The Raven Airfield soars with value, legibility, and personal touches.
It’s hard to put a new spin on field watches. By definition, these timepieces are basic and clean, prizing legibility above flashy dials. Nighttime visibility should be effortless, and water resistance is a must.
Pilot watches face a similar roadblock. In addition to managing pressure and temperature changes, their hands and numerals should be readable at a glance. Make a change to either formula, and you’re likely to ruffle some feathers.
But what if someone lifted the best elements of the two and brought their features together? Raven Watches, a company out of Overland Park, Kan., is attempting just that. One of its most popular models is the Airfield ($550), “a blend of pilot and field watches” into which it’s incorporated more than 12 years of experience.
I’ve had my eye on these birds for a while now and managed to secure not one, but two examples from the maker: A classic day/date green version and one of Raven’s new, date-free grey models. Here’s how they fared through a week-long perch on my arm.
In short: The Raven Airfield is an exercise in sincerity. The watch is perfectly sized, beautifully balanced, and as capable as it is comfortable. Its classical appearance is elevated by the care of the people behind the brand, who time-test and regulate each piece before it reaches their customers. Despite utilizing a basic clasp, overall performance and personal touches justify the $550 price.
Raven Airfield Watch Review
Specs (From Raven)
- Diameter: 40 mm
- Lug distance: 48 mm
- Thickness: 13 mm
- Crystal: Sapphire, single dome, AR inside
- Water resistance: 200 m
- Lume: Super-LumiNova
- Movement: Automatic NH36 / NH38
- Weight: 76 g head, 160 g on bracelet
I’ll admit, $500-600 is a weird price range for watches. It’s between the $200-ish you’d pay for a solid, entry-level automatic, but well below the overtures to luxury you encounter around $1,000.
Brands like Hamilton and Spinnaker are popular in this strata, along with the ubiquitous Seiko.
Yet, Raven seems to have carved out a solid niche for the Airfield. Its 40mm face, 48mm lug span, and 13mm thickness perch with aplomb on my 7-inch wrist.
The syringe hands (a nice orange for the seconds) spin above an attractive grey dial, with a slightly darkened and elevated chapter ring positioned beneath the sapphire crystal. A strong coating of Super-LumiNova has been applied to the indices, living up to the visibility requirements of its field and flyer parents.
But the Airfield has something its role models often lack — a screw-down crown. This large (and tastefully signed) knob protrudes at 3 o’clock. Its secure nature ensures 200 m of water resistance, where most field or pilot watches range from 50 m to 100 m. And despite its relative size, it somehow manages not to peck at the back of your hand.
But there are more screws hiding in this clockwork Raven. Below its drilled lugs and quick-release spring bars, the 20mm bracelet employs screwed links instead of a cheaper pin-and-collar system.
These make sizing swaps an absolute breeze, and the four microadjust holes on the clasp further add to the tuning.
Raven offers several styles and color schemes for the Airfield (and indeed, for most of its watches). The green day/date model shown here boasts the same features as the grey model, though with an applied logo on its dial.
Not seeing exactly the combination of dial and hands that you like? Raven also makes custom pieces, so long as the parts are on-hand.
Attention to Detail
Both versions of the Airfield are running Seiko-derived movements: NH38 for the no-date models, and NH36 for the calendar pieces.
These are popular with both watchmakers and enthusiasts, with a reputation for durability and accuracy. But Raven takes things a step further, regulating and time-testing each watch before it ships to the customer.
This care shows through in the finished product. The green tester ran about -6 seconds per day on the wrist, while the grey managed an impressive +2 seconds.
Credit for this precision goes to the man behind the curtain, Steve Laughlin. As the owner/operator of Raven, he takes a truly hands-on approach to his timepieces. Take my dateless tester, for instance.
“I ordered these new grey dials to offer a new Airfield,” Laughlin told me, “so every grey dial version has to be assembled here at my office.”
And it’s not just the new versions. Once the watches arrive from the factory, he inspects each piece individually, “including opening them, timing, regulating, and checking gasket grease before shipping them to customers.”
I’m a sucker for a dedicated, multitalented maker, and Laughlin is exactly that. He’s also one of the driving forces behind Finch Knives, a company producing some interesting modern/traditional crossovers.
The Sole Sticking Point
My lone complaint lies not with the watch itself, but the steel band. As much as I love the quick-release spring bars and screwed links, I’m not a huge fan of the clasp. Instead of a push-button release, this setup requires the use of a fingernail to pry the pieces apart.
Is this a dealbreaker? Absolutely not. I tend to prefer NATO straps, and the Airfield works perfectly on canvas.
But bracelet-lovers, fear not. The metal option is just as functional. It’s only that, when everything else on the watch is so polished, this minor nitpick stands out.
Conclusion: The Raven Airfield Review
The Raven Airfield is nearly a perfect watch. From its attractive design to its wonderful finish and timekeeping, this is a tool you can be proud to wear on your wrist. Sapphire crystal, 200 m of water resistance, and an easy-swapping bracelet with screws instead of pins — what’s not to love?
As for the price, Raven’s personal touches go a long way toward justifying $550. The knowledge that the maker opens, inspects, and regulates each piece provides a sense of confidence that you won’t get from a monolithic company like Seiko.
I wholeheartedly recommend the Raven Airfield, and encourage you to bring one to roost on your wrist.