Celebrating 70 years of the “Co-Pilot”, Breitling has announced three new releases, each based on the original Ref. 765 AVI. The recently launched 42 mm Classic AVI, the 46 mm Super AVI and the AVI Co-Pilot have made the collection more accessible than ever while paying homage to beloved midcentury design codes.
In the 1930s, Breitling’s Huit Aviation Department made its name creating precision cockpit clocks and dedicated wrist chronographs for what was at that time, a burgeoning industry of aeronautics. Fast forward two decades and the brand launched the ground-breaking flight instrument, the Ref. 765 AVI, a pilot’s chronograph with a rotating 12-hour bezel for recording flight times. This easy-to-operate, highly legible watch was a game-changer for aviators, so much so that it became known as the AVI “Co-Pilot.” Then in 2021, the pioneering watch became the inspiration for the Super AVI, a collection of 46 mm timepieces, built to represent four of history’s greatest aircraft: the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, the Vought F4U Corsair, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and the de Havilland Mosquito.
Rugged and Easy-Eearing
But the Super AVI didn’t work for all, so Breitling came up with a solution. “People love the sturdy, understated look of the Super AVI, but not everyone has the wrist to pull off the extra-large size that gives it its authentic tool-watch feel,” says Breitling CEO Georges Kern. “The Classic AVI trades some functions to achieve the pared-down format our customers have been asking for. The Classic and Super models will now live side by side, providing more choice.” The Classic AVI comes without the GMT complication that gives the Super some of its bulk, while the Breitling Caliber 23 chronograph movement further trims the profile and makes the Classic AVI attractive from a value perspective as well.
A Classic Aesthetic
The original colour schemes paying homage to the four aircraft remain; a black dial and gold-brown leather strap to represent the versatile Mustang, a blue dial with black strap in tribute to the naval Corsair, a khaki dial with brown strap for the camouflaged look of the Warhawk, and a black dial with black ceramic bezel on a brown strap to capture the Mosquito plane known as the “Wooden Wonder.” The aircraft’s roundels and markings are reflected on the hands and subdials. The planes’ engraved silhouettes appear on the back of the cases, (which comes in stainless steel for all models, with an additional 18K red gold version of the Mustang). And customers have the option of a top-stitched calfskin leather strap or a five-row metal bracelet. Owners can scan the dial to locate the “hidden” GPS coordinates of the Breitling Chronometrie and there are references to the spec stamps that used to appear on the brand’s vintage cockpit clocks, including the ones made by the Huit Aviation Department.
The Super AVI Mosquito Night Fighter
In an era of aluminium and steel shortages, the engineers behind the Havilland Mosquito made use of wood, which was plentiful. The “Wooden Wonder” caused shockwaves when it outperformed its metal counterparts to become one of the fastest planes of its time. There were many incarnations, including the Super AVI Mosquito Night Fighter which gets its inspiration from the Night Fighter 2. The watch pays tribute to the plane’s dark livery with a black ceramic case, black military leather strap, and black dial with anthracite subdials. The overall monochrome appearance contrasts strikingly with the titanium pushers, crown, and buckle.
As with all Super AVI, the design includes large, legible Arabic numerals and a sturdy 46 mm case. A knurled bezel and fluted crown provide optimal grip, even while wearing gloves. A second-time zone is available on the 24-hour scale inner bezel and the grey-tipped GMT hand. Its COSC-certified Breitling Manufacture Caliber B04 movement provides approximately 70 hours of power and is visible through the open titanium case-back, etched with the Night Fighter’s outline.
The Ref. 765 AVI 1964 Re-Edition
First released in 1953, the original Ref. 765 AVI, aka the Co-Pilot, was a workhorse in the often unforgiving conditions of a single-seat cockpit. By the 1960s, the AVI’s simplified style and oversized proportions made it a watch to wear beyond the cockpit. One particular 765 AVI from 1964, with a black bezel and reverse-panda dial, was a celebrity and sports star favourite, famously seen on the French skier Jean-Claude Killy as he won gold in all three alpine skiing events at the 1968 Winter Games. Today, a limited re-edition of 164 pieces faithfully reproduces this execution’s design with true-to-the time hesalite crystal, baton indexes and lumed pencil hands. But there are also modern improvements, like the durable amorphous diamond-like carbon (ADLC) coating that gives the bezel its black finish, the Caliber B09 and a case back engraving “One of 164.”
Georges Kern says: “Everything about this re-edition is so Breitling because you can see our aviation tool-watch roots coming through, yet it’s precisely that simplicity that gives it its universal appeal. That’s also why the AVI, in all its forms, has stood the test of time to become one of our most emblematic collections.”