The AVI-8 Hawker Harrier II Matador is not only our favorite AVI-8 watch so far, but it’s also our favorite quartz chronograph of year. True, 2019 just started, but this model will likely still rank at the top of the list by the end of the year. The watch is beautifully designed. The price is right. And the chronograph function is not just cool but memorizing.
Fans of AVI-8 (pronounced aviate) are no strangers to the Hawker Harrier line of watches and the inspiration they draw from the aircraft of the same name. These jet-powered planes are known for their ability to takeoff and land vertically. The Hawker Harrier II Matador timepiece was created to pay tribute to the version of these jump jets that flew in the Spanish Navy in the 70s and 80s (aka the Matador).
We’re suckers for interesting dials, and while layered dials are common enough, few have as many levels and moving parts as the Matador. There isn’t much you can do with the front of a quartz movement to make it worth looking at, which is why skeleton dial quartz watches are basically non-existent. AVI-8 made it so the cutouts allow for a real-time view of the double-digit big date as it flips at midnight. Watch our video below to see this in action.
They have done this before with the Hawker Hurricane Spinning Roundel Edition, but it didn’t spin as quickly and smoothly because it was a 1/10 second counter. With the new movement and some adjustments to the disc, AVI-8 has perfected their spinning roundel concept in the Hawker Harrier II Matador with a blazingly fast 1/20 sec spinning disc.
The push/pull crown is surrounded by a textured pattern that makes it easy for adjusting. The matching gold tone stripe that wraps around the middle is a nice touch. To add to the color theme, they dipped the upper chronograph pusher in some rose gold ionic plating as well.
From the side of the Matador, the crown features indentations that create the AVI-8 bullseye logo. Subtle design cues like this go a long way, especially with an affordable microbrand watch.
The 45mm case is mostly high polished steel, but with a satin finish on the top of the horns. Polished cases look great, but are also prone to swirlies just by looking at them. The good news is that unlike brushed cases, you can usually just hit it up with a Cape Cod cloth and bring back the mirror-like finish. Just be sure to tape off anything that isn’t polished steel!
The crystal is mineral with an anti-reflective coating that gives a clear view into the dial. Of course we’d prefer to see a sapphire crystal being used, but AVI-8 watches aren’t meant to be tool watches, so they tend to opt out of things like sapphire crystals and screw-down crowns.
Jet Engine Caseback
The caseback is often a component of the watch that brands choose to overlook. After all, it sits against your wrist and doesn’t get much attention. AVI-8, however, saw this is an opportunity to add more aviation elements to the overall design. Similar to how some Breitling Bentley casebacks look like the wheel of a car, the caseback on the Matador resembles the turbine blades of a Rolls Royce Pegasus jet engine. They did a nice job with this! It shows that just because a watch has a solid caseback doesn’t mean it has to be uninteresting.
The Hawker Harrier II strap is a textured leather strap with a smooth black bottom and contrasting black stitching that goes well with the black inner bezel and other dark details in the dial.
At the other end of the 22mm lugs you will find a 20mm brushed steel tang buckle.
On the Wrist
AVI-8 is getting bigger and growing as a brand. As they launch more models, they are starting to have recognizable features in their timepieces. With the new Matador model, they have incorporated some other elements that we’ve seen in their line-up. As mentioned above, the spinning disc is reminiscent of the 1/10 second disc on the Hawker Hurricane. The 3D panel over the spinning disc is similar to the minute subdial on the cockpit inspired Hawker Hunter. If you notice anything else, be sure to mention it below.
The Hawker Harrier II Matador is available in 3 styles. The model reviewed here is reference AV-4065-02. This is our favorite configuration, but the black case on a brown strap (ref AV-4065-03) and the steel on a black strap (ref AV-4065-01) also look great.
The retail price depends on the finish. The all steel is $310 USD; the steel and rose gold accents model is $320; and the black PVD goes for $330. A lot of brands don’t do this, but it makes sense. Black ionic plating or PVD is another step in the manufacturing process and costs more to produce.
While we’re on the topic of pricing, we might as well dish out one thing that’s bothering us about AVI-8 lately… their watches are now being dumped on discount grey market sites. For the design and constant evolution of the brand, the watches are already priced well in the $250-500 range. When watches that retail for $275 are being sold at $59.99, that’s a huge problem for dealer and customer trust. It sends a message that if we all wait long enough, we’ll eventually be able to buy the watch for under 60 bucks. Dear AVI-8: controlling and enforcing your MAP is good for you, retailers, and customers… dumping product for $59 is not.
We’re timing this review with the official release date of the Matador on 1/25/19. That means you don’t have to wait for a pre-sale or Kickstarter, the watch is available for purchase now! Click here.