Flyboy Lafayette Chronograph
The Lafayette Escadrille was famously a unit of American volunteer fighter pilots who served under French command in 1916, during World War I. The name of the unit pays tribute to Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American revolutionary war. Aside from the initial core squadron, other American volunteers would join the French air effort and their presence marked them as members of a wider Lafayette Flying Corps.
The pilots serving came from a diverse background. Some were idealists and patriots, while others were adventurers. Nevertheless, they all sacrificed their lives and showed immense bravery and courage to volunteer in the face of America’s own neutrality during WW1.
After the war, many of the Lafayette Escadrille and the Flying Corps would serve as the founding fathers of American combat aviation, with the formation of the US Air Force. Our tribute to the Lafayette Escadrille is a true compliment to the spirit of the Flyboy, the colloquial term used to describe these dangerous, rakish, courageous and patriotic warriors of the sky. In imagining a watch bearing the Lafayette name, AVI-8 uses design bookmarks from the late 1910s to 1920s, fused with practical and modern watch mechanics and precision
A 42mm pilot field case is sensibly sized, topped by a hardened mineral lens with both sapphire and anti-reflective coating. An “onion” style crown draws from early trench watches fashioned out of traditional pocket watches. These watches would eventually form the shape and design of quintessential pilot watches and would serve as critical pieces of instrumentation for the combat pilot. Piston like pushers operate and snap back reset the chronograph easily
Art-deco inspired fonts mark the hours, and while the dial is calibrated comprehensively it remains clearly readable courtesy of intelligent spacing, proportionality and use of depth to dip into the chronograph sub dials. The central dial layer’s subtle horizontal lines are drawn from the wing pattern of a Nieuport 17, an aircraft flown by many members of the Escadrille. A pulsometer is marked out on the tension ring of the dial with a nod to the French elements imbibed in the origin and inspiration of this watch.
The syringe like hour and minute hands are met with detailing on the chronograph seconds hand where a French Air Force roundel has been carefully applied true to the commitment of the brand to reflect history and narrative into the detail of the watches. The case back is carved with the famed Indian head insignia of the Escadrille found on the Spad VIIs and other aircraft flown by them.
The AVI-8 brand has long looked to reference history through the prism of modern watchmaking and aptly the choice of a Japanese High Beat Meca-Quartz Sweep hand chronograph movement does precisely that. Providing pin point split time accuracy to one fifth of a second, the movement’s behaviour as an automatic with the precision of quartz makes for a very satisfying timing experience.
While traditionally a pilot watch circa the 1920s would not have been fashion on the ‘Jubilee’ style solid stainless steel bracelet used on the Lafayette, its choice makes for an excellent fit for both aesthetically and functionally, completing the watch as both a historical wearable signpost and as a durable, ever wearable watch for both connoisseur and enthusiast alike. Tapering from 22mm to 18mm the bracelet hugs the case to the wrist for a snug and always comfortable wear.