AVI-8’s Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis honours the first supersonic planeFergus Nash
There’s truly nothing that’s too niche for a limited edition watch these days, and AVI-8 continue to prove that there’s a market for anything with enough dedication behind it. They don’t always make pilot’s watches in the traditional sense, rather they’re expressions of passion for aviation in multiple forms. Whether it’s based on an aerial dogfight game from the ‘80s or something that looks ripped straight from a cockpit, AVI-8 have you covered. Their latest release is the AVI-8 Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis, based on the first piloted aircraft to break the sound barrier.
In 1945 and the years following the end of WWII, the United States Army Air Forces collaborated with Bell Aircraft to develop an experimental rocket plane. Testing progressed slowly, and after the pilot Chalmers Goodlin asked for a $150,000 bonus for breaking the speed of sound, he got canned in favour of the 24-year-old Chuck Yeager. Despite his age, he’d impressed superiors in the final years of the war and graduated from Air Materiel Command Flight Performance School. On October 14th, 1947, he was strapped into the Bell X-1, in colossal pain from broken ribs – sustained from a horse-riding accident, of all things. Dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52, the rocket engine propelled the plane to Mach 1.06, or 700mph, successfully becoming the first manned supersonic flight. For good luck, Yeager had named the plane Glamorous Glennis after his wife, just as he’d done during the war.
While the Bell Aircraft X-1 itself was a smooth and elegant plane with a needle-nose for reducing drag, the AVI-8 Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis is a much heftier beast. Its case is twelve-sided and completely rigid, composed of flat surfaces and harsh edges. Clearly, it’s not meant to look like something from 1947, but it does capture some of the prototype spirit thanks to the four flathead case screws. It’s made of stainless steel with all of the weight that comes with it, totalling 170g on the steel bracelet, but it’s also available in black or gold coatings.
The shape of the AVI-8 Glamorous Glennis is similar to their Hawker Hunter series, however, it’s been reduced in size with the loss of the chronograph functionality and streamlining of the lugs. It’s 41mm in diameter, and approximately 50mm lug-to-lug which means it’s surprisingly wearable considering the bulk. It’s definitely never going to be a subtle watch, however comfort has still been a careful consideration.
The AVI-8 Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis has been given four colour variations, each featuring the plane’s famous ‘international orange’ colour in one way or another. The most obvious homage would be the orange-dialled version in a steel case, using black on the broad hands to set them apart. There’s also a navy blue variant using orange and white highlights, a black dial with a black case, and a green dial within the gold case. The numerals, including the giant Arabics at ‘0’ and ‘6’, are inspired by the instruments within the X-1’s cockpit. AVI-8 have also included the Bell Aircraft logo at 9 o’clock, as it’s painted on the nose of the X-1.
Functionally, it’s quite a legible dial. The markers are a little confusing with a ‘0’ at 12 but a ‘6’ at 6 instead of a ’30’, however it works for the general symmetry of the watch. The difference in depth between the indices and the numerals is accentuated by textural contrast too, with a rough grain below and a smoother matte finish above. The date window at 3 o’clock and the crown are black and orange across all four models.
Powering the AVI-8 X-1 Glamorous Glennis is the ubiquitous Seiko NH35, which can be found in most budget-friendly watches whether they call themselves microbrands or not. It’s such an affordable movement that it’s often more economical to replace than to fix should something ever go wrong, but simultaneously they have a great reputation for reliability considering the price. If you have a DIY attitude, they’re also fairly simple to adjust at home if you want to improve the daily rate. The customised winding rotor looks a little bit like knuckle dusters from the exhibition caseback, but it’s actually the shape of the Bell X-1’s four rocket chambers.
AVI-8 have paired the X-1 Glamorous Glennis with a strong H-link bracelet, matching the robust and industrial vibes of the case. If you’re looking for something a little bit more casual and less aggressive, they’ve also included a hybrid leather and rubber strap that’s colour-matched to each dial. The lug width is 22mm, so there’s no shortage of aftermarket options as well should you want to try something else.
A watch celebrating the first manned supersonic flight is definitely going to be too niche for most collectors, however being a limited edition of 150 pieces per colour does mean that there should be more than enough people who will want one for that connection. Even without a link to Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1, the watch is stylised to such a heavy degree that it will appeal to most fans of aviation, exactly AVI-8’s target audience. Considering the affordable retail price, it’s a no-brainer if you feel the instant attraction. You also get a small display model of the Bell X-1, which will definitely appeal to aviation enthusiasts.
AVI-8 Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis pricing and availability
The AVI-8 Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis is limited to 150 pieces in each colour for a total of 600 pieces, and will be available from October 14th 2023. Price: A$705, US$435 (steel case), A$738, US$455 (coated case)
|Model||Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis|
|Case Dimensions||41mm (D) x 13mm (T) x 50mm (LTL)|
|Case Material||Stainless steel|
|Water Resistance||50 metres|
|Dial||Buffalo blue, muroc orange, mojave green, pinecastle black|
|Strap||Steel bracelet, hybrid rubber/leather strap|
|Movement||Seiko NH35, automatic|
|Power Reserve||41 hours|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, seconds, date|
|Availability||Limited to 150 pieces per colour|
|Price||A$705, US$435 (steel case)
A$738, US$455 (coated case)