During World War II one of the most widely produced and strategically important planes was the Supermarine Spitfire. This agile and versatile aircraft went through numerous iterations to meet various needs and developments throughout the war. Also during this period, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) created a design brief for a rugged watch with which to equip its service personnel. The resulting watches were produced by 12 different companies and have collectively become known as the “Dirty Dozen” (DD). Driven by the design specs, these watches all share a similar field watch aesthetic. I won’t dive deeply into the Dirty Dozen here in this review, but for a good overview have a look at the Hodinkee article in the following link. (https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/di…litary-watches)
Drawing on their love of military and aviation timepieces Gavox watches has released the Spitfire as a tribute to the Dirty Dozen and smaller simpler watches of the past. Leveraging a previously existing case design used for their unisex Stellar models, Gavox has sought to capture the spirit of the Dirty Dozen watches in a smaller value priced package. Strap on your goggles, crank over that Merlin engine and let’s take the Spitfire for a spin!
MEASUREMENTS AND PRICING
My measurements of the Gavox Spitfire, taken using digital calipers.
Case Diameter – 35.6 mm
Crystal Diameter – 31.8 mm
Lug to Lug Length– 41.6 mm
Lug Width – 18 mm
Total Height (bottom of caseback to top of crystal) – 8mm
Height of Midcase – 6.9 mm
Caseback thickness – 1.1 mm
Crown Diameter – 4.5 mm
Weight (watch head only) – 30 g
Pricing – 173 Euros including tax
The Spitfire takes advantage of the existing case Gavox uses for their Stellar line of watches. The 35.6mm diameter case is right in line with the original vintage sizes of the Dirty Dozen pieces. Overall the Spitfire is slim and compact coming in at a total height of 8mm and a lug to lug length of just 41.6mm. Looking at the midcase alone things get even slimmer at 6.9mm. The 316L stainless-steel case has a fully polished finish and an undercut rounded bowl shape that uses straight lean lugs and no crown guards. The finishing is good, with no sharp edges and the polish reflects with clarity.
The narrow, rounded bezel gives prominence to the large dial and is topped by a 31.8mm diameter scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The flat crystal sits just proud of the bezel and often disappears to make the shallow dial appear very close at some angles.
The caseback is nicely engraved with a Spitfire plane and basic details. An Easter egg hidden on the back is the inscription “Wrist Watch Waterproof”. While it seems a standard phrase, the Dirty Dozen watches were famously and simply marked “W.W.W” on their casebacks to note that designation. Several times during the war, prototype Spitfire floatplanes were created but none proved successful or entered active service, thus limiting the Spitfire’s use around water. The same can be said of Gavox’s Spitfire, the snap-on back gives the watch a minimal 3 bar water resistance rating, which is pretty low for a modern watch, so the “Wrist Watch Waterproof” inscription may not have the impact it once did.
The Spitfire’s case feels delicate and light as it leans heavily on the Stellar’s existing dress aesthetic, which while a good compromise of resources does feel at odds with the tool watch origins of the Dirty Dozen inspired design. I would have much preferred to see Gavox make some changes to the case for this model. A brushed or bead-blasted finish would have helped it to feel more rugged and tool-like and an overall beefed up case side design with heavier lugs and higher water resistance would make the Spitfire a more versatile watch.
At a quick glance the Spitfire shares a lot of similarities with the Dirty Dozen dial design and has a traditional field watch feel. The black colour, sub-seconds dial at 6, Arabic numerals and railway minute track are all shared by the Spitfire and its inspiring pieces. However, Gavox has made some subtle tweaks that refine the watch and help it better pair with its dressy case.
A subtle sunburst finish adds some depth and texture to the face. It can vary from a rich black to a shimmering charcoal. The sunburst is really nice in that it doesn’t ever get too flashy and electric looking but has smooth velvet fanning appearance in bright light. The well executed sunburst is a nice choice as it pairs better with the dressy case than a plain matte black dial would have.
The sunken seconds sub-dial has a nice concentric circular guilloche pattern that has a similar gentle sunburst that often appears at right angles to the main dial’s burst. Gavox has added a cross hair detail to the sub dial and I really like this update, both stylistically and for easily tracking short time intervals. The large sub-dial clips the corners of the 7 and 5 and while I would have preferred a slightly smaller dial that left the numerals intact, the larger sub-dial is consistent with the DD watches.
In a refreshing departure from the use of fauxtina, Gavox has opted to use crisply contrasting glossy white printing on the dial instead of perhaps a more expected creamy yellow vintage tone. The layout of the dial is very similar to the DD using mainly Arabic numerals, except where Gavox has departed and used a triangle at 12. I really like the change as it sets the Spitfire apart a bit, the rounded triangle has a slight aviation feel and ties into both the curved numerals and Gavox logo. A vintage feeling railroad minute track rims the dial and is punctuated by small lume plots on the hours that are slightly enlarged on the cardinal points. To the naked eye the print work looks good, but if scrutinized under a loupe some of the numerals could be crisper, which may be a asking too much for the affordable price point.
Overall the dial is well executed and very legible with subtle textured finishes that add a touch of refinement to a traditional field watch layout.
Amongst the Dirty Dozen collection, the greatest departure between the 12 manufacturers is the choice of hands. The bold sword handset used by Gavox on the Spitfire has a gloss white finish and closely resembles those used by Omega and Buren on their DD watches. The lumed hands have a nice rounded cross section that gives the hands some depth and weight. To my eye The handset appears aesthetically imbalanced due to the large hour hand and the smaller short minute hand. The minute hand would be better served being longer so as to reach the minute track and ideally be a little fatter as well. The seconds hand is a nice needle with a rounded counterweight. The hands are prominently legible with perfect alignment and can be easily read day or night.
The Spitfire’s 4.5mm push/pull crown is engraved with the Gavox “G” mark and despite its diminutive size it is easy to use as it protrudes from the curved case side. The crown has no wobble and snaps crisply into position. The crown does look rather small, but suits a dressier watch. If Gavox wanted to push more into the field watch style of the Spitfire a larger diameter crown would look great, but would also need to be paired with a more solid case with more vertical sides.
Despite its vaunted versatility and design brief as a “day and night fighter” some considered the Supermarine Spitfire a poor choice for night missions. Both due to the nose shape design obscuring visibility for take-offs and landing as well as the flames and glow from the engine exhaust manifold destroying the pilot’s night vision. Gavox’s Spitfire uses Superluminova C3 on the hands and dial and it is also a little disappointing at night. The lume on the hands is very good, charging quickly to a bright green glow and is easily visible through the night with dark adjust eyes. The dial lume however is poor, not coming near to matching the intensity or duration of the hands. With the good strength of the hands telling the time in the dark is still possible but it would be nice to see Gavox improve the dial lume as they have put out some watches with great overall lume in the past.
Below is a comparison of the Sptifire with the Halios Seaforth and Tissot PR50. All three have C3 lume, the Seaforth representing a sporty diver and the Tissot a more dress design.
As one would expect for the Spitfire’s thin case and price point a quartz movement has understandably been used. The Seiko VD75 is a simple reliable movement that still gives some horological satisfaction in that there is no phantom date position on the stem and the second hand in its sub dial hits all the marks perfectly. It is rated as having a 3 year battery interval and being accurate to 4 minutes per year.
The Spitfire comes mounted on your choice of a black or brown crocodile patterned leather strap. The strap measures 74mm/188mm in length, is 3mm thick and has a 18/16mm taper. Handy quick-release spring bars are a nice touch and the tang buckle is polished to match the case and features an engraved Gavox logo. The strap is firmly on the dressy side of the ledger and magnifies those elements of the watch. The strap was quite stiff and squeezy in the first day or so of wear and was showing signs of breaking in, but I was most excited to try the Spitfire on some single pass NATOs to pull out the field aspect more.
ON THE WRIST
On the wrist the Spitfire is a refreshing breeze to wear. It is small, thin, light and discrete. This will be a pro or con depending on what you are looking for in the Spitfire. If you want it to be a slim low-key dressier watch it is on point. If you are looking for a sturdy field watch the lightness may throw you off some. I was initially surprised at how diminutive the Spitfire and its hair under 36mm case looked when pulled from the watch roll after mostly wearing 40mm+ divers. But after wearing it for a day or two the size started to look right at home on my 6.75” wrist. It would wear well on even much smaller wrists but perhaps will start looking too dainty on larger wrists over 7.25”, unless the more vintage size has strong appeal to the wearer. While the case is diminutive the dial aperture itself is relatively large at 31.8mm and is actually bigger than that of some 40-42mm divers I have on hand. This helps the Spitfire to wear a bit visually larger than one would expect. It is so easy to wear that I have a feeling when I return to my larger dive watches that they will seem like Avro Lancasters in comparison.
The 36mm size is small for a contemporary sports or tool watch and that combined with the case shape, finishing and stock strap really make the Spitfire feel like a dress watch with a bit of tool or field watch flavour as opposed to the inverse. I knew right away I wanted to try the Spitfire on some single pass NATO straps to draw more on its field roots and I found that the more rugged non-tapering fabric straps really suited the watch. The Spitfire wore much better on a NATO for my tastes. The watch still sits sleekly on the wrist (about 9mm tall including the strap) due to the bowl case and thin 18mm NATO that nestles into the wrist. This setup has a bit more presence and suits the inspiring military vibe well.
The Spitfire has a lot of aesthetic versatility with its black face and blend of dress and field elements, but it is held back in the practical versatility of wearing it in various situations by its low water resistance.
The Spitfire is a fun hybrid style watch that is tricky to pigeonhole. Gavox has done a good job blending their existing dress watch case to a unique historical reference and the resulting Spitfire is nicely made for the price.
Just as the Supermarine Spitfire evolved and improved through its time of service, I would love to see Gavox improve on their own mark I Spitfire and go all in on a Dirty Dozen tribute. An updated Spitfire 2 that would use its own dedicated 36mm case with a slightly heavier look, matte finishing, more WR and an overall more tool watch style would better fit its namesake’s robust versatility and make for a great daily companion piece.
If you are looking for an easy-wearing, smaller, dressier watch that ties into some historical field watch aesthetics in an affordable package, check out the Gavox Spitfire.
Thank you to Gavox for the loan of the Spitfire and thanks to you for taking the time to read this review, please let me know if you have any further questions or comments.