Avi-8 has etched its name into the fabric of British watchmaking with a lookbook of timepieces forged from the DNA of the Royal Air Force. These watches go beyond looking smart and robust. They honor the legacy of the war heroes who have sat in the cockpits of British aviation icons like the Hawker Hurricane, the Hawker Harrier and most recently the Hawker Hunter. The brand breaks the sound barrier by ushering in a swathe of timepieces that have launched out of the archives of the Jet Age. We were lucky to talk with the creatives at Avi-8 and discover how they marry design and history in their newest timepiece the Hawker Hunter AV 4052.
GW: Avi-8 has genuine legs when it comes to a backstory and a history. Going beyond being simply a brand, you’ve crafted a DNA that connects to the RAF’s rich history. Connect the dots for us with how Avi-8 came to exist and pay homage to our heroes in the sky. Is there a direct connection between any of the team at Avi-8 and the RAF? Any veterans turned designers for example?
Avi-8: We do work and collaborate with a lot of ex-RAF pilots. Some of whom are involved in the commercial side of aviation. All of them still hold a deep passion and pride with their time in the RAF. They are our bridge in understanding more about the aircraft. We do call upon them informally to review ideas and designs and their input has been invaluable.
GW: Why timepieces? How does Avi-8 translate into watchmaking a love for timepieces and a faithfulness to history without getting bogged down?
A watch in its own right is a remarkable blend of materials, design and manufacturing disciplines. While aviation and military avionics are of course far more complex and mission-critical we do draw some parallels. Timing and precision timing is both a mission critical element of flying and the spirit of watchmaking and aviation are interwoven. It’s a natural and apt then that we should look at watches.
Where we differ from say a pilot watch – which a lot of brands produce, is to really dig into the narratives, the aesthetic cues to create timepieces that are inspired by this world
GW: Draw us a picture of the Avi-8 community. What kind of man wears an Avi-8 timepiece?
We find a diverse range of Avi-8 fans. From aviation enthusiasts, to watch nerds, to gear heads and of course those who simply appreciate the timeless appeal of some of our more vintage inspired pieces. The Avi-8 range hopefully speaks to each subset and we want each Avi-8 to be an experience, a collectible that is both priced sensibly yet borne of detail and workmanship that gives delight and joy to the wearer even at the sensible price points that they sell for.
GW: Talk to us about the Hawker Hunter AV 4052. The Hawker Hunter helped usher in the jet age. And as history buffs will know, the advent of the F1 changed the scope of how an air force could turn the tide in war. How does the 4052 change the look of watchmaking? Did you know you would be expanding the Hawker Hunter lookbook from the 4036 to the 4052? What is this new generation of Hawker Hunter pieces that you’ve added to the larger canon at Avi-8?
We’ve developed the Hunter with the same parallels to the aircraft. We wanted to walk within the time frame and era of early jet aviation and use our watch to remind people of that special and epochal transition in military aviation history.
The 4036 hinted at the jet turbine engine through its bezel detailing. With the 4052 and some of the other octagonal case shapes in the Hunter range, such as the Automatic 4043 we’ve looked into the cockpit for inspiration.
With 4052, in particular, we’ve married some great Japanese movements to echo the look and feel of the cockpit display of the Hunter. From the retrograde 10min display to the other subdials framed in a manner similar to what was found on board the Hunter.
GW: Walk us through how something as pristinely rendered as the 4052 is conceptualized. What is the brainstorming process like at Avi-8? Are you combing history books, looking for new details about the RAF and its respective heroes? Do you have an idea of a watch already in mind and then couple it with the appropriate RAF icon? Where do these brilliant ideas come from?
Inspiration comes from various sources. As mentioned, we look at the actual form of aircraft, the inside of the aircraft and we look at the detailing and engineering deep within to see if we can bring them to life within each watch.
From there a team of skilled and passionate watch designers looks to imbue the details of the plane into each watch. Some of the details are obvious but some are subtle and go to the mood, era, and spirit of the times rather than an explicit visual element that is used.
We’re not strictly an RAF centric brand in that the Hunter, the Harrier, and even the Hurricane could all be found in Air Forces around the world. The Hunter, in particular, became one of Britain’s most prolific jet exports and found service with at least 20 different countries own air defense systems.
GW: The 4052 like the other timepieces in your collection are elegantly modern and still boast a neo-classical design aesthetic. Careful heed to the 50s is paid here. How do you keep the brand DNA forward-thinking and still honor a classical blueprint with a watch like the 4052? How important was it to have a vintage look with a modern feel?
The Hunter at the time of its launch was a leap into the future for military aviation. It represented a mid-century modernism that was intriguing and was found in many other iconic pieces of product, industrial design of the late 40s and early 50s. In the same way, the 4052, is vintage but in a modern way emblematic of how the 1950s viewed the future and the advent of the jet age.
GW: Where and when can the public get their hands on the 4052?
It will be available on our website, https://www.avi-8.co.uk/pages/hawker-hunter-av-4052
We are currently signing up customers, so that can Pre-Order any of the AV-4052. The Pre-Order goes live on the 13th April and the Launch Date is 27th April.