AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette — 52Mondayz, Week #21-2020 To salmon or not to salmon, that is the question… by Rob Nudds May 18, 2020 MIN READAVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette — 52Mondayz, Week #21-2020
Whenever I hear the word “Flyboy” I think of Topgun. That’s never a bad thing. Who doesn’t like being reminded of Pete Mitchell’s exploits above the clouds? And so I began my week with the AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette in atypically “high” spirits…
If you asked me, I would profess to prefer to always receive what I ask for. Generally, there is a reason why I ask for things. But sometimes those reasons don’t hold up under scrutiny. Take the AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette, for example. While communicating with the brand, I requested to test drive the black dialed version. Why? Because I like black dials. I particularly liked the combination of bone, red, and black that I saw on the pre-release renders of the Flyboy Lafayette. And when I’m choosing watches for review, I like to pick my favorite option to give the model a better chance of finding a positive reception on my wrist.
As you can see from the photos in this article, my request got muddled somewhere along the way. Instead of black, I received the salmon-dialed version in the post. But for once, I’m happy about not getting what I asked for. I won’t go as far as to claim I prefer this vibrant salmon iteration over the black that caught my eye, but I certainly enjoyed having something different on my wrist for a while.
What’s in a name?
With a name like “Flyboy Lafayette”, you can bet there’s a decent story behind this watch’s moniker. And there is. The Lafayette Escadrille was a volunteer unit of American pilots that served under French command in 1916 during WWI. The squadron was named after the Marquis de Lafayette, who apparently had a pretty successful track record when it came to wars (he was the French hero of the American revolutionary war).
… daring, brave, proud sky fighters…
Following the war (the Lafayette Escadrille was on the winning side in case your history is a bit sketchy) many of the squadron’s members went on to play active roles in the foundation of the US Air Force. Their legacies, as daring, brave, proud sky fighters have endured. And now, more than a century after they took to the skies in defense of freedom, AVI-8 is honoring them with a watch.
A wearable tool
The AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette AV-4076 is a 42mm, stainless steel meca-quartz chronograph with an incredibly interesting dial (especially considering the price point). The last AVI-8 I reviewed (the Spitfire, reviewed here) also impressed me with its nuanced dial design. Its multi-leveled approach made for an interesting visage. This model, the Flyboy Lafayette, follows the same formula.
Inside this watch, we have the Japanese high-beat VK68 meca-quartz module with a 1/5 chronograph seconds hand. The VK68 is identified by its “balanced” arrangement of the sub-dials. Normally, you find sub-dials located at the cardinal points (don’t mention that to the Rolex Daytona, by the way), but with the VK68 we have a more even arrangement around the dial.
It’s kind of weird, kind of goofy, but I kind of like it against my better judgment.
As such, the chronograph 60-minute counter sits plum between 9 and 10 o’clock, the 24-hour indicator is between 2 and 3, and the going seconds is centered at 6 o’clock. There is a porthole-style date window just a shade beyond 4 o’clock. It’s kind of weird, kind of goofy, but I kind of like it against my better judgment. But how does this admittedly complex dial perform overall?
Blue on salmon is a legible combo. Do I always like it? No, not so much. I do quite like salmon dials but for me, the hue has to be perfect. Especially when it comes to pulling off the combination with blue. Perhaps one of my favorite all-time watches is the A. Lage & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon with the red gold dial (740.056). Now, you could argue that that dial is not salmon, rather clearly red gold instead. It’s a solid argument (because you’d be right) but that’s the kind of shade of “salmon” I like. Some vintage Patek Philippe watches have the same, rich, red-blooded shade that gets me going.
…almost exactly 1,000 times more expensive…
That Lange, however, is almost exactly 1,000 times more expensive than the AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette, and so even being mentioned in the same breath should be taken as some kind of compliment. For me, the shade of salmon here is a bit too orangey to work with my skin tone. It is not, however, wholly unattractive, but I think it would work better with nice polished and applied hour markers rather than the yellowy numerals with blue outlines. Yes, that yellowy portion is luminous but at this size, those numerals hardly pop in the dark. I would have dropped out the Arabic numerals entirely and perhaps focused on vibrantly legible hands instead. Give me the handest from the AVI-8 Hawker Hunter any day…
Is it a success?
In my opinion, the aim of all small brands should be the same. It should not be to “disrupt” the watchmaking industry. It shouldn’t be to make”luxury” accessible. Rather, small brands should better spend their time on creating thoughtful designs that focus on providing the best possible quality within their chosen price bracket. Simply put, it is better for brands not to attempt something above their station. Do it well, or don’t do it at all. That would be my advice. In that regard, the AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette in Salmon splits me right down the middle. Here’s why…
The addition of a pulsometer rather than a mindless tachymeter is also a very appreciated touch.
The dial color and multiple levels are ambitious. Both work well enough and should be applauded for their unusualness. The addition of a pulsometer rather than a mindless tachymeter is also a very appreciated touch. I found the case machining adequate and the quality of the brushed Jubilee bracelet pleasing. The VK68 movement is a great choice and a solid performer as all Seiko-built meca-quartz chronographs are.
The other side
On the other side, however, I am left unenthused by the weedy Arabic numerals and the uncomfortable attempt to lume them. It doesn’t feel like added functionality to me. It feels forced. And, truthfully, the result is so underwhelming it could easily have been left out with no problem whatsoever.
I really like the crazily slim sub-dial hands…
Blued elements often look great in luxury watchmaking, but really only when that blue is achieved via traditional methods. Painted indices just don’t do it for me and the application here (with my 3 and 9 markers slightly above the horizontal axis) is not the best. I found the handset to be a mixed bag. I really like the crazily slim sub-dial hands (that was a triumphant choice), but the hour and minute hands left me cold. On pilot’s watches, I prefer broader hands. This syringe style always makes me think of field or trench watches for some reason. Personal interpretations aside, they just didn’t smack of quality.
The counterpoise of the seconds is an undeniable focal point of the design. An iconic image, the red, white, and blue roundel naturally draws the eye. As such, it must be perfect. The printing of the central blue dot here is marginally off-center. I may have been unlucky, or I might be being a pedantic Pete, but the watchmaker in me can’t ignore such details.
In summary, I came away quite satisfied with the AVI-8 Flyboy Lafayette considering its remarkable price point. Is it my favorite watch from the brand? No, I think the Spitfire is slightly more accomplished (and still very reasonably priced). I also think the Spitfire is truer to the design codes I would expect a Pilot’s watch to adhere to. But, I must say, the Flyboy Lafayette is incredibly close to being a nailed-on home run.
In hand, the watch feels shockingly good value…
With polished silver hour indices, less unnecessary sub-dial printing, and a wide, polished handset that does away with the cute but distracting roundel (which would look very much at home on an undecorated crown) this would be an unbeatable buy in this bracket.
But, truth be told, with a price tag of just €265 it is hard to complain. In hand, the watch feels shockingly good value and it batters fashion brands in the same price bracket black and blue in terms of looks, build quality, and performance. And bear in mind my critique of the colors is restricted to this model I have on my wrist. If you like the overall aesthetic but want to check out the other dials available, you can do so here. For me, this is a great gift for a younger watch lover, just finding their feet in the game.
Brand AVI-8 ModelFlyboy LafayetteReferenceAV-4076-44DialSalmon with blue hour markersCase Material316L stainless steelCase Dimensions42mm wide, 13.5mm thickCrystalMineral lens with AR coatingCase BackSolid, engravedMovementVK68 meca-quartz chronographWater Resistance50 metersFunctionsDate, 24-hour indicator, chronographPrice€265Warranty2 year international guarantee Watch of the Week
(Re)Introducing the “Komfit” mesh watch band that once adorned the wrists of astronauts Partner Content April 13, 2020
Several concepts come of age in one balanced model by Rob Nudds May 11, 2020
A wrist time review and a new release to pore over… by Rob Nudds May 04, 2020
When the gamble pays off… by Rob Nudds April 27, 2020
Our annual Top 10 Rolex Watches overview by Fratello July 31, 2019
by Robert-Jan Broer February 26, 2019
by Robert-Jan Broer September 29, 2018
About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
Watch reviews in your inbox.
Even when it’s not Speedy Tuesday.Original Article