands - although the pilot did make it home safely. In 2012 the remains of the aircraft were returned to the UK and the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group was established. The idea behind the project was straightforward - to get the plane back in the air.
As you can imagine, it's a mammoth task. But with the acquisition of a factory inhibited Napier Sabre engine, the project became realistic. Avi-8's contribution has been to create another watch - this is the second inspired by the project - that raises funds for HTPG.
This latest watch sticks closely to the brand's DNA and comes in four colourways. There's the blue Volkel edition, a black Lichfield model, the brown Westhampnett watch and the model I have on my desk. The green Goch edition.
Each watch is limited, with 1200 total pieces, and is powered by a reliable Japanese quartz movement. The case is stainless steel and the watches boast a militaristic aesthetic and chronograph functionality. Let's take a closer look.
The Avi-8 Hawker Typhoon RB396 Sheila Limited Edition Watch in Detail
I made a big deal of the packaging of the Tuskegee Airmen watch, as I did with the recent Royal British Legion model too. Each time I've noted how I'm not particularly bothered about the box a watch arrives in, only to explain why this exception matters.
The same applies here.
The Sheila model has a very specific intent and it makes sense that this is displayed on the packaging. Both the box and outer card cover prominently display details of the HTPG. The artwork on the card is splendid and captures the era well. There's also a note included with the package that expands on the collaboration too. So there's no way that you can ignore the fundraising effort.
The watch itself is quintessential Avi-8. It's reasonably large, dark green and looks more like a tool than a piece of jewellery. For some watches, I use terms like elegant, slim and subtle.
The Hawker Typhoon is none of those things.
It's bold, rugged and substantial. Exactly what an RAF pilot in WW2 would have expected from a timepiece.
The stainless steel case is 42mm in diameter. The slim plain bezel means that the dial dominates the watch, with even the prominent pushers taking a back seat. The upper pusher is red and the lower steel, with both being utilitarian and featuring a knurled base. The large crown is also knurled and reinforces the tool watch look - it also sports a green section that pairs well with the watch's colour palette.
So overall, the case is fairly typical of an aviation chronograph, but with a couple of touches of colour.
The dial, however, is a lot more complex. It's busy, has bold hands and numerals, a deep green dial and accents in a vintage-looking yellow. If the design was meant to evoke military styling with hints of vintage then the Sheila is definitely a success.
But when I say there's a lot going on with the dial I mean it. At first glance, it can be a little overwhelming.
There's a real attempt to mimic a cockpit here. The dial resembles an instrument panel and has four sub-dials, two of which look screwed into place. It's a strong look and initially, it isn't obvious that the watch has a 1/10 split-second chronograph. The movement is from Japan and should be reliable and accurate.
The sub-dials are the same green as the dial and are interspersed with yellow numerals for the minutes at 10, 20, 40 and 50. The much smaller hour numerals sit in the chapter ring and are less obvious, but there if needed.
Everything on the dial has a function and the small touches of red add a little flair and help with legibility.
As you'd expect, the case is reasonably chunky and has a height of 13.5mm and is topped off with a mineral crystal with an AR coating. The case back is a beauty and is decorated with the Sheila nose art from the RB396 aircraft. It's another nice touch that adds to the design's authenticity.
As is usual with Avi-8, the watch is equipped with a leather strap. In this case, a handsome green leather that features a mustard-coloured yellow on the rear. To fit the 22mm lugs the strap has to be robust and I was pleased to see that it sits comfortably on the larger case.
It finishes off the watch well and maintains both the quality and cohesion that makes the watch a success.
I've compared this watch to the recent Tuskegee Airmen model for a reason - the two watches offer two sides of a coin. The Tuskegee model was small, colourful and decorated with contemporary art. The Sheila is bigger, less colourful and militaristic.
The Hawker Typhoon Sheila is more obviously an Avi-8 model. To a degree, it reworks a template that Avi-8 has found success with. Namely, creating a reasonably large pilot's watch that references a legendary British warplane. It works for me.
And that's why the Sheila will no doubt also be a hit with Avi-8 fans. It ticks all the boxes that they'd expect.