Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

The Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers celebrates the work of the elite flying corps, the First American Volunteer Group (AVG). This limited edition of 88 pieces features a complex dial and ‘aged case’.

This detailed review of the Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers includes live images and specification details.

Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

After the attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, the United States of America publicly declared war on Japan. However, unknown to many people, the U.S was already helping the Chinese Air Force defend their nation against hostile Japanese forces.

The First American Volunteer Group (AVG) built its ranks with American pilots. Many were attracted to this elite band of brothers with the promise of generous salaries, reputedly three times the amount they were accustomed to earning.

The AVG was founded by Claire L Chennault, a retired U.S. Army Air Corps officer. It is said that Chennault’s retirement was hastened by his unwillingness to play internal politics. He would later work for the Chinese Air Force. It was during this time that he travelled from China to Washington in order to canvas support for the AVG.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt sanctioned help for the AVG, but the funding remained a secret owing to America’s neutrality at the time. Once funds became available, Chennault oversaw the purchase of 100 Curtiss P-40 fighters and the recruitment of 100 pilots and 200 ground grew.

Chenault established three squadrons. He appraised the relative strengths and weaknesses of the P-40, its Japanese opposition, the so-called ‘Nate’, and the Nate’s successor, the ‘Oscar’ (Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa). His strategy was to fly the P-40 directly at its opponents. With its superior defences and fire power, this tactic played to the strengths of the P-40. Both the ‘Nate’ and ‘Oscar’ benefited from superior manoeuvrability, hence Chenault repeatedly cautioned against ‘dog fighting’.

The AVG proved a formidable force, downing numerous fighters and Japanese ‘Sally’ bombers. After their inaugural combative flight, a Chinese newspaper stated, ‘They were flying like tigers, flying tigers’. This is reputedly how the AVG earned its iconic name.

In 1941, the nose of each plane was painted with a grinning shark’s mouth. In addition, a second insignia was painted on the fuselage of each plane, the ‘Flying Tiger’ designed by Walt Disney. It is this latter motif which now appears on a new limited-edition watch from Graham.

The Flying Tigers were incorporated into the United States Army Air Force in 1942 and Chenault was reinstated and promoted to Brigadier General. The reign of the AVG may have been comparatively short, but its legend will live forever.

The Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers is limited to only 88 pieces, granting the watch a notable degree of exclusivity. Furthermore, its striking appearance makes it stand out from the crowd.

The dial

Consistent with its siblings, the Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers features ‘modern’ hour and minute hands. The hands are lined with white SuperLuminova, aiding legibility in dim light.

Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

While this watch exhibits an aged appearance, the hour markers are decidedly modern. The white Arabic numerals positioned at noon are sans serifs and presented in a contemporary font. The remaining indexes consist of neat circlets and torpedo-shaped batons. Again, Graham has applied a liberal application of SuperLuminova, augmenting readability.

Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

The dial features a green, grained surface with a ‘radial gradient’. The hue of the dial imbues the watch with a military ‘vibe’. Close examination of the dial reveals much complexity. The subdials sit below the main dial plane and are snailed. They are presented in black and detailed with white markings. The iconic ‘Flying Tiger’ motif adorns the 30-minute chronograph register. 

Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

The brand’s nomen is positioned below noon and depicted in tiger orange, while the model name is proclaimed underneath in a comparatively muted shade of beige. Two sky blue wings straddle the maker’s name.

While Graham has employed a myriad of shades, everything comes together in seemly concert. Each colour applied to the dial necessitates an additional production stage. Graham could have made life easier for itself but the resultant dial justifies its efforts.

Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

Two apertures, positioned adjacent the crown, reveal the prevailing day and date. Beneath these indications, beige text reminds the wearer that this is a limited edition watch, with the individual timepiece’s unique serial number freely disclosed on the dial.

Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

The periphery of dial is marked with a minute track which proves especially helpful when reading off elapsed seconds. The tip of the white central chronograph seconds hand is tastefully embellished with a soupçon of red.

The case

The Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers measures a not inconsequential 44mm in diameter. A benefit of a large case is that it provides a generously proportioned dial canvas, aiding readability. However, despite its ample scale, this watch does not overwhelm the wrist owing to the crown and chronograph apparatus being positioned on the left flank of the case.

Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers

While Graham’s iconic trigger mechanism is prominent, it sits parallel with the arm, preventing gouging or chafing. Place the watch upon the wrist and the rationale for locating the trigger on the left-side of the case becomes immediately obvious.

The lugs are another element which contribute to the impressive levels of wearer comfort. They have an arcing profile that curves downwards, inviting the strap to envelop the wrist. Quite simply, this is a comfortable watch to wear.

The case sets aside the customary showroom gleam for an aged appearance. The case employs an unusual grey PVD treatment which is then subject to a ‘sophisticated accelerated ageing process’. The resultant surface reminds me of gunmetal, underscoring the military persona of the watch.

The watch is presented on an aged green cotton canvas strap paired with a titanium pin buckle.

The movement

The Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers is equipped with the Calibre G1747 automatic movement which is visible via the exhibition caseback. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 25 jewels. The lone spring barrel can deliver up to 48 hours of autonomy.

The oscillating mass and the automatic device bridge are embellished with Côtes de Genève.

Graham has subjected this watch to stringent testing. The Chronofiable® ageing tests are performed by Laboratoire Dubois, an independent laboratory based in La Chaux-de-Fonds. A number of watches are subjected to accelerated ageing, speeding up the normal watch wear by a factor of eight. The test duration is 21 days and involves subjecting the movement to shocks as well as variations in temperature and humidity.

The number of watches subjected to Chronofiable® ageing tests is based on the number of units produced in a series. For example, in a series of 1 to 100 units, 5 watches must be subject to the Chronofiable® tests.

Closing remarks

The Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers brims with character, upholding Graham’s reputation for crafting individual, thought-provoking watches.

The dial of this watch employs numerous shades and textures, however, it remains harmonious. The plethora of details enriching the dial, heighten complexity but, by default, increase cost. However, the resultant eye-catching appearance of the dial justifies Graham’s approach.

Graham has used a grey PVD case treatment, in combination with a ‘sophisticated accelerated ageing process’. This has provided the case with a fascinating aesthetic reminiscent of gunmetal from a bygone era. Quite simply, Graham’s creativity proves very impressive.

The brand from La Chaux-de-Fonds has gone ‘above and beyond’ to provide wearer peace of mind, subjecting several watch samples for Chronofiable® ageing tests. The Calibre G1747 is known for its robustness and should provide years of faithful service.

One reason why I admire this independent watch brand is that it does not subscribe to convention. It bravely produces watches enriched with character. Indeed, it is perhaps because of this courage that Graham has an affinity with those individuals who choose to dare.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Graham Chronofighter Vintage Aircraft Flying Tigers
  • Reference: 2CVAV.G03A
  • Case: Aged steel with grey PVD; diameter 44mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 10 ATM (100 metres)
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; day; date; chronograph.
  • Movement: Calibre G1747; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve = 48 hours
  • Strap: Aged green cotton canvas paired with a titanium pin buckle.
  • Price on application

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