Breitling is winning over faithful followers and collectors of the brand with historically accurate re-issues from its catalog. This strategy is the brainchild of recently appointed CEO of Breitling, Georges Kern. Mr. Kern was previously the CEO of IWC, and joined Breitling in 2017. His influence is visible in taking cues from vintage pieces for design and case size. In 2019, Breitling consulted with Fred Mendelbaum, an avid Breitling collector, to re-create the iconic Navitimer 806. In 2020, they have teamed up again to pay homage to 1953 AVI 765 pilot chronograph, known as the “Co-Pilot”.
On the first glance, you see the familiar Type XX dial which was manufactured by Breguet, Vixa, and Auricoste. Breitling developed the military aviation-spec chronograph, Reference 765, in 1953. It predates Breguet’s Type XX, introduced in 1954 and issued to the French Naval Aviation and Flight Test Center. However, the French military selected Breguet, Auricoste and Vixa. Unlike German Flieger watches and Type XX, there were no strict military specifications implemented in this chronograph. The inspiration was derived from onboard clocks designed and produced by Breitling’s Huit Aviation Department in the 1930s and 1940s. There were about 1,000 of 765 AVI manufactured between 1953 to 1958. In the 1960’s Breitling made various version of AVI (stands for aviation), which was then renamed to CP (co-pilot).
While the overall aesthetics are similar, there are few differences between the 765 re-edition and the original chronograph. The Venus caliber 178 is replaced with the COSC B09 movement. The “GENEVE” marking under the Breitling logo on original dial, has been removed. Water resistance ratings has been increased to 30 meters, even though it sees unimpressive by modern standards for a military inspired watch. The lume color was recreated by matching the SuperLuminova color closely with the original tritium beige lume, however it still comes across as modern-day “Fauxtina”.
So, what similarities makes this re-edition a faithful homage? The 41.1mm stainless-steel case is identical, and has straight-line lugs with sharp bevels. The bi-directional rotating bezel is secured by three screws that are placed in precisely the same positions as those on the watch from 1953. The large chronograph pushers and crown are nearly the same. The watch features thin syringe hands, which exactly match those on the earliest 765. The domed Hesalite crystal that has been recreated in the same shape as the original. The black dial features the same Arabic numeral fonts as the original. Finally, the identical 15-minute counter at 3 o’clock has a thick marker at every three-minute interval. On the 1953 pilot watch, Breitling had modified Venus 178 movement to a 15-minute counter instead of the normal 30-minute counter. The 15-minute counter was implemented because flight crew had 15 minutes to get the aircraft ready for takeoff, hence this counter was a very useful tool for them.
The 765 AVI re-edition is powered by the Breitling in-house movement B09, a manual wound mechanical chronograph movement based on the brand’s B01 movement. It is a column-wheel, vertical clutch movement, and a COSC-certified chronometer. A pilot-style vintage leather strap comes with the watch. The pilot chronograph is produced in a limited series of 1953 pieces, and each watch will be numbered “ONE OF 1953” on the solid case back. Breitling will also be releasing the AVI 1953 Edition in 18k red gold with black dial, which will be limited to 253 pieces, and a platinum edition with a blue dial. The retail price of steel 765 AVI Re-edition is $8,600, and it can be pre-ordered directly from Breitling.