Review: AVI-8 Spitfire Smith Automatic Watch

My first review and I get to write about two of my nerdiest passions: watches and airplanes! This wasn’t planned.

Introducing the AVI-8 Spitfire Smith Automatic. Named in honor of the Chief Designer at Supermarine, the manufacturer of the Supermarine Spitfire, or just Spitfire, Joseph Smith, the watch has many details that homage this graceful, iconic, and historically important aircraft. Let’s just say that without this plane, Ryan would have an easier time marketing the German version of his book around the world.

There are four models to choose from, all named after the location of manufacturing plants: Woolston (brown dial), Birmingham (blue dial), Reading (green dial), and Salisbury (grey dial). I decided to go for the Salisbury version and after exclusively wearing it a week, here are my thoughts.

Case:

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The case has a diameter of 42 millimeters, 13.7 millimeters thick, and I measured the lug to lug to be 50 millimeters. Thanks to this version having a black coating on the case and a grey dial, it does wear slightly smaller. If it was a little bit bigger, I don’t think I would be able to pull it off, but weighing at 90 grams, it sits comfortably on my wrist (16cm). I’m not the most graceful strap remover, so although I can’t speak to the longevity of the coating, I can say the inside of the lugs still looks good after changing straps for a week. By the way, the space between the lugs is 22 millimeters which work well with the case proportions. The case shape is designed to emulate the elliptical silhouette of the Spitfire. I do think AVI-8 would have been more successful doing so if they had made the case a bit smaller and thinner, to really capture that elegant shape. The tie-ins with the Spitfire become more apparent if you turn to the side profile of the case. On either side of the crown, there are engravings of wings, making the crown seem like the nose of the plane. Found on both sides of the case, towards the lugs, are five engraved dots and a vertical line, which remind me of the many aluminum plates, that cover the fuselage of the Spitfire and the bolts that secure them to it. These details, the curved case design, chamfered edges on the lugs, and polishing on the lower part of the fixed bezel help the crownless side of the case not look slab-sided. The case is rated to 50 meters of water resistance with a screw down case back, and it has survived me washing dishes.

Dial:

Under the domed sapphire crystal, there’s a matte grey dial that I would describe as a mix between a Type B Flieger pilot watch dial, a sector dial, and cockpit instruments found in the Spitfire. Recessed on the dial at its center, the hours are displayed in military time, with the 14-, 18-, 20-, and 22-hours marks having been printed in light blue. At the 24-hour mark, there’s the AVI-8 logo, and at the 18-hour mark, a subtly stamped military serial number of the first Spitfire 1 was delivered to a squadron (squadron number 19) in August 1939, “K9787”. Very nice detail and easter egg that pays respect to the history of the aircraft. The date is also enclosed in this recessed section, with a black date disk that fits with the black rectangle framing it, and white numbers. It’s placed between 15 and 3 o’clock. Although I think the dial would look better and symmetric without it, it isn’t something that would make you not get the watch, in my opinion. On the elevated portion of the dial, printed in black, the minutes are displayed every five minutes, like a type B dial, only interrupted by bold Arabic hour indexes lathered in Swiss lume, at 3, 6, 9, and 0 o’clock like a sector dial layout. Their font is taken from the numbers used in the instrument displays in the Spitfire and the hands resemble those used to display the indications. A black chapter ring frames the dial with a minute track. Recessed into it and slightly elevated from the dial are eleven rectangular hour markers and an upside-down triangle at 0/12. I only wish that they were as elevated as the ones on the Spinnaker Boettger. The dial is my favorite part of this watch! The combination of grey, back, white, and light blue (on some of the numerals, water-resistance text, and seconds hand) work quite well. And the dept of the dial, achieved by placid its different components at different heights, elevates it to another level. Literally and figuratively. 

Movement:

The movement is, the ever-present in microbrands, (Seiko) NH35-TMI, which can be seen through an exhibition case back. It’s basically decorated, with mostly brushed surfaces, polished edges, and 24 jewels. I probably should have bought a time graph, but since that realization came too late for this review, every couple of hours I was checking its time against my phone. I found that this particular movement tends to lose between 10 to 15 seconds per day. Not bad. If you’re feeling adventurous, I’m sure there are video tutorials on how to regulate the NH35. The movement genuinely surprised me on how smooth it is to wind. This is my first encounter with the NH35, which shows how young I am to this hobby since these things are literally everywhere, so I don’t know if that’s how it is for them all, and I actually look forward to wind it. I guess that’s the whole appeal of having a mechanical/automatic movement instead of quartz. I did say that the movement has some basic decoration, but it does have a custom rotor in the shape of a Spitfire.

Strap:

The strap is a greyish brown genuine leather strap with a tang buckle engraved with the AVI-8 logo. This strap perfectly suits this watch in the aesthetics department, but like other company-supplied straps, it’s not the best part of the watch. Unfortunately, the vintage stitching is uncomfortable as it rubs against my skin, and the strap is too long for me, so I have to use the second to last hole. Ultimately, I decided to change the strap and wear the watch with a blue single pass nato (https://www.cheapestnatostraps.com/collections/fixed-single-pass-straps/products/single-pass-strap-midnight) or brown perlon strap (https://www.cheapestnatostraps.com/products/perlon-strap-2-0-steel?variant=36499579601060) from Cheapest Nato Straps.

Final thoughts: The more I spent time with this watch, the more I appreciated all its details. To get a good sense of the watch’s strengths and weaknesses, I decided to only wear this piece for a week, and I didn’t get tired of it.

It’s well built, has a dial that won’t bore you, and the features connecting it to the Spitfire will either make you enjoy it even more if you like airplanes and, if not, they’re not too gimmicky to ruin it. At $330 or $350, depending on the version that you go for, it’s a good pick. The Smith Automatic also gets an endorsement from my younger brother. He hasn’t shown any interest in any other watches, but he spent the last week constantly asking me if he can wear this one.

If you’re searching for a gift for a young enthusiast or to introduce someone to this hobby, I think you should consider the Smith Automatic.  

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To buy this watch- https://www.avi-8.com/pages/smith-automatic-unveil