AVI-8 Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Hands-On Review Get ready for take-off by Rob NuddsMarch 13, 2020 MIN READAVI-8 Spitfire Type 300 Automatic Hands-On Review
The AVI-8 Spitfire Type 300 Automatic is one of the latest watches from the Aviation-obsessed brand. It also happens to be one of the most accomplished in terms of specs, design execution, and price. I spent a week alternating between two of the four available colorways and here’s what I think about it…
To be quite frank, I’m finding having my preconceptions shattered so regularly quite exhausting. I’ve covered AVI-8 releases in the past, but I’d never had the chance to go hands-on with the brand’s products before. And then, just like buses, two came along at once. I didn’t really start out with a negative view of the brand; rather, I was just a little apathetic. Small, new brands are popping up all over the place. And while I am a huge fan of the little guy fighting the good fight for watch lovers the world over, it often helps to approach these fledgling firms with a dash of cynicism.
The Spitfire is mostly very good.
Why? I hear you ask. Well, as promising as the designs of many a micro may be, there is very often a chasmic disconnect between ambition and execution. More frustratingly still is the fact that this gulf between intention and result is often not discernible from photos alone. Much less is it obvious when a brand provides you with nothing but renders. Once again, the key is research, research, research. Except that’s rarely possible when it comes to microbrands with no showrooms, stockists, or, quite often, stock to speak of. But that’s what we’re here for. To get those products in our hands and communicate the good, the bad, and the occasionally ugly. Great news, AVI-8: The Spitfire is mostly very good.
All about price
Let me preface this review by saying one can never entirely disassociate oneself from the price of a product when assessing its merits and demerits. I always try and look at the product before I have any idea of its price to get a pure, gut reaction. But while the exact figure may be unknown in those first moments, it is easy enough to place most watches in a nominal price bracket after a few seconds of having them in your hands (especially if there is a see-through case back as is the case here).
And so when I say the AVI-8 Spitfire is a surprisingly satisfying watch to wear, I am not saying it is on the same level as a Rolex Submariner. But within the context of its particular portion of the industry, it offers a lot.
The dial is really good. Although clearly lifted from an airplane’s dash, the display comes across as quite original, thanks in part to very large and very clean hands. The half-way taper is a really nice touch and I much prefer this still of indicator to many used habitually by bigger, more established brands. But the best thing about the dial is the depth. The numbers tower above their background. Coated generously with lume, the five-minute Arabic markers (showing 05,25,35,45, and 55) are impossible miss, day or night.
I think part of the reason this is such a successful design is that it adheres so stringently to the requirements of a pilot’s watch. It is supremely legible. And it is, thanks to that lume, a lot of fun to read in low light conditions.
Cleverly, AVI-8 has used “regular” hour markers for 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, using a double-digit format (02, 04, 06, 08, and, well, 10) to balance the markings with the more prominent five-minute numerals. These “regular” hours have been printed subtly on the dial. They are perfectly usable as hour markers (although more as locators rather than numerical assistants themselves), and yet do not disrupt or clutter the display at all.
…the more I looked at this dial on my wrist, the more impressed I was.
They are printed on the second-highest of four distinct dial levels. The lowest level is the off-center sub-seconds sub-dial between 4 and 5 o’clock. Next up from that is a second level showing the 7 and 9 o’clock positions, alongside the locations for 40, 55, and 10 minutes. It is a remarkably cohesive display, with a huge amount of visual interest, which has been presented in an instantly digestible way. Truthfully, the more I looked at this dial on my wrist, the more impressed I was.
The AVI-8 Spitfire does not wear as its dimensions suggest it might. On paper, it is only 42mm across, 13.6mm thick, and 51mm lug-to-lug. On the wrist it is a different story. It wears large. On my 6.5” wrist I found it a bit oversized (that’s more my wrist’s fault than it is the watch’s). The watches came on a bracelet as standard, but I flipped the blue-dialed version onto the included leather strap for a bit of variety. I think the band and bracelet are the worst aspects of the watch, although the double-security clasp on the bracelet is decent and seems very reliable. I wasn’t a fan (at all) of the pin and tang buckle on the gray leather strap. Firstly, it appears to have been (IP?) coated and is thus neither black nor steel. It is a dark gray shade, which, I suppose, means it matches everything and nothing in equal measure.
I would happily pick one of these babies up for the retail price…
The machining of the pin and tang was confusingly poor considering how excellent the case itself is. It is very, very common that cases from microbrands fail to deliver on the execution front. They tend to be cheaply made, rushed through the CNC machine, and haphazardly finished thereafter. This was definitely not the case with the AVI-8 Spitfire’s housing. It was crisp, clean, deliberate, and rather impressive for the price point. I would happily pick one of these babies up for the retail price, stick it on a tailor-made 5-ring leather ZULU and wear it as a weekender.
But wait! If I wear it on a ZULU, won’t that obscure the view of the movement without removing the strap? Yes. Yes, it will. Do I care? Not so much. I must say that the specially-shaped Spitfire rotor is a cool touch, but I’m really over movement views of non-Swiss tractor calibers. The graining on the Spitfire itself was too rough for my liking and I would have preferred a nicely stamped case back with the same image.
Maybe AVI-8 will consider that for the next run of these timepieces. The next run? Yes, that’s right: The AVI-8 Spitfire was so popular upon its release that it has already sold out. But fear not. It will return. The next squadron of AVI-8 Spitfires will be available for a limited time only from March 13th (that’s tomorrow for those of you with no calendar in your eye-line). The price of the first run of AVI-8 Spitfire Type 300 automatic was £335. To place your order, head over to the official site here.
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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
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