Off the Cuff: Whitby Avro Pilot

Friday, February 20th, 1959 is also known as Black Friday in the history of Canadian aviation. It was on this day that the employees of A.V. Roe Canada learned that the CF-105, a supersonic fighter jet, also known as the Avro Arrow, was to be scrap-heaped. Largely considered to be one of the most advanced interceptors of its time, the Avro Arrow became a victim of Cold War politics, resulting in the loss of 25 000 jobs.

Originally commissioned by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1953, the Avro Arrow was destined to be a nuclear interceptor, protecting the nation’s northern border from Soviet invasion. It was designed to fly higher and faster than any other fighter in that era. It had the world’s first on board computerized weapons system and could fly twice the speed of sound at heights exceeding 53 000 feet. The five Mark 1 Arrows would fly a total of 66 flights and break four speed records; the two Mark 2 Arrows would never fly.

Whitby Watch Company Avro Pilot Flieger Microbrand Review
Whitby Avro Pilot Powered by the Swiss ETA 2824-2 @calibre321

Cost overruns, cheaper American fighters, and the shift to intercontinental missiles have been blamed for the Diefenbaker government’s decision. But the controversial aftermath gave birth to numerous conspiracy theories. In a highly unusual move, the existing aircraft were dismantled by blow torch and sold to a scrap metal dealer in Hamilton for 6.5 cents/pound. All blueprints, plans and technical documents were destroyed. By 1962 the company of A.V. Roe ceased to be, and the resulting brain drain to the United States—and to NASA particularly—crippled aerospace programming in the country for years.

Whitby Avro Pilot with RCAF Roundel @calibre321

The Whitby Watch Company makes two timepieces which commemorate the CF-105 and its brief but important achievements. You can read a review of the Seiko-powered Arrow Pilot here. This article will highlight its Swiss sibling The Limited Edition Avro Pilot.

The Avro Pilot is available in three colourways: Black, Navy, and Grey. Each iteration is limited to 105 pieces, in honour of the aircraft’s designation series. Like the Arrow, the Avro is a Flieger-styled pilot’s watch with a 43mm titanium case and oversized crown. It also employs AR-coated sapphire crystal, but rather than a solid caseback, the Avro has a sapphire exhibition glass. This allows the wearer to admire its Swiss calibre, the ETA 2824-2. Around the outside of the case, it is stamped with the motto of the RCAF: “Per Ardua Ad Astra,” or “Through Adversity to the Stars.” And to the left of the dial, the case is also etched with “CF-105”.

The dial of the Avro is a Type A style, but rather than the Whitby logo, the Avro bears an embossed version of the RCAF roundel. The numerals, markers, and hands have been treated with Super LumiNova and offer sustained brightness. The thick leather band is riveted next to the lugs, but the watch also comes with a sturdy NATO strap.

Whitby Watch Company Avro Pilot Flieger Microbrand Review
Riveted Leather Strap with Signed Buckle @calibre321

SPECS

CaseAircraft-grade Titanium
43mm Diameter
50.5mm Lug to Lug
12mm Thick
22mm Lug Width
Exhibition Caseback
100m Water Resistance
MovementETA 2824-2 (Engraved Rotor)
38-Hour Power Reserve
25 Jewels
Hacking and Hand-winding
28 800bph
Crystal & DialAR-Sapphire Crystal and
Exhibition Glass
Type A Flieger Dial /w
RCAF Roundel
C3 Super-Luminova
StrapRiveted Leather /w Matching Buckle
Extra NATO Strap
Whitby Avro Pilot
NANUK 904 Carrying Case @calibre321

Of Interest

Aside from its improved Swiss movement and additional etchings and licensed adornments, the Avro Pilot comes in a MIL-spec waterproof NANUK 904 carrying case. Made in Canada, and advertised as “impenetrable and indestructible,” the case is built of molded resin and employs a patented PowerClaw latching system. It also comes with a lifetime warranty. Inside, there is room to comfortably and safely store up to three watches along with extra straps and a spring-bar tool. Each Avro also comes with a commemorative coin.

Quibbles

I would love to see a 40mm version of this watch with a Type B variation. Is that a complaint? No, not really. Just a wish.

Whitby Watch Company Avro Pilot Flieger Microbrand Review
Whitby Avro Pilot with Signed Crown and Titanium Case @calibre321

Final Thoughts

This watch wears very much like the Arrow. Its comfortable lug design makes it feel like a smaller watch. Its titanium construction will have you forget that it is even there. As it should be with a Flieger, the dial is highly legible, even in the dawn-grey colourway shown here.  With 100 meters of water resistance and slim profile, it will work well as an everyday watch and transition nicely from work to weekend. I am also very partial to the extra NATO strap. Its colouring and brushed oval keepers really highlight the toolish nature of the watch. But I am also a sucker for a good story and this watch won’t let you forget it. The added engraving and the roundel are tastefully integrated into the watch’s design. And I do not think you need to be a Canadian to enjoy this story. It’s an aviation buff’s dream and a definite conversation piece.  

The Avro is double the cost of its sister watch, the Arrow. But it is half the price of the Stowa Flieger Classic 40, which is a remarkably similar watch. As such, I think the Avro Pilot is priced competitively for a timepiece with its Swiss calibre. These watches are designed in Canada, but constructed in Germany, and the quality of the build shows. The NANUK case is also an incredible bonus. Take it with you on your next trip and you’ll be instantly transformed into an international man of mystery.

They may even let you fly the plane.

Whitby Watch Company Avro Pilot Flieger Microbrand Watch Review
Whitby Avro Pilot with NATO Strap @calibre321

Off The Cuff articles are full-length, hands-on reviews of the watch in question and represent the opinion of the author only. All photos are original, unless specified otherwise. If you would like to have your watch reviewed on this site, contact us here.

Published by calibre321

I am a writer, an educator, a craftsman, and a watch enthusiast. Follow me on Instagram @calibre321, or read my watch reviews at calibre321.com.

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