Posted on February 08 2023
There's something pleasing about a brand doing exactly what you ask of them. It's like when TAG Heuer releases a racing chronograph or Doxa drops another chunky dive watch.
It's what the brands are known for and they're at their finest when they stick to what they do best.
Avi-8 is a brand created to honour aviation history and to keep alive the memory of the pilots who flew iconic aircraft. So when I unboxed Avi-8's latest model it was a real pleasure to get my hands on a watch that looked and felt like an aviation piece should.
It references a classic plane and pays tribute to an influential pilot, so the big boxes are ticked.
There's no sitting on the fence with the new Avi-8 Atlas Dual Time Chronograph, let's see why.
Avi-8 Atlas Dual Time Chronograph Forest AV-4100-01
Avi-8 Atlas Dual Time Chronograph Watch Review
For many of us, the appeal of a brand like Avi-8 is the specific niche that the company has built its business around. It's a straightforward concept. Each watch from Avi-8 references a piece of aviation history. Or more correctly, British aviation history.
There are Avi-8 collections inspired by Hawker's influential Harrier and Hurricane models and a line that pays homage to the legendary Spitfire. Within that, there are more subtle references to pilots, famous battles and RAF airfields.
It's in that context that I unboxed the Atlas model. This watch is part of the impressive Hawker Hunter collection, a line inspired by the British aircraft that broke the air speed record in 1953, so I didn't want subtle hints of its inspiration. I expected an aviation watch, something militaristic and with a hint of British styling.
I was after an aviation watch that looked, well, like an aviation watch.
I wasn't disappointed.
It was clear from the moment I had this chunky chronograph in my hand that the most basic box was ticked. There's no mistaking the Avi-8 Atlas as anything other than a robust aviation piece.
It's a large, well-thought-out watch that blends a number of style elements. There's a hefty angular case and a dial modelled on an aircraft instrument panel. There's bold colouring and a mixture of textures.
In short, there's plenty going on with this piece.
The build quality is on point and the specs are as I'd expect at this price. It does what it says on the tin. It's a very practical chronograph watch, with multiple time zones and a strong aviation aesthetic.
Let's take a closer look.
The Avi-8 Hawker Hunter Atlas Watch in Detail
With a watch like the Atlas, that aviation aesthetic is going to be the deal breaker for you. Either you like oversized and militaristic pieces or you don't.
My first impression of the Avi-8 Atlas is that it's a substantial watch. It has a strong wrist presence that I can just about get away with on my slim wrists. When I said that I wanted this watch to embrace the brand's ethos I was picking sides so to speak.
This isn't an understated or dainty piece. It's not a versatile watch that pairs just as well with a suit as it does a boiler suit. That's both a strength and, to a degree, a weakness.
For me, as a fan of aviation watches, it's a big plus.
The case is almost brutal in its angular design. Crafted from stainless steel, and with 12 sides, it's a very distinctive creation. At a push I could find some similarities to a luxury aviation model from Bell and Ross, but for the most part, this is a unique look - normally you're more likely to find a 12-sided case back on a watch.
But it works.
The case feels like a piece of machinery and reinforces the idea that the Atlas is a tool. A look reinforced by the screws at the four corners of the case.
With a diameter of 43mm and a height of 14mm, this was never going to slip easily under a shirt sleeve. Still, it wears surprisingly well, in part due to the modest lugs and unobtrusive chronograph pushers.
The overall aesthetic feels modern, but there are enough touches of vintage styling that this also feels authentic for a watch inspired by an aircraft developed in the late '40s and early '50s.
The case decoration is also worth a mention.
The case back features a large presentation of the Avi-8 logo and the same design is repeated on the large knurled crown. I like that. For a watch that takes inspiration from the Royal Air Force, it's good to also see the watch proudly displaying the brand's own moniker.
In a similar vein to the Avi-8 Clowes model, the real star of the show is the dial.
In both styling and presentation, it's the dial that really makes this watch a success. With three standard hands, a GMT hand and three sub-dials it was always going to be a challenge to retain the legibility of the watch. Hence the larger case - a bigger dial allows more room to display the time.
Avi-8 has added the additional challenge of mimicking an aircraft's cockpit too.
How did they do?
I'd say that the watch is a success. The dial on this variant - Forest - offers a colour palette reminiscent of classic military watches. There's a grained texture to the dial that isn't apparent from all angles. That earthy green background provides a simple backdrop for the three neatly arranged sub-dials - each echoing the design of an instrument panel.
By matching black sub-dials with a dark green dial the watch feels more militaristic than the other three variations currently available. That works for me.
That's not to say that the watch doesn't have touches of colour. The large, lumed and cut-out hands and the simple indexes appear pale green. There are touches of red - on the sub-dials and chronograph hand - and orange - most prominently on the second time zone hand. The black and red chronograph pushers add further colouring, but despite this, the watch retains its utilitarian appearance. That's some achievement.
There's even a small date window tucked away between 4 and 5 o'clock on the slightly asymmetrical bolted-down sub-dials. There are also very small numerals that sit a touch in from the chapter ring - something that I didn't notice at first glance.
The dual time zones of the watch are powered by a reliable Japanese quartz chronograph movement. The two hour hands offer two simultaneous time zones and there's also a black and green bezel for additional measurements.
And what about the sub-dials?
There's a 24hr dial, an elapsed minute dial and a seconds dial. Along with the GMT hand and rotating bezel that gives you more than enough options for timekeeping.
The watch is finished off with a high-quality tan leather strap with subtle contrast stitching. With a lug width of 22mm, the strap has enough substance to sit well on the large case. As ever, the Avi-8 Atlas is presented in a straightforward box that mirrors the functional style of the brand.
As with other watches in the Avi-8 stable, the Atlas Dual Time Chronograph appeals to a very specific audience. As I stressed earlier, it's not the most versatile watch and it doesn't cover a few bases.
Instead, it screams for attention from fans of aviation watches and if that's your niche then the Atlas will excite you. It has an interesting backstory, militaristic colouring and an unusual 12-sided case that you're unlikely to find elsewhere. It's an original design, something that is appealing in itself.
And of course, it also has a host of timing features, the most obvious being the GMT/dual time zone element. With an original design and useful complications, it's a good place to start with the brand.
The quality is excellent and like previous Avi-8 releases it remains very affordable. At £290 it's a realistic purchase for most watch geeks - ideal if you're also an aviation buff.