Ask any five aviation enthusiasts what their favorite fighter plane is, and chances are you’ll receive five different answers varying widely among era, role, and country of origin. Chances are, also, that at least one of those five enthusiasts will mention the Supermarine Spitfire. Largely considered to be one of the most beautiful and effective combat aircraft ever to exist, this single-engine fighter design was a mainstay of the British Royal Air Force throughout the Second World War, distinguishing itself in nearly every theater of the conflict. The Spitfire was also the weapon of choice for many ace pilots during the pivotal Battle of Britain, repelling the German Luftwaffe and etching itself into the pages of history. One of the most successful Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain was Australian ace Pat Hughes, who earned a total of 17 aerial kills during the battle behind the controls of his Spitfire MkIa. That very same Spitfire, serial number X4009, was recovered from its final crash site in 2020 and is currently undergoing extensive restorations. That’s where boutique Danish brand REC comes in. The company has an extensive history of including historic machines in its watches, ranging from Steve McQueen’s motorcycle from “The Great Escape” to classic Ford Mustangs. For its latest project, REC integrates portions of the Spitfire MkIa X4009’s aluminum fuselage into a rugged, capable pilot’s watch series that includes several stylish nods to the classic airplane. The limited edition REC X4009 series is a substantial refinement of the brand’s core “history on the wrist” design philosophy, subtly showcasing its historic material while creating a genuinely compelling pilot platform in its own right.
Measuring in at 41mm-wide, the stainless steel case of the REC X4009 series offers an athletic but manageable stance on the wrist. Thanks to its vertical case sides and considerable 13.6mm overall thickness, the X4009 definitely carries a fair amount of wrist presence, but a short, sharply downturned lug profile helps to keep it manageable on my 6.75-inch wrist. Although the main case body is straightforward, with a nearly fully brushed case punctuated by a needle-thin polished chamfer on the upper lug edges, REC keeps things interesting here with a handful of unique additions. The 12-hour bezel is sharply finished with a precise coin edge, and REC balances this useful functionality with a sloping edge design that helps to keep the bezel visually narrow and preserves the classic all-dial pilot watch silhouette. Of course, the X4009’s largest departure from the typical pilot case design comes with the broad, oversized crown guards. When viewed from above, these guards gently slope across nearly the entire length of the case side, adding a notable amount of visual bulk to the design. Change your perspective to the 3 o’clock case side, however, and these guards reveal themselves as a stylized, polished interpretation of the Supermarine Spitfire’s famous elliptical wing design, complete with a polished, raised rendition of the wing’s internal scaffolding. It’s a thoughtful, unique nod to the Spitfire for those that know the aircraft well, but for the non-cognoscenti, this inclusion might come off as a bit overwrought. The limited edition plaque attached to the 9 o’clock case side is another likely divisive design choice, taking up a significant amount of visual real estate here. For the Anthra Gray variant, the brand gives this case design a more purposeful edge courtesy of a deep gunmetal gray PVD coating. It’s a small change on paper, but one that imparts a far more rugged, serious character to the watch on the wrist. REC tops the watch with a sapphire display caseback and rates the case for a solid 100 meters of water resistance.
Like the case design, the dials of the REC X4009 series largely follow the classic pilot’s watch template, but embellish the formula with unique touches and a refined presentation. All three models in the series share the same base dial layout, with strong, applied polished Arabic numerals, a bold, broad outer railroad minutes track, semi-skeletonized straight sword hands, and a recessed running seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. It’s this last element that forms the X4009’s visual centerpiece. Nestled inside a wide azurage seconds scale site is a recessed disk of bare aluminum taken from the fuselage of Pat Hughes’s own Spitfire MkIa fighter aircraft. Given that this is a small piece of history in its own right, this disk is prominently visually framed by the rest of the dial layout, and each example of the X4009 shows a unique pattern of scratches and patina that reflects the aging of the plane’s fuselage over time. The rest of the dial design is not lacking in visual detail either, with lengthy text tributes to Pat Hughes and his airplane at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock along with brilliant polishing on the hands and hour numerals. The “broad arrow” emblem just above the main handset at 12 o’clock is worth mentioning here, as well. Traditionally, the “broad arrow” marking indicates that the marked item is military-issued and property of the British government, but given that this is not a British military-issued pilot’s watch, this usage should raise several questions among enthusiasts. On the other hand, the Spitfire that lent its fuselage material for these dials is most certainly British military-issued equipment, so its presence here could rightly be placed into a gray area of authenticity.
Each model in the REC X4009 series brings a unique colorway to this dial design, each with its own distinctive features. There isn’t really a simple, pared-back black dial option here, as REC aims to make each of these watches stand out from its competitors. The X4009 Semtra Black might seem to offer the classic black pilot look at first glance, with a bare stainless steel case and a clean white lume throughout, but on closer inspection the main dial surface is a heavily smoked, semi-transparent material. While its application is still rather rare in today’s market, this sort of translucent dial option can be a compelling alternative to true skeleton dial models, particularly on the more affordable side of the watch market. This comes down to the fact that, outside of truly high-end offerings, many watch movements simply aren’t extensively styled or decorated, particularly when it comes to the dial-facing side of the movement. By taking a semi-transparent approach, REC offers the best of both worlds, giving wearers a legible, intriguing view of the movement within, while keeping the overall look mysterious and masking some of the visual simplicity of its powerplant. The X4009 Anthra Gray is another solid contender for the “most standard” variant of the series. The base dial here is a nuanced, finely-grained black sunburst, but the watch’s deep desert yellow fauxtina lume and its PVD-coated case make this a more deliberately vintage-styled and tool-oriented expression than its stablemates. However, the Anthra Gray undeniably carries its own charm on the wrist, and its visual flourishes mix well with the aged military aircraft elements at the heart of the design. The X4009 Midnight Blue is the model I found myself reaching for most frequently during the review period, though. This deep, richly saturated blue sunburst dial with judicious orange accents goes a long way towards dressing up the design on the wrist, giving this tool watch a more gentlemanly feel that looks equally at home at a cocktail party or when tuning an engine.
REC powers the X4009 series with the Sellita SW 461-1 automatic movement. Although the SW 461-1 ultimately traces its lineage back to the ubiquitous SW 200 line, the movement here is extensively decorated, with a handful of unique visual additions made especially for the X4009. As a start, the screws throughout the movement are heat blued, while the movement plates and bridges are ruthenium-plated for a darker and more intriguing look. Each of the bridges is topped with tight arabesque waves, transitioning into perlage for the mainplate. While skeleton rotors are nothing new in modern horology, the X4009’s is one of the best at this price point, featuring a head-on view of the Supermarine Spitfire in a stylized matte engraving flanked by sharp vertically brushed segments. Performance-wise, the SW 461-1 is more or less in line with the rest of the SW 200 family and features a 40-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. However, the SW 461-1 did avail itself solidly during accuracy testing, averaging out at just over -3 seconds per day during our testing period.
REC fits each model in the X4009 series with a classic double box-stitched leather strap. While the rest of the design takes creative liberties with the pilot’s watch formula, these straps are more conservative overall, with a solidly middle-of-the-road appearance and feel on the wrist. Each dial variant receives a color-matched strap option — the Antra Gray features a strap in deep mahogany brown, the Midnight Blue is paired with a strap in dark, desaturated navy, and the Semtra Black model is fitted with a strap in dark red-brown.
The Supermarine Spitfire is undoubtedly one of the most beloved and enduring fighter aircraft ever to take to the skies, and Spitfire MkIa serial number X4009 stands as one of the most successful and historic Spitfires in that illustrious lineage. The limited edition REC X4009 series pays a striking tribute to this piece of aviation history, mixing impressive finishing and a charismatically nuanced take on the classic pilot’s watch design together with a proudly displayed portion of that incredible airplane. Only 877 examples of each model in the REC X4009 series will be produced, and the watch is available for pre-order now through the brand’s website with delivery expected in August 2023. MSRP for each model in the REC X4009 line stands at $2,295 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: X4009 Anthra Gray, X4009 Midnight Blue, X4009 Semtra Black
>Price: $2,295 USD
>Size: 41mm-wide, 13.6mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a daily-wear sports watch, or when meeting with fellow history buffs.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Aviation geeks searching for a statement watch, or British watch enthusiasts wanting to display some national pride on the wrist.
>Best characteristic of watch: Striking finishing inside and out; a dial that displays its historic material without being dominated by it.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Average straps; the more fanciful case elements may not resonate with all tastes.